Silicon Valley Investment Funds Still Lack Diversity, Study Shows


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Chamath Palihapitiya, the founder of Social Capital, wrote an op-ed article in the Information on venture capital’s lack of diversity.

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Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO — Silicon Valley has taken a beating in recent months over being an old boy’s club, never more so than during the gender discrimination trial filed against Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers by one of its former partners.

Venture capital firms — the investors whose millions of dollars help fund the likes of Facebook and Uber — acknowledge that they are working on changing that image. But a new study shows just how much work they have to do.

Nearly two-thirds of the top 71 investment funds have no women as senior investment team members, according to the data compiled by the Social and Capital Partnership and the Information, a news site. Roughly 30 percent of those funds have a senior investment team that is composed entirely of white members.

The data highlights the large gap between Silicon Valley’s diversity ambitions and reality.

Among other discoveries in the study is the dominance of whites and Asians in the top echelons of the venture capital club. Just one venture capital firm with assets of more than $1 billion, Google Ventures, has a black senior investing partner. And only four have Hispanic partners.

The age of the investing partners is also on the higher side, with the average age of the biggest venture firms solidly in the mid-40s.

Among individual firms, Kleiner Perkins ranks highly in the study; three of its 10 senior investment professionals are women and three are Asian. Their average age is close to 48.

Accel, the firm that backed a nascent Facebook, has three Asian members on its eight-member senior investing team, though no women, and an average age shy of 40.

(A former female partner at Accel, Theresia Gouw, left last year to form Aspect Ventures with another female venture capitalist, Jennifer Fonstad.)

And the senior investing partners of Social Capital itself are half women and half Asian, with an average age of 38.5 years old.

On the other end of the spectrum are some other well-known names. Sequoia Capital has no women on its 14-member senior team, just two Asians and an average age of 46. Andreessen Horowitz has one woman on its 16-person senior team, one Asian and an average age of 50. And Bessemer Venture Partners’ 13-person group is entirely white and male, averaging 45 years old.

Smaller venture capital firms fared better. Y Combinator, which has about $1 billion in assets, has four Asian members and one black member of its 11-person senior investing team, though just one woman. Its team’s average age is just over 36.

Thrive Capital, the New York-based firm with $597 million in assets, has all men on its six-person investing team, half of whom are Asian. Its average age is 32.5.

And Aileen Lee, who coined the “unicorn” term for start-ups valued at more than $1 billion, comprises the half of Cowboy Ventures’ two-person investing team that is female and minority.

“The bottom line is that the V.C. community is an increasingly predictable and look-alike bunch that just seems to follow each other around from one trivial idea to another,” Chamath Palihapitiya, the founder of Social Capital, wrote in an op-ed article in the Information. “My conclusion is that we need to improve the decision making or change the decision makers within our industry.”



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