Sexism and racism in Silicon Valley. It’s a debate that doesn’t seem to want to die. On one side are those who believe that Silicon Valley is a genuine meritocracy; on the other, are those who are deeply troubled by the self-evident lack of female and/or black start-up entrepreneurs. And one of the most vocal members of the latter group is the multi-affiliated academic, Vivek Wadhwa, who isn’t shy to take on what he calls the “white boy’s club” in Silicon Valley. But Wadhwa, who spent his first career as a start-up entrepreneur, is no enemy of Silicon Valley. “It’s an amazing place,” he told me when we met last week at The Economist‘s Innovation conference in Berkeley. But what troubles Wadhwa are the smattering of sexists and racists at large venture capitalist firms who, he says, kill the deals that fund minority-led startups. These “arrogant people who think they are gods,” he told me, they are the bigots who are undermining the meritocratic foundations of Silicon Valley.
This conversation with Wadhwa is the third in a series of interviews from the Innovation conference that I will be running all this week. Yesterday, I ran conversations with the legendary innovator Stewart Brand and with Clay Christensen, the inventor of the innovator’s dilemma.