FWD: Outlook — October 20, 2015

The top two stories in tech from around the web

Just a Brown Hand
Diogenes Brito of Slack

On August 25th, Slack made it easier for developers to integrate with Slack.

But more importantly, Slack took a step forward for people of color.

By using, as Diogenes calls it, “just a brown hand” for the icon, — a seemingly innocuous detail to many — Slack took one us step closer to erasing the “single story” that restricts people of color to being “culturally other.”

It didn’t go unnoticed to everyone. Diogenes provides a couple of examples in his piece, like this one:

“Why was the choice an important one, and why did it matter to the people of color who saw it? The simple answer is that they rarely see something like that. These people saw the image and immediately noticed how unusual it was. They were appreciative of being represented in a world where American media has the bad habit of portraying white people as the default, and everyone else as deviations from the norm.” — Diogenes Brito

Diogenes takes you through the absorbing interior monologue that people of color in positions of influence experience. At one point, he writes, “I’m trying to get good design work done and get this project out, not become an activist and start a movement or something.”

But Diogenes recognizes his position of influence: “You should make a thing of it,” he says to himself. “You never see this sort of thing.”

I’m relieved that Diogenes “made a thing of it.” I’m so grateful that we have heroes like Diogenes and Caitlin Winner who will challenge the symbols that silently reinforce racial and gender norms in society.

We’re a long ways off from Dr. King’s dream. Changes like these, those that breakdown the barriers of icons and change what is “generic” in the skin tone of design, bring us one step closer to a better, more equal, future.

Related Articles

The Impact of Diversity on Everything” by Amy Nguyen of Pinterest

Y Combinator — Diversity” by Rodney Gainous Jr of Runn

The Super Pro-Rata Signal
Semil Shah of Haystack Fund

Semil predicts that there’s going to be another Series A crunch, leading to “another one to two huge waves of seed companies that just flop over — not even very light M&A, but rather droves being washed up ashore overnight.”

He recommends sending a strong signal to Series A investors by allowing Seed investors to take a “super pro-rata position.”

Here’s how Semil envisions this playing out (emphasis mine):

Now, assuming those early larger or lead investor will be either the source of an introduction to the larger VCs and/or will certain act as an important reference, your investor can talk all day long about how great you are and how great your company is, but nothing will likely speak louder than if he or she simply writes something like: “Not only did we take our pro-rata in the company; we offered super pro-rata, uncapped into the next round, to demonstrate how much we believe in the company.”

Semil makes clear that this is not about “gaming fundraising,” but rather “uncovering a hidden dynamic into today’s environment.”

What are the unintended externalities of the super pro-rata signal? Would Series A VCs not take a deal unless the seed investors had super pro-rata positions? Wouldn’t this mean that founders are forced to give super pro-rata options to their seed stage investors? Would seed stage investors and Series A VCs be encouraged to collude to lower valuations at earlier stages?

This is all hypothetical, until it isn’t. It requires a lot of trust in all parties in the market in a time when animosity is high. It’s interesting to consider but I see it as a slippery slope. Tell me your thoughts in comments below.

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