Silicon Valley Bank was in Austin this week, sponsoring and hosting parties at AfroTech, the largest Black tech conference in the nation. It’s been eight months since SVB’s dramatic collapse, where hundreds, if not thousands, of founders fled to competing banks. At one of their parties, reggae and Afrobeats played loud, the drinks were flowing. It was as if nothing had ever happened. Did it?
I did a vibe check to see.
For a few Black techies, the bank’s presence in Austin left an awkward taste. A founder at the conference, who asked to stay anonymous, told me it felt “in poor taste” for the bank to throw a celebration at a Black tech conference like this. “That terrible fallout impacted so many Black founders who banked with them and had the rug pulled out from under their feet,” she said.
Reputation has always preceded it. Luke Bailey, the founder of Neon Money Club, has never banked with SVB because of the bank’s concentrated risk. Still, he told me he’s always respected the organization and found its presence at the conference to be endearing.
“While its leaders had some missteps that led to its downfall, that bank had arguably the best startup banking team in the nation and practically invented the category,” he told me. He admits that many Black founders he knew who moved from the bank never went back, but he thinks many people have moved on from that situation.
“I think it’s dope that the SVB team still seems committed to our community, and it screams ‘mission-driven’ beyond circumstances,” he said. “They sort of have to earn trust again from scratch.”