November 11th, 2011
11:01 AM ET

Do black tech entrepreneurs face institutional bias?

Editor's note: Soledad O'Brien chronicles the lives of eight African-American entrepreneurs participating in the NewMe Accelerator in "Black in America: The New Promised Land - Silicon Valley," airing at 8 p.m., 11 p.m., and 2 a.m. ET on February 11 and February 12 on CNN.

By Mark Milian, CNN

San Francisco (CNN) - Wayne Sutton has been asking venture-capital investors and Silicon Valley executives a question that's not often broached here in the epicenter of the technology industry:

"Why aren't there more black people in tech?"

The vast majority of top executives at the leading Silicon Valley tech firms are white men. Women and Asians have made some inroads, but African-American and Latino tech leaders remain a rarity. About 1% of entrepreneurs who received venture capital in the first half of last year are black, according to a study by research firm CB Insights.

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soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Diversity is not the goal of every workplace

    There is a divide on this issue. We have heard some whites say "there is no discrimination against blacks " We have heard some whites say blacks are lazy, making excuses, and not intelligent.
    On the other hand most black people will say yes there is racial discrimination against black people . It's sad that blacks are mocked and ridiculed by some whites because these blacks report discrimination. If people will admit to age and gender discrimination then why deny racial discrimination?

    November 14, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jonathan

    This reminds me of an interesting article the New York Times published a little over a decade ago as part of its Pulitzer-prize winning series, "How Race is Lived in America". The article, "A Limited Partnership" (http://goo.gl/Kn53M), begins by describing the success story of RelevantKnowledge, an Atlanta-based Internet startup founded by Tim Cobb and Jeff Levy, before chronicling the two men's divergent career trajectories as they moved on to separate ventures. In the article "Mr. Cobb called the idea that race was not a factor in the technology industry 'laughable,' if only because of who has more access to capital." Although "both [partners] knew that Mr. Cobb was more qualified", they decided that Mr. Levy should be named C.E.O., since "both also believed it would be easier to raise money with a white chief executive than a black one."

    If our society ever becomes the post-racial meritocratic utopia that it already congratulates on being, an environment in which ideas, ambition, and talent trump socioeconomic nepotism, then we'll see more minority entrepreneurs. In the meantime, perhaps Mr. Arrington should have lunch with Mr. Cobb. Not only would that give him the chance to cross "make acquaintance of black entrepreneur" off his bucket list, it would also give Mr. Cobb the opportunity to enlighten Mr. Arrington, and Ms. O'Brien, on the good ol' boy network that ensured that although "the black Internet entrepreneur had the idea; the white one became the venture's public face."

    November 12, 2011 at 4:46 am | Report abuse |
  3. Leslie

    I use.to own a small tech form in Memphis, TN and I currently work as a contract PM for Hewlett Packard in Michigan and often I am usually the only black person in a leadership role. However I know there are several black men and women in technology that just don't get the chance to move through the ranks. We are not often prompted and just seem to stay stagnant within the industry. With this industry whenever there's a financial issue with.a.company technology is the first resource to get cut and if you.are not part of that core buddy system group you usually will find yourself out of work and how can you be a core member of a group when you are usually the only minority within your group? Stability in employment and some racism contribute to the factors. It's hard to move up when you see yourself starting over every 3 years or so.

    November 11, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carmen

      I totally agree Leslie. I've decided to leave Memphis to work in the tech because at HP, brothers and other companies blacks especially women had to fight and prove ourselves everyday in the 90s and early 00. We often got laid off because.we.wanted and deserved more money for education and exp. Needless to say we got replaced by foreigners whom didnt have education nor exp. We had no idea we where training our replacement. I worked for Dell a company I use to adore. Dell hires alot of young white men whom are appealing to the eyesand are smooth talkers to market their products. I was.often told to train, lead and help the them noone wanted the black girl with exp and ed to get the props for IT,and sales. I absolutely love the tech field I went into depression cause white men would always tell me I belong im nursing or cookn. I left the tech world yrs ago and never loo
      ked back a degree.wasted

      November 11, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |