A San Francisco-based venture capital fund founded by the son of Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive is apologizing after facing online flack for requiring potential employees to take an IQ test as part of the job application process.
Aneel Ranadive, the founder of the firm Soma Capital, told Motherboard that he had not approved the inclusion of an IQ test in job applications and asked the team to remove it after he found out, calling it “frickin’ heartbreaking.”
“It's completely unacceptable,” Ranadive told Motherboard over the phone. “This is literally horrific to me and the frickin’ complete opposite of everything that I stand for and how I want to build [the] team and how I know how I frickin’ invest in founders as well.”
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Soma Capital had asked applicants to submit their IQ scores as well as their Myers-Briggs personality types. A photo of the request first circulated Monday on Twitter after a New York-based angel investor tweeted it out alongside the comment “Wow first time seeing this on a VC job app…”
The then-unnamed firm was ridiculed for the decision, as IQ tests have long been considered not just scientifically suspect but racially discriminatory, including by the Supreme Court in 1971. The Myers-Briggs personality test has also been viewed as akin to taking a “BuzzFeed quiz.”
Soon after, a CNN technology writer identified the firm as Soma Capital, which was founded in 2015 by Ranadive, the son of Kings owner and entrepreneur Vivek Ranadive.
Ranadive said he was “horrified” when he started to “see some stuff on Twitter” related to the IQ question, only to realize it was his own firm who had been responsible. He had the team wipe the question “immediately,” he said, though he did not initially respond to Motherboard’s Monday request for comment, only writing back after we gave a hard deadline Tuesday morning.
Ranadive said the company had “most definitely never had anything like that before” and that “this was absolutely a new initiative.” But when asked for clarification about whether all the job applications had required the test, he said, “I don't know exactly what they did or how they did it,” adding, “my postings that I've done have never had something like that.”
“Soma’s my baby,” he said. “The team is, I guess, bigger than it's ever been. And I've kind of hand-picked and run the process myself through thoughtful essays and interviews and spending time in person. And now that we're bigger, there's growing pains.”
The decision stands in opposition to the firm’s mission statement, stated on its website as “buliding [sic] a diverse team and investing in diverse founders.”
Ranadive said his father’s entrepreneurial journey from “a little town” called Juhu Beach outside Mumbai, India, to California business titan had proven to him why it was so important to identify diverse and nontraditional founders and help them build their companies. “I'm a son of an immigrant from Mumbai who came from nothing,” Ranadive said.
“I've always tried to build my team with mission-driven people from diverse backgrounds that have a compelling story,” he added. “It's just completely against everything that I stand for.”
The venture firm regularly touts its close ties to the Kings owner, saying on its website that through Aneel’s “relationship” with his father, “Soma Capital has access to Vivek’s deep Rolodex of CEO-level relationships with some of the biggest brands in the world, who can help make strategic introductions for portfolio companies.
The company, which closed a $400 million fund in January, claims to have invested in 17 “unicorn” companies and more than 300 startups.
“I built startups for 10 years, and I failed at everything,” Ranadive said. “Failed a lot, learned a lot, and then tried to make more impact in the world by investing.”
Ranadive said the lesson to him is that he needs to “clearly have oversight continually on every detail” while still allowing his employees a degree of autonomy.