Upon reading about and then watching the infamous Sir Michael Moritz interview and absorbing his verbatim comments about the non-existence of the right type of women to be in tech-VC, my female co-founder of our tech startup Kabuk opened her mouth to form a rebuttal.
Alas, before she could get a word out, poof she vanished. It was as if she never existed at all. Before her erasure, I thought at least, that my co-founder had a strong technology background, majoring in mathematics and spending much of her career in capital markets analyzing technology stocks. Sir Moritz’ comments evidently proved she does not exist. With the only person at Kabuk with a proven record of raising money gone, I will now never be able to raise money. My startup will fail. What to do?
Like the story of my co-founder, there have been unverified rumors of women in tech with solid finance backgrounds vanishing worldwide in most puzzling circumstances since the publication of the Sir Moritz interview. I have no choice but to ride to the rescue of those women, who became a statistical error thanks to Sir Michael Moritz’s words.
You leave me no choice, but to pick up the glove you have thrown, Sir Michael Moritz. I accept the challenge. The choice of weapons is mine. Before I choose, allow me to speak on behalf of those you claim do not exist.
I could easily put labels on Sir Moritz. Call him chauvinist or utterly arrogant. Perhaps apply Freudian psychoanalysis and speculate of some adolescence trauma which, even after all these years, led Sir Moritz to speak of women with the vindictiveness of a high schooler whose first girlfriend just dumped him. I will not.
Let’s not forget that Larry Summers got into a lot more trouble for a lot less when he hypothesized “that the shortage of women in certain disciplines could be explained by innate differences in mathematical ability”. The media reported him as saying ‘women are less good than men at science’. Summers was summarily freed of his position at Harvard shortly after.
Sir Moritz has outdone Mr. Summers, admitting that he simply cannot find any women good enough to work in the tech-VC world. “Oh, we look very hard. In fact we just hired a young woman from Stanford who’s every bit as good as her peers, and if there are more like her, we’ll hire them. What we’re not prepared to do is to lower our standards.”
Furthermore, “If there are fabulously bright, driven women who are really interested in technology, very hungry to succeed, and can meet our performance standards, we’d hire them all day and night. . . . Our job is to field the very best team.”
Apparently, as hard as he’s tried, Sir Moritz has succeeded in finding exactly one woman of his dreams that can meet his performance standards, whatever those are, and at Stanford of all places. (Note to self: That’s very close to his home. What are the statistical odds of that?)
As of December 4, 2015, there are roughly 3,660,767,078 living women on the planet Earth. After finding THE one, we have enough data to calculate the odds of finding the right woman to meet Sir Moritz’s performance standards at 1 in 3,660,767,078. To put that in perspective, the chance of winning the Powerball is much higher at 1 in 292,201,338. You could win the grand prize in Powerball 12 times, before Sir Moritz would consider you worthy enough to join his team. With so much money in the bank though, why would you bother with working for Sir Moritz? No wonder he cannot find right women. There are more unicorns in existence. No wonder women involved in tech startup finance have been disappearing en masse since Sir Moritz made his remarks in circumstances only Mulder could explain.
What are those ‘performance standards’ and how is Sir Michael measuring women to meet those standards?
Based on Sir Moritz’ quotes, we may conclude that women are not as good coders as men and indeed cannot make the cut in tech. However, Sir Moritz was a History major at Oxford leading me to believe that most women coders could out-code and out-calculate him flat out. It must not be coding that makes women lesser creatures in Sir Moritz’s eyes then. What could it be?
Is it lack of management or office politics skills?
I doubt it. The most unappreciated woman around Oxford University, Margaret Thatcher – Somerville College, Oxford could definitely stand up to any male politician of her era (and may in fact still outshine any male politicians we have today).
Is it lack of ambition and the hunger to succeed?
I doubt it too. Empirical evidence indicates women are as driven as men. One might argue that the Noble Prize is the highest scientific and technological achievement a person can aspire to. In our history, there are a total of two people who have been awarded Noble prizes in multiple fields – one a man (Linus Pauling in chemistry and peace) and one a woman (Maria Sklodowska-Curie in physics and chemistry). That’s right, an even split. Yes, women can pull their weight around men in science and tech. This contradicts both Larry Summer and Sir Moritz.
Maybe women do not like to read history books and, as the result, cannot converse in the subject Sir Moritz most enjoys?
It might be argued that my female tech-startup co-founder had a more impressive technological and finance background than myself or most of my peers for that matter. Before Sir Moritz erased her, she enjoyed reading fantasy books. I, on the other hand, enjoy history and biographies. That could be it!
Is it clash of cultures, lack of pedigree or pure elitism?
A quick fact check on Wikipedia reveals Sir Moritz got his start in Silicon Valley thanks to Steve Jobs, who needing a historian to document Apple’s success, hired a journalist (Sir Moritz when he was still know as Michael Moritz without the Sir bestowed upon him by none other than a woman. She is not in tech, so she is safe. Long live the Queen).
Steve Jobs personified the typical ‘rags to riches’ American spirit, which epitomizes the USA’s economic success story to this day. Steve Jobs appeared to live according to this mantra. All it takes is the right attitude, wits and grit. Everything else you learn on the job.
Steve Jobs gave Sir Moritz a start in the tech field, without Sir Moritz having a school degree in software or hardware. The rest is history. Yet, today Sir Moritz blatantly denies women the exact path he took to gain the right practical experience to join the tech-VC world. Women are not good enough to join Sir Moritz’ venture today. Would Sir Moritz’ male credentials be good enough today if he submitted his CV to Sequoia as a historian and a journalist (before Steve Jobs handed him the golden ticket)? Be honest Sir Moritz. Would you hire an inexperienced Michael Moritz with an utter lack of Silicon Valley tech knowledge? Let’s take it further, if the roles reversed, would you hire young Steve Jobs at Sequoia, a drop out from Reed College, who could neither code nor solder motherboards?
“The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton”. Sir Moritz seems to personify this elitist attitude. This un-American and un-entrepreneurial attitude explains why Sir Moritz cannot find any women. Evidently, he is only searching for them in cigar clubs and little boys’ rooms.
Under this elitist philosophy, those who built America, the likes of Carnegie or Rockefeller and countless others, would have absolutely no right to exist and thus make America great. Under those conditions, the USA would to this day be a banana republic under the strict control of the British aristocracy and peers, such as Sir Moritz. Is Sir Moritz trying to return America to its lackey (AKA colonial) days by turning the Silicon Valley into an elitist fiefdom? It could be the case. After all Oxbridge culture is soaked to the core with entirely elitist attitudes. No wonder Margaret Thatcher got no respect at her alma-mater.
In the end, the only woman worthy of Sir Moritz attention was found right in the heart of Silicon Valley at Stanford. Did Sir Moritz bother to venture out of the proverbial Eton and seek the right women elsewhere? I doubt it.
My choice of weapon: a microphone.
Since you said, “I know there are many remarkable women who would flourish in the venture business. We’re working hard to find them and would be ecstatic if more joined Sequoia or other firms.” I would like to personally extend an invitation to you, Sir Moritz, to visit the DMZ and Legal Innovation Zone at Ryerson in Toronto. Let that be the Field of Honour. We have plenty of women working at tech startups here for you to meet, Sir Moritz. Perhaps you will strike a goldmine in Toronto.
I await your response eagerly.
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