Startup Culture's Lack of Diversity Stifles Innovation

Startup Culture’s Lack of Diversity Stifles Innovation

(Image: File)

startup signIf you’re young and poor in America, odds are you use a smartphone. Back in 2010, Nielsen found that the majority of Americans 34 and under who made less than $35,000 owned smartphones. These smartphones, it turns out, are also the main way many users access the Internet. But despite the fact that tens of millions of American Android and iPhone owners are struggling to make ends meet–and that there are even more who are senior citizens, who live in rural areas, lack college or high school degrees, or are financially excluded–startups disproportionately target the young, suburban/urban, and middle-to-upper-class. Because of that, the technology world is missing out on a lot of innovation–and, even more importantly to the companies behind technology, missing out on potential profits.

In May, George Packer wrote in The New Yorker about Silicon Valley’s class divides and the strange echo loops created by the young, driven, and geeky creating apps mostly for the young, driven, and geeky. As Packer put it, “It suddenly occurred to me that the hottest tech startups are solving all the problems of being 20 years old, with cash on hand, because that’s who thinks them up.” Packer was onto something.

That “something” is the fact that startup founders are missing out on great ideas because they mainly create apps for people like themselves. That “something” is also the fact that startup culture lacks diversity in terms of economic background, race, gender, and age. The solution to this is simple: More techies and investors from different backgrounds are sorely needed. They aren’t needed for the sake of P.C. inclusiveness; they’re needed because the market demands their products.