The oversized brain of Silicon Valley star Marc Andreessen can hold a lot of insight, but every once in a while, it still overflows: a new interview reveals he still clings to the fantasy of meritocracy.
The meritocratic myth is important to venture capitalists like Andreessen, because they essentially let him off the hook when it comes with any social imbalances in his industry. Not enough women? Not enough people who don't look like Mark Zuckerberg? Just let the meritocracy work itself out.
This pith comes from a chat with New York's Kevin Roose:
You believe in the meritocratic ideal of Silicon Valley.
Yes. But I believe the ideal is compromised by two things right now: One is educational skills development, and the other is access. This is the critique that I think is actually the most interesting, which is, yeah, the meritocracy works if you know the right people, if you have access to the networks. How do venture capitalists make investment decisions? Well, we get referrals based on people we already know. Well, what if you're somebody who doesn't already know anybody, right? What if you don't know the recruiter at Facebook so you can't get the job? What if you don't know the venture capitalist so you can't raise funding? We think access is broadening out the network so that everybody who could contribute can get access to the network. And that's the one that we're working on.
We're talking now primarily about ethnic diversity. But gender diversity too…
Yeah, same thing.
Yeah, same thing.
So there was no need for Sheryl Sandberg to write that book?
Oh, I thought Sheryl's book was incredible. I thought it was great.
But it was all about systematic bias.
I will not second-guess Sheryl on anything that she has said. We cite the book all the time. Whenever anybody's sitting up against the wall we're, "Lean in, sit at the table."
Yes: meritocracy indeed "works if you know the right people," much in the way dieting works great if your mattress isn't made out of candy.