Apart from some useful technical information, my emerging learning from this course on Venture Capital at Aalto University is that the venture capital world, and startup culture in general, is intensely sexist and it doesn’t seem to care.
I’ve been embedded in geeky tech culture my whole life, so I’m very aware that this has been a long problem. I remember big LAN parties with 100+ people, and it was notable that <10% were female. As an optimist I always thought the trend was in the right direction. These days, female geeks hold their own space in the culture to a far greater degree than previously. Use of language which threatens and enforces patriarchy seems to be the current battlefront. It is now more acceptable than not to call people out on their use of language.
Learning about the world of venture capital has revealed a vast untapped land of rampant sexism to me. It first twigged when the lecturers talked about venture capital being all about who you know. This revealed a certain introspection, to the US market in particular. Then I noticed that all the language was gender exclusive - all hypotheticals referred to founders, VC partners, VC investors, all being ‘he’. When I checked the text book, I discovered that it too is a domain for men only.
It was coincidental then to read a critique of Paul Graham, a VC I have long admired for the innovative Y-Combinator startup incubator model. It seems that not only is the brogrammer culture alive and well, it is reacting against change.
Y-Combinator, claims to be data-driven. The lecturer claims that he and his colleagues work hard to put aside selection-bias when hearing pitches from founders. But I refuse to believe that the only people having good ideas, worthy of investment, trial, and hopefully growth, are white males under 35. Also, more likely than not, American.
There is a certain irony to this being my key learning from this course, as a white male under thirty (not American).
The pattern of investment strikes me more as a failure of the dominant VC model and startup culture, than a failure of society to produce innovation from a diverse set of people.