A prominent venture capitalist has been called out as racist and attracted a firestorm of attention to himself and the white-male-dominated world of venture capital in general over his tweet against Black America.
Joe Lonsdale, co-founder of tech company Palantir and a partner at San Francisco-based venture capital firm 8VC tweeted, “A real view: average Black culture needs to step it up and stop having many kids born out of wedlock (statistical indicator of underperformance)/who don’t value education or spend as much time on homework.”
The list of Black venture capitalists is short because VCs are overwhelmingly white. Nearly 80 percent of investment partners in venture capital are white, according to a 2021 Deloitte study. A mere 3 percent of investment partners are Black, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Brandon Brooks, who is Black, called out Lonsdale and his attack on Black America, listing some of the Black names in venture capital sector, including Arlan Hamilton (@ArlanWasHere), founder of Backstage Capital; McKeever “Mac” Conwell (@MacConwell), founder and managing partner at RareBreed Ventures; and Brian Brackeen (@BrianBrackeen), general partner at Lightship Capital.
“Why do we need people like @ArlanWasHere , @MacConwell , @brian-brackeennBrackeen , myself & others? Because racist s like @JTLonsdale will overlook anyone who doesn’t look like them. This is why VCs diversity stats are horrendous,” tweeted Brooks, who is a founding partner at venture capital fund Overlooked Ventures, focusing on underrepresented founders.
Others on Twitter railed against Brooks and brought up some issues from his past that may not have seen the light of day for a while.
“not too hard to believe,” tweeted Justin (@justinpclapper), who posted a newspaper article about a sexual assault lawsuit against Lonsdale in 2015. In the lawsuit, which was later dropped, a woman who said she was Lonsdale’s lover and mentee accused the prominent venture capitalist of sexual assault.
“Its not VCs like @JTLonsdale that hold the tech ecosystem and society back. Its the hundreds of LPs, co-Investors, Founders, and decision makers that remain silent because: 1) They do not care 2) They are scared 3) They agree I feel bad for him/them to live like that. Its sad,” tweeted Elliott Robinson @TheValuesVC, a partner a partner and co-founder of growth investment at Bessemer.
Lonsdale was only vocalizing what many whites in venture capital think, Robinson added. “All Lonsdale did is say what’s said indirectly in Partner meetings every time a Black founder comes through the door. It’s why unanimous voting keeps Black entrepreneurs from raising capital. There’s always one Lonsdale who ‘can’t get their head around the deal'”.
Former Google scientist Timnit Gebru, the founder of Black in AI, tweeted, “Investor in one of the worst companies, Palantir, tweeted that the problem with Black ppl is they have too many kids who’re not interested in education & ‘doing homework’ He just said out loud what all of them making $$ funding racist tech bros to create racist tech quietly say.”
“this is A LOT to unpack the way structural racism is literally the root cause of all of the ‘issues’ he mentioned”, tweeted Samantha T Mensah @blackinthelab, a Ph.D. candidate in materials chem @UCLA and BlackInChem co-founding president.
Lonsdale later tried to defend his words, tweeting, “It’s not racist. I just didn’t want to have the debate today because I’m spending time with family. Are VC’s racist towards cultures that value education more or that have less kids out of wedlock on average? There are disparities that aren’t all racist. Important reality.”
Lonsdale also posted, “And past racism caused a ton of problems we see today and it’s all of our job to try to fix it. These comments were from a debate calling VC’s racist due to % of funding to black founders. I agree we can do better but not all disparity is tied to racism happening today.”
Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash
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