Silicon Valley has no shortage of myths about itself. We like to think that we are an ideal meritocracy; that we disrupt entire economies; that we are revolutionizing the world.
This makes us an easy and sometimes well-deserved target for scorn, particularly when the sectors being “revolutionized” revolve around the privileges of the pampered. Or, equally bad, when our common lore absolves us from taking action on serious problems like the disparities in our own workforce.
But myths have positive purposes too. They can set a high moral bar and unite us under a common ethos. Silicon Valley’s potential for innovative change is sky-high, and Kapor Capital is building a successful venture capital firm by investing in tech startups that narrow gaps of access, opportunity and outcome — our firm reflects the diversity we advocate. Now we’re working with our portfolio companies to take the next step.
Together, with the input and guidance of many of the founders in our portfolio, we have created a mechanism by which startups can take the value of diversity and build on it from the start.
Today we’re launching the Kapor Capital Founders’ Commitment on diversity and inclusion, a four-part roadmap for tech startups. The purpose of the commitment is to create a culture of diversity and inclusion from the outset , and provide an incentive for companies to hold on to their values as they grow.
Here’s what the Founders’ Commitment asks companies to do:
1. Establish diversity and inclusion goals that are appropriate for the company’s funding stage, employee size, customer base, and core business. Include progress on diversity and inclusion in your quarterly investor updates.
2. Invest in tools, training programs, and/or resources that assist with mitigating bias in recruiting, hiring, and employment.
3. Organize volunteer opportunities for employees to engage with underrepresented communities, especially those that reflect the company’s customer base.
4. Participate in diversity and inclusion sessions to learn about what works and what doesn’t. These sessions will be hosted by Kapor Capital and will be made available for virtual participation as needed.
The Founder’s Commitment was initiated last summer by our companies themselves, and the language was drafted, discussed and modified by a core group of CEOs who believe strongly in holding themselves accountable to their values.
We are asking our existing portfolio companies to opt in to this plan by signing the Commitment and, starting today, it will be a standard term in all of our new investment agreements. Many of our companies have already completed diversity plans that are woven into their business plans as part of our investment process.
We both long ago came to the conclusion that retrofitting a culture of diversity into a big, established, company is far more difficult than baking these values in at the startup phase. We will know we’ve been successful when one of these companies takes off to become the next tech giant, and the faces of its leadership and workforce reflect the diversity of our country.
So yes, we believe that the myths of Silicon Valley can serve a valuable purpose. When we believe in the disruptive, even revolutionary, promise of our industry, and hold ourselves accountable to our aspirations, we can achieve great things.
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