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Dear Silicon Valley, Can We Talk?

Over the weekend, Matt Joseph became a hero to many people in Silicon Valley. Similar to heroines like Freada Kapor and Laura Weidman Powers, Joseph took to social media to express his thoughts around inequalities present in Silicon Valley's tech industry.

If you work in tech, chances are you saw the tweetstorm about his experiences raising venture funding as a founder of color. In the 30-tweet social media blitz, Joseph exposes readers to the emotions, illogical inconsistencies, and biases he experiences as he pushes his company, Locent, through the famed startup accelerator, Y-Combinator.

As background, Joseph, like anyone else who has tried to get an idea off the ground, knows the value of hard work. He knows that every founder faces challenges along the way, and that the idea of an "overnight success" is just as mythological as a Cerberus or a Centaur.

However, he also knows how to call a spade, a spade.

Joseph did not list his credentials because he was pretentious or entitled; rather, because he had checked all the necessary boxes and still had his abilities, not his business, questioned. He graduated from college - 3 times. The company he founded is showing traction with its user base. And, the same people who helped launch companies like Dropbox & Airbnb saw enough potential in his idea to accept him into the same program as those predecessors. Not to mention, the angel investor's critique was extremely inconsistent, given that he had previously invested in founders with much less "elite business experience" than Joseph:

Full stop.

While Joseph's emotions may be perplexing to some people, or cause others to think that he is complaining for no reason, his reality has shown him that there is no other conceivable reason that someone would question things like his business acumen or previous experience. Worth note, the mere fact that people have questions is not what's bothersome. After all, sound investing is founded on risk aversion, not risk taking. However, it's the qualities that people have questions about that frustrates him.

In a later tweet, Joseph identifies the root cause of why potential investors question his abilities, as opposed to the economics of his business. In short, the people who need to have critical conversations around minority issues are not having enough of them.

In truth, there is plenty of in-group dialogue. However, when Joseph says "these issues need to come out into the open," he implies that the conversations that happen within different groups need to be replicated elsewhere. 

White people need to engage in critical race discussions. Men need to engage in critical gender discussions. Heterosexual people need to engage in critical conversations about sexual identity. Enabled people need to engage in critical conversations about the abilities spectrum. Wealthy people need to engage in critical conversations about poverty - the list goes on. Most importantly, when these conversations happen, we need to replace egos with open minds, and abstract promises with concrete action for any progress to occur. 

People no longer want to preach to the choir. As a tech community, we have too much access to information, and are too hell-bent on "changing the world" for these kinds of conversations to go unspoken. Perhaps the most impressive attribute of these discussions is that even with all the experiences of people like Matt Joseph, people are still hopeful that we can not only change conversations, but also outcomes. 

Regardless of our current state, people still have hope for a better tomorrow.

Let's do this. Let's listen to those who have historically been silenced. Let's disrupt something that requires zero lines of code, for a change.

 

 

 

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