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Black Venture Capitalists Confront Silicon Valley’s Quiet Racism

Those who make it into clubby industry find obstacles to creating opportunities for others.

Sydney Sykes

Sydney Sykes

Photographer: Kayana Szymczak/Bloomberg

At a time when the U.S. has been thrust anew into conversations about racial inequality, many Black venture capitalists say they are grappling with their role and responsibilities in a high-stakes industry that generates extraordinary wealth for a select few and helps determine which tech businesses succeed.

Interviews with Black VCs illuminate the difficulty of making a difference in a tech industry that often refuses to acknowledge the problem; the frustrations of seeking to be recognized for their work irrespective of race; and the internal conflict many face over whether they’re doing enough to create opportunities for others like themselves.

The U.S. population is 13% Black, and just 4% of the VC industry is African-American, according to 2018 data from the National Venture Capital Association—compared with 3% two years earlier. NVCA estimates that 3% of the influential general partners, who lead investments, are African-American. Even when these VCs successfully boost the founders from other underrepresented groups in their portfolio, structural forces keep funding for Black entrepreneurs stubbornly low.