Princeton Graduate Says Investors See Him as a Rapper Because He Is Black

Matt Joseph is a black entrepreneur. He isn’t just some guy off the street with a good idea, he graduated from Princeton and earned a JD and MBA from UCLA.

According to CNN Money, Joseph has been shopping his startup, Locent, a text marketing service for brands, throughout Silicon Valley. He felt like race was an issue in almost every meeting he went to, so he posted about his experience in 30 Twitter tweets and a Facebook post.

The premise of his complaint, “I felt throughout this process that I was not being given the respect that I know other [founders] were.” He tweeted such comments as “Here’s the thing dude-you invest in founders. You pattern match against other success you’ve seen. I don’t look like Zuck or Butterfield” a reference to the idea that investors are looking for people that remind them of other successful founders like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. “I always put my business first. But let’s stop pretending like race isn’t an issue. Subconscious bias is just as damaging as overt bias,” he continued.

Joseph told CNN about one interview where he was pitching. The investor “brought up Nas, the rapper turned venture capitalist. ‘Not exactly what you want to hear…I wasn’t being compared to other entrepreneurs.'”

“Wanna know the real difference between them and me? I don’t fit your pattern. You have no archetype for me. So the bar for me is higher.”

Joseph understands that his actions may have cost him some support from potential investors who are turned off by his comments. That could prove to be serious as he heads into the Y Combinator’s Demo Day in Mountain View to showcase his idea to yet more investors. Even so, he felt that what he expressed needed to be said and hopes that other investors will support him because he took the chance to speak out. He said that he has already heard from many other black founders who thanked him for “giving voice” to their experiences.

“Please, don’t sweep race under the rug when you meet me,” he wrote. “Talk to me about it. It’ll help you understand why I’m going to succeed.”

Comments (2)
No. 1-2

Venture Capital funding is a huge challenge in America period and I think the reason for it boils down to elitism.

“Wanna know the real difference between them and me? I don’t fit your pattern. You have no archetype for me. So the bar for me is higher.”

Ding. Ding. Ding. You have to fit their preconceived notion of what a winner is and where a winner comes from. If they didn't hold your race against you chances are they'll hold your region against you. If your idea wasn't born in LA, Silicon Valley, or New York it may as well be from nowhere land. "Who are you working with?", "Who's on your board?", "Who were they with?". The whole game is built around rich people dropping names, throwing parties, and selling access to each other and their pet projects. You throw being young and black into the mix and you might as well have four heads for as normal and everyday as you are to the people looking to fund the next big thing.

Author @bryanda had an awesome post that addresses this same problem from a different angle but I think the answer is the same: we can't look to the existing big name corporate wealth that the fancy people can launch with, we have to find it in our communities.

Except it isn't there. Somehow we need to break up the monopoly that major coastal cities have on the distribution of investment capital and private wealth. I don't know how to do that for VC exactly but one of the best ideas I've heard in addressing the offshore wealth that enormously successful companies like Apple have parked over seas is to make a low repatriation tax contingent on a large percentage of the repatrioted money be invested in the regions that have been devastated by capital flight and a collapse of manufacturing. This wont help black entrepreneurs specifically but forcing the people holding the capital to look outside of their traditional circles for new investments would improve everyone's chances.


Why am I not surprised? Being around white Corporate America they only see you as a certain thing until you show them differently.