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Kevin Durant, Will Smith Among Investors in Tech Fund to Bring People of Color Into Industry



NBA superstar Kevin Durant and actor Will Smith are among the high-profile investors in a $15 million fund seeking to bring more diversity to Silicon Valley.

The “Culture” fund, launched by prominent venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, is one of the most ambitious endeavors to date in an industry that has tried, with limited success among a handful of companies, to hire and promote people of color. The fund was first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Monday. Andreessen Horowitz and the Golden State Warriors, Durant’s team, had no comment.

Durant and Warriors teammate Andre Iguodala, both of whom have ample tech investments and spoke at the Bloomberg Players Technology Summit on Tuesday, have emphasized the importance of diversity in Silicon Valley.

“There’s The Hidden Genius Project,” Iguodala said at the summit. “They do some amazing things that, you know, kids from the inner city, African-American kids, they get them coding at an early age. And from there, they move up and they’re actually teaching—they’re teaching white kids from the suburbs how to code. That’s an interesting dynamic.”

As part of Andreessen Horowitz’s main investing fund, the Culture fund will “focus purposefully and intently on creating opportunities for people of color in tech,” Essence magazine publisher Richelieu Dennis, another investor in the fund, told the Journal.

Despite repeated vows the past few years to reverse a woeful track history of diversity in tech, progress has been glacial. Only 3% of the U.S. tech workforce is black, while 57% of the workforce is white, according to data compiled by market research firm IHS Markit.

The report echoes data from the Kapor Center for Social Impact. Based on its analysis of EEO-1 data and company diversity reports, the nonprofit organization found that whites occupy 53% of technical roles and blacks only 3%. In leadership roles, the contrast has been more stark: 83% for whites, and 2% for blacks, according to a 2016 U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission report.

Facebook (FB), Twitter (TWTR), Dropbox (DBX), and other companies have reported modest gains, but the industry continues to lag.

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