I’m from the government and I’m here to help.

by Randell Young, General Partner, Venture-Net Partners


Last week, I had lunch with a startup CEO whose enterprise had accumulated a large social media following. She had tested a few ideas for extracting money from her subscribers. Some of the more pretentious of us now call this “monetizing”. She was getting a reasonably good result and felt like the time was right to get herself and her company on the VC radar.

She casually brought up a concern: With several high profile sexual harassment and/or discrimination cases now residing in the VC timeline, would VCs (consciously or subconsciously) be cautious about working with a female CEO

My guess is she has a valid concern.

The one big, huge (presumably) unintended consequent of protected class lawsuits is that it increases the risk for anyone who might otherwise be enthusiastic about partnering with a member of a protected class. Like just about all government “solutions”, the cure is worse than the disease. The lawyers, career bureaucrats, regulators and lobbyists benefit, in some cases even on a windfall level, while everyone else just gets one more obstacle to overcome.

Sarah Breedlove, America’s first self-made female millionaire, made her fortune prior to the establishment the income tax (1917). There was no such concept as helping female entrepreneurs. There was no affirmative action. There were no protected classes. There wasn’t even such a notion as sexual harassment. And yet, selling hair care products that she herself didn’t even make, she became a millionaire, this nation’s first self-made female millionaire.

She didn’t need any special help. She didn’t ask people to buy her products or invest in her company because it was “woman owned”. She just went out and competed – with companies owned by men and companies owned by women – and she succeeded.

Rather than focusing on herself and whatever supposed prejudices she may have had to overcome (or whatever special advantages she may have been able to gain), Sarah Breedlove focused on her customer… and how to bring the most value possible for her customer. And with no help whatsoever from the hordes of lobbyists, lawyers, bureaucrats and regulators who now presuppose to rescue minority-owned businesses, Sarah Breedlove succeeded… big league… even though she was female… and African-American.

So the next time someone tells you they are especially interested in helping you because you fit the right demographic, you may want to ask them (and yourself), why?