Combinator hires first black partner to recruit more minorities
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Combinator hires first black partner to recruit more minorities

June 12, 2015
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Combinator has hired its first black partner to aid in the drive to recruit more minority entrepreneurs. Prominent Silicon Valley entrepreneur Michael Seibel is joining as a full-time partner to coach high-tech hopefuls, he told USA TODAY.

A key part of his mission will be reaching out to blacks and Hispanics who are underrepresented in Y Combinator and more broadly in Silicon Valley. Y Combinator is Silicon Valley’s most famous — and most influential — incubator, graduating companies such as Airbnb and Dropbox that have grown into household names.

Entrepreneurs who go through the start-up boot camp gain access to money and advice from some of the industry’s most powerful players and get coverage from technology blogs, a major advantage in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

“Minorities often feel like they are on the outside looking in when it comes to the valley and tech start-ups in general,” the 32-year-old entrepreneur said in an interview this week. “What I Iove about Y Combinator is that it is a level playing field. If you get in, you immediately become a Silicon Valley insider.”

Sam Altman, who took over as president of Y Combinator in February, is pushing to increase the number of minorities applying to — and being accepted into — the incubator. Of the founders in the winter class, 7% are either black or Hispanic, the most of any class in its history.

While Y Combinator is making progress, “there is much work to do,” Seibel said.

Seibel’s track record in Silicon Valley will send the message to entrepreneurs of diverse backgrounds that they, too, can break into high-tech, Altman said.

“We need to think long term about how to get a broader set of people to start start-ups,” Altman said. “I think Michael is going to be a great driver of this. He is such a role model.”
Women, blacks and Hispanics have been largely left out of one what has become the world’s greatest wealth creation machine for white and Asian men.

A major barrier to entry for underrepresented minorities in Silicon Valley: gaining access to venture capital — and the experience and connections of high-profile investors.

A report in 2010 by CB Insights found that fewer than 1% of venture capital-backed Internet companies were founded by African Americans.

“I wish that all other venture funders thought about this the way we do,” Altman said. “In the meantime, we have this incredible competitive advantage because no one else is doing this.” Looking to keep its competitive edge, Silicon Valley is wrestling with how to attract more blacks and Hispanics and create a more welcoming culture so the region does not miss out on promising people and cutting edge ideas.

Recent data released by top technology companies shows most of their employees are white and Asian men.

About 1% of engineers at Facebook, Google and Twitter are black and around 3% are Hispanic. Men fill nearly 70% of all jobs and more than 80% of technical jobs at these companies.

After years of downplaying the lack of diversity in their ranks, companies are taking steps to address the lopsided numbers and hire and promote more women and people of color.

A key part of his mission will be reaching out to blacks and Hispanics who are underrepresented in Y Combinator and more broadly in Silicon Valley. Y Combinator is Silicon Valley’s most famous — and most influential — incubator, graduating companies such as Airbnb and Dropbox that have grown into household names.

Entrepreneurs who go through the start-up boot camp gain access to money and advice from some of the industry’s most powerful players and get coverage from technology blogs, a major advantage in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

“Minorities often feel like they are on the outside looking in when it comes to the valley and tech start-ups in general,” the 32-year-old entrepreneur said in an interview this week. “What I Iove about Y Combinator is that it is a level playing field. If you get in, you immediately become a Silicon Valley insider.”

Seibel is hoping to cast a much wider net by reaching out to entrepreneurs all over the country.

Keyser Soze
Keyser Soze http://wizedesign.com/

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