Could it be true that age discrimination is more prevalent in Silicon Valley than either gender or race discrimination?

More than a year after #MeToo, a new survey from First Round Capital says just that. It also finds that two-thirds of male founders think their companies are inclusive environments for parents, but just one-third of female founders agree. 

The First Round survey is one of the most comprehensive surveys of tech startup founders. It's been published for the past four years, which gives it the potential to show how that community has changed over time. Its respondents are representative of the community it surveys: largely white and male. But it also highlights the ways in which the experience of the "average" founder can be dramatically different from those who are not white and male.

When asked about bias, 37 percent of founders in the First Round survey said they believe that age bias--which after all has the potential to affect everybody--exists within their community. The wording of the question, which asked founders to identify various types of biases, may have made that response unusually low. When asked, separately, "In tech, do older people face age discrimination?" 89 percent said yes. They were most likely to say that age bias begins to be a problem at age 46. A smaller number -- 28 percent -- said they thought that gender bias exists. Only twenty-six percent said they thought racial bias exists.

Some 83 percent of the survey respondents identified as men. Respondents were not asked to identify by race or ethnicity.

"Overall, 28 percent of respondents believed investors bias against gender in the fundraising process, but when you look at just the responses from women this increases to 66 percent, and for men it drops to 20 percent," says Brett Berson, a partner at First Round. "This is one of many examples in the data that highlight the disappointing disparities so many of us are already aware of between the experiences of men and women in the tech industry." 

A survey of 279 women entrepreneurs conducted jointly by Inc. and Fast Company revealed that 62 percent of these female founders said they'd experienced bias during the fundraising process. Some 53 percent said they experienced harassment or discrimination in their capacity as a founder, and a third of those said they'd experienced harassment or assault.

First Round also discovered that 60 percent of founders think tech companies are inclusive for parents. But not many of their companies are showing that inclusivity in programs to make it easier for parents to work at their startups. Just over half offer paid disability leave. Only 37 percent have a return-to-work flextime program. Thirty-five percent have what the survey refers to as a "mother's room."

Of the female founders in the Inc. and Fast Company survey, 64 percent offered paid family leave and 76 percent support mandated paid family leave.

Recession, IPOs, and Blockchain

First Round also asked its founders some more general questions about the state of the startup landscape. As expected, entrepreneurs showed themselves to be inveterate optimists. Even though a recent survey from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business found that 48.6 percent of CFOs believe the U.S. will be in recession by the end of this year, 95 percent of founders say this is a good time to be starting a company.

For the fourth year running, founders thought the IPO market would be better next year than this year: Forty-nine percent said more tech companies will go public next year than this year, and 31 percent thought the IPO market would be about the same. (Nonetheless, 61 percent think we're in a tech bubble.) About half think there will be more mergers and acquisitions deals for startups than next year, with 30 percent saying the number will be the same.

They're less enthusiastic about some of the busiest of those acquirers, such as Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, and Google. Thirty-two percent said these companies, as a group, are "actually evil," while 53 percent said those companies are perceived as evil.

They're reserving some skepticism for blockchain as well. Only 13 percent believe it will ever become a dominant technology in their industry--even though 40 percent of surveyed founders own cryptocurrency.

Published on: Dec 13, 2018