Hackernews And The ‘dirty’ Black Founder Question

Ever since I wrote my post about absence of high profile startups with black founders, my antennas are always alert whenever I see anything on the topic.

Something happened on Hackernews that made me conclude on what the real issue is as regards to the absence of black founders.

It seems to be a dirty topic no one wants to discuss therefore ensuring if there is actually an issue, it will be a really long while before it gets near sorted.

Someone asked* earlier on HN if YCombinator had ever funded a startup with a black founder. Take a look at the image below


It is quite weird that a post with 124 points and 121 comments in 4hours would be so far down below. See a bigger screenshot to have an idea of the stats of posts ahead of it.

From my understanding of how HN operates, there are two possibilities to explain this anomaly

  • It was moderated by the admins (Which I do not believe was the case)
  • It was flagged seriously (which I believe was the case)

So working with the theory of my belief, I am wondering why people will so eager to flag it. Judging from some of some the responses, it is assumed the topic is ‘not appropriate’.

However, the discussion about the dearth of female founders is very ok.

I will have to say this again. questions on race do not equal Racism.

But it seems people would rather not discuss it. When I wrote my last post, I exchanged an email conversation with a very popular HNer who essentially said he would best avoid the topic.

I exchanged emails with a TC writer who preferred to simply suggest one popular founder and sweep the discussion under. (The writer wrongly thought Tristan Walker was a founder of Foursquare).

So if people are comfortable with discussing women why not blacks?

My guess is although both parties have endured discrimination for so long, one is far more emotional than the other.

Because of this ‘sore point’ there is always a kind of suspicion whenever this kind of questions are raised. The whites think they are subtly accused of racism and basically ignore while the blacks think the whites are insensitive for ignoring or becoming defensive.

Why I have used HN for my illustration is because it is the largest community of startup founders and lovers. As YCombinator is a symbol of everything good and top-notch happening in the ecosystem; it cannot avoid being used as a yardstick every-time.

The way forward

The mutual suspicion has to stop. People like PG Fred Wilson, Scobelizer, Mike Arrington and other powerhouses in the startup world should feel as comfortable talking about it as they do, talking about the absence of women in technology.

Top notch black guys/girls  like my role model from afar Tristan, should find a way to speak at high profile events.

High profile and connected black founders should endeavour to speak about this issue. My post last year only got traction after a Retweet from Tristan Walker.

The truth is that a vast majority of my tech friends in Europe are white (obviously) and they are some of the nicest people I have met (The co founder of my last startup Joel  is actually British). They are extremely helpful and I have NEVER noticed any form of discrimination. i assume it is the case in the US too.  Which is the reason I am a bit confused as to why discussing this issue is a problem.

Hopefully all of this will be in the past very soon.


*The answer is yes. There is no idea of how many though.

There are 12 female founders in YC.

Top black tech executives in the valley

The discussion on HN should be here.


PS: Please clarify from me before you make any assumptions.