Is There Room for Diversity in Silicon Valley?

New documentary chronicles the struggle Blacks face to make their mark.

Posted: 10/30/2011 02:18 PM EDT
Filed Under racism

A new documentary shines a light on Silicon Valley, the place where Microsoft founder Bill Gates and former Apple CEO and founder Steve Jobs got their start, but not for its historic record of producing the next great breakthroughs in technology but, instead, for its apparent lack of diversity.

 

In the CNN documentary series, “Black in America,” eight Black entrepreneurs in the NewMe Accelerator program share their struggles to launch start-up businesses in a place where minority representation is virtually nonexistent. In an interview that ignited a firestorm on Twitter this week, Mike Arrington, an industry leader and founder of TechCrunch, revealed an even harsher reality: “This is a white and Asian world up here — it just is,” he said. Arrington, who also commented that he doesn’t know of a single Black entrepreneur in the Valley, was harshly criticized for his apparent acceptance of the racial disparity.

 

“The @arrington interview shows the ignorance of key people in Silicon Valley. They really don't see beyond their small circle/prism,” tweeted Vivek Wadhwa, former entrepreneur and columnist of several leading media outlets.

 

While Blacks may work just as hard to get their businesses off the ground, there appears to be a different set of standards they face, from outward appearances to the ideas they pitch to investors.

 

Reports The Washington Post:

 

The entrepreneurs, in a follow-up session with Interactive One founder Navarrow Wright, receive what can only be described as a harsh reality check from one of their own. “If an investor’s only seeing one African-American a year to give a pitch, and you don’t do well,” said Wright after telling the group to be harder on themselves in critiquing their past pitches, “you’ve not only affected you, you’ve affected other people. It’s that important.”

The documentary, “The New Promised Land: Silicon Valley,” the fourth episode in the CNN “Black in America” series, premieres on November 13 at 8 p.m. ET.

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