The Margin: Kleiner Perkins at it again with partner’s tactless diversity comment
The same venture-capital firm known for its involvement in a discrimination lawsuit filed by former employee Ellen Pao may have just found itself in hot water again.
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers venture capitalist John Doerr spoke onstage Tuesday afternoon at TechCrunch Disrupt SF in a conversation with a journalist.
But one comment Doerr made on recruiting and the company’s newest hires didn’t sit well with the broader tech community.
“We have two partners who are so diverse, I have a challenge pronouncing their names,” Doerr said onstage.
Those partners are Swati Mylavarapu and Muzzammil Zaveri.
Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers was in the spotlight recently after former partner Ellen Pao sued the company in a gender discrimination lawsuit, saying the firm discriminated against her because she was a woman, that she was denied promotions, excluded from events and asked to sit in the back in meetings. Pao lost her case in a jury trial.
The Internet responded to the latest comments from Kleiner Perkins with a steady stream of outrage:
@kimmaicutler Does he even hear himself?!?! How obtuse (to be kind) or racist (to be more accurate) can one person be?
— Sharon Levin (@sharonreader) September 22, 2015
better yet: imagine the stuff VCs say behind closed doors when not in the company of anyone whose name they can’t pronounce
— Taylor Hatmaker (@tayhatmaker) September 22, 2015
My favorite is when people just laugh instead of trying to pronounce my last name. Because it’s funny, I guess. https://t.co/mh8kxhzOg8
— Levi Sumagaysay (@levisu) September 22, 2015
Doerr later apologized via Twitter to TechCrunch reporter Kim-Mai Cutler, whose tweet is credited with sparking much of the outrage.
@kimmaicutler Friends, my apologies. It was an unfortunate joke that was not funny. I have deep respect for my partners Swati and Muzzammil.
— John Doerr (@johndoerr) September 22, 2015