Paul Graham, co-founder of Y Combinator—the tech accelerator that supports early-stage, growth-driven companies through education, mentorship and financing—has funded a number of successful start-ups including Dropbox, Airbnb and Reddit. Despite this, in 2013 he made a controversial comment about how he evaluates potential companies. He managed to both offend many foreign-born Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and reveal a prejudice common among venture capitalists.
“One quality that’s a really bad indication is a CEO with a strong foreign accent,” Graham told Inc. magazine. “I’m not sure why. It could be that there are a bunch of subtle things entrepreneurs have to communicate and [you] can’t [do that] if you have a strong accent. Or, it could be that anyone with half a brain would realize you’re going to be more successful if you speak idiomatic English, so they must just be clueless if they haven’t gotten rid of their strong accent.”