Lyons cites Google and Facebook as companies where people of color are underrepresented and where African American employees are almost "non-existent." But he thinks the recent implosion of leadership at Uber may finally be an inflection point.
The felled Silicon Valley Unicorn came under intense scrutiny after a female engineer, Susan Fowler, published a damning blog post about her year working at the transportation giant. The ensuing months have included a third-party investigation into the company's culture and CEO Travis Kalanick resigning. The scandal docked the value of Uber.
"Now with Uber in danger, I think this is maybe the wake up call," says Lyons.
Uber has "raised $11 billion. So other people have given them $11 billion to go use and you realize now, 'Oh sh*t we gave $11 billion too much to a bunch of psychos, right, who don't even know how to run this company.'
"That's a huge wake up call and I think maybe, just maybe, the VCs are going to start to ... realize they have to start thinking about building better more sustainable companies from the get go."
Lyons learned firsthand how start-up culture works when, at 52, he lost his job as a technology journalist at Newsweek and took a job at the Boston-based marketing software start-up, HubSpot. He wrote about his experience in the New York Times best-seller, "Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Startup Bubble."