The Fall of White Privilege in Startups

Many people say that entrepreneurship happens because of hard work and sacrifice. This is definitely true, but not many people admit it also happens because of privilege. In the world of new business and creating value for others, there is no sense of fairness, equality, or a level playing field.

Some are born into families with pre-established legacies or given an exceptional education. Some even inherit successful companies. That’s just the way it is.

For those entrepreneurs that have access to money early on, it buys them something that is even more invaluable: time.

In a fast-paced environment where time can be your biggest ally or worst enemy, money gives you a longer runway to experiment, fail, and learn.

Whether you’re working on the West Coast in the tech mecca of the world or in the more humble Midwest, privilege within entrepreneurship tends to look the same:

The white, privileged, millennial, male.

Personally, I identify with this character. I am a 28-year-old caucasian man who had the opportunity to go to college because my parents worked their asses off. I have also worked for myself since graduating and am currently pursuing my own company.

Within our group, I tend to notice an overall lack of self awareness and empathy. I always try to be hyper-aware of who I am talking to and the impression that I give off, but I don’t always get the same impression from others in this category.

Instead of embracing this lack of diversity head on, more startups than ever seem to be onboarding the same privileged, white, millennial, males. With this cookie cutter approach, how can a team create solutions for problems that fall outside of their own?

They can try their best, but they will fail. Do you know who will ultimately win? Teams that realize actual diversity is not only a competitive advantage or a box to check, but a key component to solving the problems of other humans.

There is enough uncertainty already when creating a company from the ground up. Working with others who are different than you can help address future uncertainties that pop up in the form of capturing new customers using actual empathy, addressing new markets in different countries, and solving problems with different perspectives.

There are undoubtedly those that claim to be diverse simply because they have one non-white on their startup team. This is the same thing as claiming not to be racist because you have one friend who is African American. This sort of thinking is shallow and doesn’t provide sustainable solutions.

Things need to change. I’m not talking about short-term bandaids. I’m referring to long-term reform. After all, the most dangerous reason for acting a certain way is because, “this is how it’s always been done.”

Do you agree or disagree? What part do you think privilege plays in entrepreneurship? Let me know on Twitter at @williamfrazr or leave a comment below.

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