Weeks before the Nov. 13 airing of “Black In America: The New Promised Land – Silicon Valley,” a debate broke out on Twitter that challenged the myth of African Americans getting a free pass for the sake of diversity. TechCrunch’s founder, Michael Arrington, spoke frankly about his difficulties in finding black entrepreneurs to launch at his annual TechCrunch Disrupt conference. TechCrunch’s investment arm is Crunchfund. During a special pre-airing screening of “Black in America: The New Promised Land – Silicon Valley” audience members were privy to this exchange:
“There’s a guy, actually, his last company just launched at our event, and he’s African American. When he asked to launch — actually, I think it was the other way around. I think I begged him,” Arrington told CNN’s Soledad O’Brien during an interview on “Black In America: The New Promised Land – Silicon Valley.”
“His startup’s really cool. But he could’ve launched a clown show on stage, and I would’ve put him up there, absolutely,” Arrington said. “I think it’s the first time we’ve had an African American [be] the sole founder.”
Shortly, thereafter a raging debate hit Twitter. Female and black tech entrepreneurs were insistent that they didn’t want or need preferential treatment because of gender or color. According to CNN Money, Katrina Stevens, co-founder of LessonCast, a training website for teachers, Tweeted, “I don’t want to be funded b/c I’m a woman, and I certainly don’t want ppl to believe that’s why I’m funded.”
Arrington joined in the discussion and defended Crunchfund’s investments. Of the two minority-led ventures that sought financing, both were funded based on merit.