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Bursts of Color - More Color Needed

Bursts of Color - More Color Needed
By Geoff Donaker • Issue #15 • View online
It’s been a rough week following a rough few months for America. There are a lot of valid opinions out there about how each of us can help make society more fair. Here’s a tweet that resonated with me:
If you’re an investor, founder or manager in tech wondering what you can do to effect change, here’s the uncomfortable answer:
Make the hire. Write the check.
Don’t host a dinner. Don’t weigh in on a panel. Don’t change your profile picture.
Make the hire. Write the check.

Why Founders Should Care About Team Diversity
  1. Diverse teams outperform. Among other reasons, it seems that wider range of opinion leads to better decision-making.
  2. Diverse teams have wider hiring pipelines (e.g., only 19% of potential candidates are white men), and thus can grow faster.
  3. You also probably agree that it’s the right thing to do.
Your First 20 Employees = The Next 2000
In the early days of Yelp, we grew as many start-ups do: by hiring friends of our friends. When we hit the 20 person mark sometime in 2006, I believe we were 11 men and 9 women; 15 white folk and 5 of Asian descent. We didn’t talk much about diversity as the company grew over the next few years… personally, I assumed we were “enlightened” and unbiased, and that diversity would take care of itself. Oops. In 2014 we pulled our employee diversity stats, which showed us to be 53% male and 71% white: almost exactly where we were 8 years earlier. We were appalled to realize that our ethnic make-up was so different from the communities we served (e.g., California is only 37% white, non-Hispanic). How did that happen?? We all know the answer now: people are tribal. Managers preference candidates who look like them and are part of the same interest groups. And candidates preference workplaces where they don’t feel out of place. So the starting group will self-replicate until you actively change it.
It’s Never Too Late
The good news is that, five years later, Yelp has made significant progress on ethnic diversity: their 2019 report shows that the team is now 55% white (from 71% in 2014). But that took a ton of dedicated work, and is still far from the population benchmarks.
Different Kinds of Diversity
Today the country is focused on racial inequality, as it should be. And Silicon Valley companies have been woefully behind on this measure, so it’s a great place to focus attention for your coming hires. Beyond race and gender balance, I believe the strongest companies of this generation will also find ways to build diversity in other important areas like age, class, religion, sexual orientation, education and life experience. Variety is the spice of life, after all.
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Geoff Donaker

Bursts of Color is a newsletter for start-up leaders who work with Burst Capital. It's meant to include products, people and ideas that I think are interesting and maybe relevant for you.

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