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Twitter critics spurred Acceleprise to organize a more diverse panel

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  • Acceleprise, a software startup accelerator headquartered in San Francisco, announced that it was organizing a future-of-work panel this week featuring an all-star list of panelists including Zoom CEO Eric Yuan. 
  • The firm’s announcement quickly attracted some critics on Twitter, who pointed out that no black founders, tech executives, or venture capitalists made the list of panelists. 
  • Acceleprise responded by committing to organizing more diverse panels in the future, and upon further prodding, added that it would be hunting to add a new panelist for their event Friday. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Startups and venture firms rushing to remedy the industry’s lack of diversity may now be held accountable on public platforms like Twitter, a fact that one startup accelerator quickly found out on Monday. 

Acceleprise, a San Francisco-based accelerator that specializes in incubating software startups, announced that it would be holding a panel on the future of work with a list of all-star panelists including Zoom CEO Eric Yuan this Friday. 

The venture firm has also promised to add a person of color to its list of panelists, but the move only came about after critics called out Acceleprise for organizing a panel to discuss a “diverse” and “inclusive” future of work without including a single black panelist. 

“Ain’t no black people working in the future?” Del Johnson, a venture capitalist who’s been vocal about the industry’s systemic lack of diversity, quickly asked

Acceleprise, which has already issued a statement in solidarity with the black community, immediately thanked Johnson for pointing that out. Olivia O’Sullivan, Acceleprise’s head of corporate engagement and partnerships, said that the team had committed to amplifying the voices of black, indigenous, and other persons of color in the future. 

Another critic pushed back. Wouldn’t it be possible to begin that effort even sooner by adding a person of color to Friday’s event? 

“People who care about diversity in tech have been hearing “we’ll do better moving forward” for years,” said Dave Heal, who works at the online analytics platform Socialgist. 

Silicon Valley’s call for change

Over the past two weeks, ongoing protests over the killing of George Floyd and police brutality have trained a spotlight on Silicon Valley’s longstanding problems with diversity. Startups and venture firms, including Acceleprise, have issued statements in solidarity with the black community and committed to both hire and fund more black-founded startups, moving forward. 

One concern expressed by founders and venture capitalists alike, is how long the momentum will last. After all, the tech industry has largely been able to evade scrutiny for its hiring, promotion, funding, and business practices for years. 

But as people inside and outside tech companies grow less enthralled with the tech industry, and are more willing to draw attention to their practices, some industry observers are hopeful that this time, the changes may be more lasting. 

“I think internally [in the tech industry], you’re seeing levels [of] dissatisfaction you haven’t seen before, and I think externally … you’re seeing that public accountability,” Y-Vonne Hutchinson, CEO of ReadySet and an expert on inclusion and diversity issues, told Business Insider. “And for a lot of people in Silicon Valley, even without these marches, there was a reckoning that was starting to happen.”

In Acceleprise’s case, that public accountability seems to be making a difference. 

“I want the future of work to look more diverse and inclusive — so WE have to make sure our panels look this way too,” Acceleprise’s O’Sullivan tweeted. In an email to Business Insider, O’Sullivan confirmed that the company is hunting for a new panelist for Friday.

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