Investor Del Johnson: Ban ‘Warm Intros’ In Venture Capital Industry

Investor Del Johnson: Ban ‘Warm Intros’ In Venture Capital Industry

Del Johnson

Investor Del Johnson: Ban ‘Warm Intros’ in Venture Capital Industry Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

Black investor Del Johnson says it’s time to end “warm introductions.”  In fact, he wants to ban them.

A warm introduction occurs when person A introduces person B to person C with an express endorsement of person B. “Person A is basically telling person C that they are vouching for the character and worthiness of person B. That’s the explicit message, of course,” according to American Express.

Black people are locked out of warm intros, according to Johnson, a venture capital investor, tech writer, and keynote speaker who “builds organizations that identify outlier talent beyond the reach of traditional networks and signals.” As part of the Kauffman Foundation and Indie.vc’s verified scout program, Johnson said on his LinkedIn page that he deploys $25,000-to-$50,000 investment checks into high-potential early stage companies.

“Most of the conversation regarding the Bay Area, and Silicon Valley tech culture on Twitter and in the tech media is filtered through an elite bubble,” Johnson wrote in Noteworthy – The Journal Blog. “VC and tech culture’s insularity has historically served to systematically lock out talented people who aren’t well-connected and don’t fit into popular pre-conceived patterns. It favors demographic and class proximity over merit.”

Warm intros rely on who you know, not what you know, according to Johnson, who graduated from U.C. Berkeley and Columbia Law School, then turned down a big law firm offer to join Backstage Capital. Backstage is a VC fund founded by Arlan Hamilton and dedicated to eliminating tech disparities through investing in high-potential underrepresented founders.

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“The truth is, success in our industry often isn’t a matter of merit at all, it’s a matter of network,” Johnson wrote. “To achieve our industry’s highest ideals and reach our greatest financial potential, we must work to dismantle these unjust network-based structures— and we can start by eliminating introduction requirements.”

Johnson recently tweeted, “Despite the Silicon Valley’s narrative of meritocracy, success in our industry often isn’t a matter of merit at all, it’s a matter of network. It’s time VCs end our exclusionary, value destroying practices. It’s time we BAN WARM INTRODUCTIONS!”

Quinta Caylor @seniorcarenurse replied, “This was an amazingly awesome read. So refreshing especially for an immigrant, non-tech founder like myself with zero network to count on for a warm intro”.

But YEN @yenFTW took exception to Johnson’s dislike of warm intros. YEN tweeted, “wait, what. it’s not the practice of warm intros that’s broken, it’s the fact that they won’t take them from folks who do not look, act, and believe the same things. warm intros are gr8… they are just not evenly-distributed to PoC / under-repp’d folks!”


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Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels