Marc Andreessen, one of the co-founders of Andreessen Horowitz, wrote a timely piece during the height of the US COVID-19 crisis. Titled “ It’s Time to Build “. It’s essentially a call to arms for builders to focus on creating a better reality where we’re prepared for tomorrow’s challenges. It was a collective call to create a more conducive environment for builders and sounded like a call to get back to what made the United States great; making and creating.
Fast track to George Floyd’s death and we’ve seen a significant outpouring of support and collective action around ending racism and destroying racist institutions. Now more than ever, there’s an awakening to the fact that black people are suffering from systems built to disenfranchise and systematically ensure they’re held down. We’re at a pivotal point globally. We’ve all seen the decentralized protests around the world demanding change and justice for George Floyd and others who have died at the hands of those sworn to protect them. People, now more than ever, want to tear down and rebuild these institutions.
As we think of building and tearing down institutions we should make sure we’re focused on building a more inclusive type of institution. The only way we’ll really achieve the promise of a future where there’s equality for all is to ensure everyone is in the workshop as we’re building. We know this is currently not the reality. Black people lag behind on most indicators that would lead them to be in the rooms to be a part of this building process. In venture capital, for example, where the rubber meets the road when it comes to building, the stats are abysmal. For those who aren’t familiar with the venture capital space, here’s some data to provide some color:
- 77.1 percent of founders were white—regardless of gender and education.
- Just one percent of venture-backed founders were black.
- Women-funded startups received only 9 percent of investments.
- Latino founders made up 1.8 percent of those receiving funding, while Middle Easterners totaled 2.8 percent.
- Asians were the second most-backed group, making up 17.7 percent of venture-backed founders.
We can’t build this new reality if there’s this much inequality in the venture capital industry. I don’t think individual actors are deliberately enforcing inequality – I believe the “system” of risk capital is flawed and perpetuates actors to not act in an equitable way. Venture capital is just one example. There are disparities in healthcare, education, job creation, urban development, and etc. Everywhere we look, there are systems that disproportionally affect black people, and most of the time, for the worst.
If we aren’t careful, we’ll build on the same bias and power structures and we’ll be back in the same spot 20 years from now wondering how we got to where we are.