Call­out Corner, Staff Sound­off

Bitch: A Feminist Response to Pop Culture - - TRAVEL -

STAND­ING TALL where an old-growth for­est once took root is the world’s most con­cen­trated group of ven­ture cap­i­tal firms. Sand Hill Road in­vest­ments sprang the likes of Face­book, Ama­zon, Twit­ter, In­sta­gram, and Mi­crosoft. In other words: This is where white men—in­formed only by the opin­ions of other white men, of course— come to get their very best ideas funded. “Now, now,” you might say. “Is it re­ally just white men who leave with clear eyes, full wal­lets, ready to lose?” Yes, ac­tu­ally, it is: 89 per­cent of projects funded by ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists are led by men and, worse, 76 per­cent are led by white men. In 2017, women-led projects re­ceived just 2.19 per­cent of all ven­ture cap­i­tal fund­ing. And— back to the “ready to lose” part we snuck in ear­lier—just 1 per­cent of ven­ture-backed com­pa­nies will end up earn­ing more than a bil­lion dol­lars. In fact, most ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists ap­proach in­vest­ment from a mind­set of thirds: A third of in­vest­ments will be a to­tal loss, a third will re­turn the prin­ci­pal amount in­vested, and a third will do so well that they’ll make up for the un­der­per­for­mance of the oth­ers. It might seem as if we’re get­ting into the weeds here, but the “risk tol­er­ance” thresh­old is im­por­tant. If you bring up the ven­ture-cap­i­tal-is-sex­ist-as-hell is­sue at a party, you need to be ready for all of the “Women just don’t have the same risk tol­er­ance as men, and star­tups are a high­risk en­vi­ron­ment” com­ments. But that brings us to our point: If you ask a ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist why their in­vest­ments tend to go to­ward peo­ple named Jeff, Mark, Jack, and Bill, you’re go­ing to get one pretty sim­ple an­swer: We have a duty to our in­vestors to re­turn a profit. In other words: “I’d make more eq­ui­table in­vest­ment de­ci­sions if I could guar­an­tee that women-led star­tups would fail at the same rate as those led by men.” It’s not up to them, they’ll say. It’s up to the num­bers. Un­less ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists—just 7 per­cent of whom are women them­selves, by the way—are will­ing to of­fer the same risk tol­er­ance to women-led com­pa­nies, we’re just go­ing to end up with more Face­books and Ama­zons on our hands. You know, the same kinds of com­pa­nies that might make you bil­lions but will cost you a democ­racy.

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