Paul Graham of Y Combinator caused a kerfuffle earlier this week when he told a reporter at Inc. Magazine that a “really bad indication” for a startup CEO is a “strong foreign accent.” The Valleywag trolls came out in droves — along with Om Malik’s eloquent bite-back — and Graham clarified his comments in an e-mail to Business Insider, claiming that accent or no accent, founders must be able to effectively communicate their company vision on a daily basis.
Mark Suster of Upfront Ventures writes in a blog post that he loves foreign accents, and not just for the colorful swear words they carry with them. Suster points out that the most innovative businesses frequently come from the less educated — such as the ethnic Jews who started Hollywood’s hottest studios in the 1930s — or foreign “outsiders.”
One look at Google’s roster of Indian-educated executives shows that America still thrives on immigration, 120 years after the hey-day of Ellis Island. But more than their ability to think different, Suster says foreign-born workers are less entitled and harder workers. Even in international business hubs like London, there remain unwritten rules of status and language, so Americ’s meritocratic society is crucial to attracting the world’s brightest from more discriminatory communities.
It’s hard to argue with diversity in the workplace, especially when Suster brings in such personal examples as his Filipino nanny or Colombian father. Perhaps Mark Zuckerberg should take a page from Suster’s book and use personal anecdotes to bolster his oft-controversial FWD.us campaign, instead of operating under the suspicious philosophy of ‘making the world a better place.’