Silicon Valley *Is* a Meritocracy


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the negotiating position tips in your favor. Once you get there, trust me, VCs will run after you.

One final point: can all businesses get there? No. Some businesses simply do not fit the venture model, and they will never be fundable. But you can build those businesses as self-financed businesses and become very successful outside of the venture capital ecosystem. There is nothing wrong with that success or the wealth you create as an outcome based on that success.

Also, some ventures in cleantech and biotech are just not conducive to bootstrapping. The capital requirements are high. But entrepreneurs in those segments face challenges irrespective of demographics.

So, please, entrepreneurs, do not get hung up on the excuses that certain pundits are coming up with based on age, gender, or ethnicity.

The game we play is largely a numbers game. If enough women, black, or older entrepreneurs were coming up with big ideas like those generated by Facebook, Google, or Apple and doing the groundwork to get these ideas validated, well, by hook or by crook, Silicon Valley would not reject them.

Whatever Silicon Valley is, it is not stupid.

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Sramana Mitra is the founder of One Million by One Million (1M/1M), a global virtual incubator that aims to help one million entrepreneurs globally to reach $1 million in revenue and beyond. She is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and strategy consultant, she writes the blog Sramana Mitra On Strategy, and is author of the Entrepreneur Journeys book series and Vision India 2020. From 2008 to 2010, Mitra was a columnist for Forbes. As an entrepreneur CEO, she ran three companies: DAIS, Intarka, and Uuma. Sramana has a master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Follow @sramana

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3 responses to “Silicon Valley *Is* a Meritocracy”

  1. Darrell Glasco says:


    I have been following your writings for a few years and respect them tremendously. I applaud your effort for focusing on an effort that can uplift everyone economically.

    However, after having worked directly with a number of technology companies in Silicon Valley as well as in other parts of the country, I can tell you that the system is not a total meritocracy. As you noted yourself in an interview with Xconomy:

    It (sic Silicon Valley) is very much a tribal, knowledge-based environment where nothing has been institutionalized and everything is inside people’s heads. The network is a very elitist, closed network.
    It is very much a tribal, knowledge-based environment where nothing has been institutionalized and everything is inside people’s heads. The network is a very elitist, closed network.

    Networks are very important to succeeding as an entrepreneur in all business sectors. Unfortunately, this is a network that some minorities, especially African Americans especially have been unable to break into for a number of reasons which are not all due to discrimination.

    There is a saying “where you sit determines your point of view.” I think before any of us discount issues we should become better informed about the “other point of view.”

  2. Hi Darrell,

    There is no question that the Silicon Valley network is highly elitist, and very difficult to penetrate. If you have been following my writings, you must also have read that I have commented on that, as well as the tribal knowledge issue multiple times. In fact, both of those are cornerstone ideas that have prompted the founding of the 1M/1M program: (a) To help outsiders (with merit) break into the elitist network (b) institutionalize the tribal knowledge of Silicon Valley.

    Your comments are on the mark.