was accused recently of believing things I don't believe about women as programmers and startup founders. So I thought I'd explain what I actually do believe.
Some accused me of being sexist—of being biased against female founders. To anyone who knows Y Combinator that would seem a pretty implausible claim. It's hard to argue I'm biased against female founders when I have a female cofounder myself. And with 3 female partners out of 12, YC has slightly over 3x the venture industry average. While 3 out of 12 is not 50-50, it would be very hard to find another firm of our size in the venture business where women run the show to the degree they do at YC. I may be the public face of the company, but it's impossible to imagine YC doing something that Jessica, Kirsty, and Carolynn were against.
More thoughtful people were willing to concede YC wasn't biased against women, but thought we should be actively working to increase the number of female founders. As one put it, instead of being a gatekeeper, we should be a gateway.
But that is exactly what Y Combinator is. The people who caricature us as being only interested in funding young hotshots forget that when we started, in 2005, young founders were not a privileged group but a marginalized one. VCs didn't want to fund them, and when they did they often as not tried to replace them with "adult supervision." The fact that young founders seem a privileged group now is partly due to our efforts. We attacked the problem not by advocacy but by action—by funding more young founders than VCs would, and then helping them to overcome the bias against them that they'd encounter among other investors. It worked rapidly, because it had a double effect: if you support a young founder who otherwise would not have been able to find funding and they go on to succeed, you get not just one more young founder but also the additional ones they inspire by their example.
We're doing the same thing for female founders. We fund more...