If you live in the space-silent cultural vacuum of Silicon Valley, you might be surprised by these truths: black people enjoy apps, spend money, and are grossly underrepresented as both creators and consumers of tech. The New Yorker talked to star VC Ben Horowitz, and his eyes are opened.
Yes, it's terrific to hear that Andreessen Horowitz, one of the most prominent, powerful investment firms in the annals of software, is making a concerted effort to court black programmers who are catering to underserved black users:
The goal is to connect black founders, investors, and creative people from various industries, to meet, fund, and inspire one another. The firm has also sponsored minority-geared events, meetings, and accelerator programs.
On the other hand, this quote, regarding Howowitz's encounter (See update below) with a large group of non-white people at his local country club (really!):
"I had no idea there were this many black people in Silicon Valley, period," he said. "It was like, where the hell did they all come from?"
Whoa, nelly! They've been around for some time now, Ben! Of course, if you look at the Andreessen Horowitz team, you might understand why Horowitz was shocked—though he'd be the first to tell you he has many black friends. But mistaking your extremely immediate surroundings for the general state of the universe is a common Silicon Valley psychopathology—and we're glad Horowitz et al. are going to branch out of starched whiteness, if only because they've identified a profit motive. Ben is definitely excited:
"We've been trained over the years, due to racism and sexism, that like, everyone is the same—that you shouldn't be making judgments based on race because everybody's the same," he told me. "And that's better than it was before, but you actually lose information there, because, there are differences that are powerful, and can be kind of harnessed. If you have one race or one culture that invented all of music—that's actually a pretty interesting fact if you're in business."
Only here is diversity something to be "harnessed"—you can always count on these guys to make anything sound slightly sinister.