March 17, 2023

Black VCs Refute “Insulting” Op-Ed In Open Letter To WSJ

Several Black-led venture capital firms have written an open letter in response to a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) op-ed which suggests Silicon Valley Bank’s diversity focus contributed to its collapse.

Following the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, the WSJ published an opinion piece by Kessler in which he stated: “I’m not saying 12 white men would have avoided this mess, but the company may have been distracted by diversity demands.”

Black Women in Venture CapitalBLCK VC1863 Ventures, and Living Cities wrote an open letter to the Wall Street Journal editors and Kessler, calling his insinuations “insulting” and “a slap in the face” to the many organizations that work to increase diversity across the tech industry.

“Kessler’s argument presumes that by increasing the diversity on the SVB board, the bank’s non-diverse leaders may have been too distracted to avoid the fastest bank failure in U.S. history,” the writers state. “This couldn’t be further from the truth.”

The writers offer evidence to refute Kessler’s claims, such as research by the Harvard Business Review and McKinsey that shows diverse boards are good for business. 

Similarly, they point to studies by firms like Morgan Stanley and CitiGroup which showed a multi-trillion dollar loss in U.S. GDP because of a need for more investing in diverse business owners over the past two decades. 

Critique Kessler’s article as “another unfortunate example of the backlash historically marginalized groups face when we begin to advance.”

Read: SVB ‘Wokeness’ Rhetoric Is A Distraction From The Real Issues Diverse Founders Face

“One thing that Mr. Kessler did get right was that SVB has made an intentional effort to increase diversity within its organization and the broader venture ecosystem,” the writers continue.

“They’ve been a strategic partner and ally for many organizations, including BLCK VC, Black Women in Venture Capital, VC Familia, All Raise, and many others. We all have been working diligently to help build a more equitable ecosystem for all founders and funders. However, assuming that having one Black, one LGBTQ+, and two veterans on SVB’s board led to its downfall is beyond ludicrous.”

The letter added: “There is much work to be done, starting with ensuring that our communities aren’t overwhelmingly negatively impacted by the current economic situation. As often happens in these situations (i.e., 2008 Great Recession), BIPOC communities are oftentimes worst impacted by these situations and left behind in any recovery.”

“We believe that making our financial system more diverse and equitable will not only lead to stronger, more balanced economic growth in the U.S., it would lead to more stability within our system,” they conclude. “This “distraction” is potentially the solution.”

You can read the full open letter here.

Samara Linton

Community Manager at POCIT | Co-editor of The Colour of Madness: Mental Health and Race in Technicolour (2022), and co-author of Diane Abbott: The Authorised Biography (2020)