News: What Blacks and Africans need to learn from Indians to thrive in Silicon valley
I’m always curious about alternative perspectives on what’s wrong in Silicon Valley.
Ten large technology companies in Silicon Valley did not employ a single black woman in 2016. Three had no black employees at all, according to Reveal News at The Center for Investigative Reporting.
I found this video over the weekend featuring Vivek Wadhwa, an Indian-American academic and Silicon Valley critic. The Techcrunch video was recorded in 2012. Watching it six years later, I realized that African Americans can learn a lot from the Indian experience in Silicon Valley.
“Indians have done amazingly well as entrepreneurs in the Valley, but other groups—African Americans and women, to name two—remain largely out of sight,” Wadhwa wrote. “As an Indian-born immigrant and tech entrepreneur myself, I have first-hand experience of some modes of thinking that, frankly, shocked me and rocked my belief in the Valley’s story of its own openness. It appears to me that despite the success of Indians, meritocracy in the tech industry may be a mirage.”
Here are my three takeaways: 3 Things African Americans Can Learn From Indians About Silicon Valley
1. Blacks need to help each other more — a lesson from Indians
The problem with African Americans in Silicon Valley is they don’t organize and help each other like the Indians have done. By giving back, you make the pie bigger. Indians knew there was racism and bias in Silicon Valley but they sought to organize, help each other, and prove out their excellence.
They formed networking organizations to teach others about starting businesses and brought people together. These organizations helped to mobilize the information, know-how, skill, and capital needed to start technology companies. Even the newer associations had several hundred members each, and the more established associations had more than a thousand members.
Indians mastered the Silicon Valley rules of engagement and figured out how to achieve success.
Wadhwa believes that Indians are the model of overcoming bias in Silicon Valley. There was no charity given to Indians. They did it for themselves by helping each other. The first generation of successful Indian entrepreneurs—people like Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla–served as visible, vocal, role models and mentors. They also provided seed funding to members of their community.
There has been some improvement since these comments were made in 2012 (Backstage Capital, NewMe, FoundersGym, Code2040, Black Tech Week, Charles Hudson, etc). But I believe there is a massive opportunity for improvement in this area.
Where is the 1,000-member African American entrepreneur organization to match what the Indians did?
2. One racist VC partner can veto a deal
One problem at Silicon Valley VC firms is that it only takes 1 partner to veto an investment deal. Wadhwa says there is often a racist or sexist partner on the team making it extremely hard for some groups to break through.
3. Indians have broken through in Silicon Valley
Indians get their Silicon Valley calls returned faster than anyone because there is a perception they make great CEOs.
One out of every seven Silicon Valley companies (15.5 percent) had an Indian CEO according to Wadhwa.
In 2006, Wadhhwa’s research team collaborated with University of California-Berkeley professor AnnaLee Saxenian, who had published what he described as the seminal research on immigrants and diversity in Silicon Valley.
They found that among U.S. tech companies founded between 1995 and 2005, Indians were the most numerous of the immigrant tech-company founders. Indians had founded more startups than immigrants from Britain, China, Taiwan, and Japan combined.
The proportion of Indian-founded startups in Silicon Valley startups had increased from 7-to-15.5 percent, even though Indians made up just 6 percent of the Valley’s working population.