If you can’t hire black and Latino tech workers, you’re not really looking, says Walker & Company CEO Tristan Walker

Those who say talented techies of color don’t exist are spouting “complete bullshit,” Walker says on the latest Recode Decode.


On paper, Tristan Walker could check off a lot of the standard boxes for “Silicon Valley entrepreneur.” He has an MBA from Stanford and a résumé that includes Twitter, Foursquare and four years as entrepreneur-in-residence at Andreessen Horowitz.

However, the CEO of Walker & Company Brands roundly rejects the Valley’s favorite meme, “culture fit.” On the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, Walker said startups rarely define their own culture before using it as an excuse to hire homogenous workers.

“Foursquare worked, we got to 150 employees and no one left because we knew who we were,” Walker said. “The thing I’ve realized this time around, that I wanted to do from day one, is define that.”

Walker & Company is a health and beauty company that puts an emphasis on products for people of color, and it has raised more than $33 million to date from firms like Andreessen and IVP. Walker said he laid down six specific corporate values before he raised any money: “Courage, inspiration, respect, judgment, wellness and loyalty.”

In addition to explaining how those terms apply to his business, on the new podcast, Walker discussed the challenges he initially faced in getting investors on board; how he evaluates the recent mega-sales of Jet.com ($3 billion, to Walmart) and Dollar Shave Club ($1 billion, to Unilever); and his nonprofit initiative for minorities in tech, Code2040.

“We just graduated a class of 90 fellows,” he said. “A lot of these folks are saying that they don’t exist. That is complete bullshit because we found them inside of six months!”

“But, the inevitability is this,” he added. “They’re the ones who are going to go and start the companies. They’re the ones who are going to hire. They’re the ones who are actually going to create these lists and define values. If folks are complacent, then great: Don’t hire those folks. We will!”

You can listen to Recode Decode in the audio player above, or subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.

If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:

  • Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.
  • Too Embarrassed to Ask, hosted by Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode, answers the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.
  • And Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, including the Code Conference, Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. We’ve posted audio of every single interview at the 2016 Code Conference, so subscribe today on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.

If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on iTunes — and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Kara. Tune in next Monday for another episode of Recode Decode!

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