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