Mayfield’s Palihapitiya: “White male circle of insiders”

(Updated: Mayfield has responded, saying the citations from the Chamath interview were taken out of context.)

chamath.bmpChamath Palihapitiya, a venture capitalist with Silicon Valley venture firm Mayfield Fund makes a somewhat provocative remark about Silicon Valley in a video filmed by a French artist.

Despite his success in Silicon Valley, he still sees a white male circle of insiders that he can’t penetrate, with exclusive dinner parties and country clubs that he isn’t part of, he apparently says: “Once I get inside, I will do my best to completely explode it from the inside,” he tells the camera, during a 40-minute video made by French artist Sylvie Blocher.

The video is part of an exhibit that opened this weekend at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and we haven’t seen it for ourselves yet. The quote above is cited in the San Francisco Chronicle article about the video (see here). We’re assuming for now he wasn’t quoted out of context.

[Update: A bad assumption on our part, because Mayfield says he was was taken out of context by the video. If true, it’s a shame that such a mediocre piece of work would be supported by the SF Moma. Here’s Mayfield’s comment, sent to VentureBeat: “Chamath’s comment was indeed taken out of context. It addressed how the world at large might work, but his comment about the Valley working as a meritocracy was not reported. As a VC firm with a 39 year history, we know that the Valley VC community is inclusive, diverse and values merit above all else.”]

The comment is notable, because many people say the valley’s strength comes from the substantial diversity of its people. Many venture firms are predominantly white, but many other firms have plenty of foreign-born, non-white partners. Half of all start-ups are founded by immigrants, according to recent studies. But women, in particular, have long complained about the continued lack of representation in positions of power.

Interested to hear what you folks think.

Blocher’s “Living Pictures/Men in Gold” presents seven Silicon Valley men — Palihapitiya is just one of them — as they contemplate their success, money, power, fears and desires in front of a video camera.