Where Did you Go to School?

Richard Kerby
3 min readJul 30, 2018

The lack of diversity within venture capital is something I have been hard at work to try and remedy and I write about frequently. In my last post, I laid out the demographic breakdowns of the venture industry and sought to disprove the notion that the reason that there are so few investors of color is because venture investors must be engineers, by showing that the majority of venture investors have no technical experience.

Since my last post, I have updated my data and the results, and while there has been an improvement after 2 years, we still have a long way to go in improving diversity within our industry. The updated demographics can be found below.

Racial Breakdown

Gender Breakdown

Diving Deeper

Stanford or Harvard?

This time around, I have decided to add one more dataset to my collection; where each investor earned their undergraduate and graduate degrees. Although I suspected that there would be a high concentration among a select number of institutions, I was still shocked to see how insular the industry really is. After going through ~1,500 investors, I found that 40% of venture investors have attended Stanford or Harvard. Just TWO schools! Why is that? Everyone wants to work with those they are most similar to, and education, gender, and race are attributes that allow people to find similarities in others.

With 82% of the industry being male, nearly 60% of the industry being white male, and 40% of the industry coming from just two academic institutions, it is no wonder that this industry feels so insular and less of meritocracy but more of a mirrortocracy. This is most clear when looking at the educational backgrounds of black investors. Over 50% of black investors in venture capital went to Harvard or Stanford. The bar to create a more diverse industry is difficult when one looks for folks that most resemble themselves; and while talent is evenly distributed, unfortunately, opportunity is not.

The Consequences of this Mode of Thinking

When you couple the lack of gender and racial diversity with the lack of educational institution diversity, you not only end up with teams that look similar, but you also end up with teams that think in a similar fashion. Not only is our industry lacking in gender and racial balance, but we also suffer from a lack of cognitive diversity.

This insularity of the venture ecosystem has ripple effects throughout the tech industry. It is not a coincidence that the amount of capital raised by minorities and women closely resembles their representation among venture capitalists. And furthermore, it is no surprise as to why the demographics of most venture-backed startups also reflects the demographics of the venture capitalists that fund these companies. If we want to have more successes in the venture and broader tech ecosystems, diversity in all fashions (racial, gender, cognitive) needs to be a part of what drives us forward.

The full dataset utilized in this blog post can be found here. Richard Kerby is a Partner at Equal Ventures.

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