Can Having a Thick Accent Hinder Your Success?

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One company co-founder shared during an interview that having a thick accent could affect one’s ability to be successful. Read his reasoning and share your opinion.

Paul Graham (pictured right) co-founded the company Y Combinator, a company that provides start up funds for new businesses.

During a recent interview with a representative from Inc., he shared advice about starting a business, but one thing he said really had people turning heads.

When it came to predicting the success or failure of a new business, Graham shared the following:

“One quality that’s a really bad indication is a CEO with a strong foreign accent,” Inc. quotes Graham saying. “I’m not sure why.”

Graham followed up by explaining that it’s hard to communicate with a strong accent and “anyone with half a brain would realize you’re going to be more successful if you speak idiomatic English, so they must just be clueless if they haven’t gotten rid of their strong accent.”

Needless to say, this quote made people blow up on social media. In his defense, Graham followed up via email with Business Insider with the following explanation:

The problem is not having an accent per se.  A lot of the most successful founders we’ve funded have accents.  The problem is having an accent so strong that people have a hard time understanding you. Empirically, those founders do worse. I’m not sure exactly why, but it doesn’t seem a stretch to imagine ways that could be a problem for a startup.

A lot of what a startup CEO does is selling.  Not just in the literal sense of selling to customers, but also selling the vision to current and future employees, investors, and the press.  Often the “sale” hinges on some subtle distinction, so any difficulty in communicating is going to be a significant problem.  That’s why for example people prefer to have these conversations in person if they can.

His explanation can also be applied to those who work in any type of field, from teaching, nursing, and everything in between.

Do you think Graham makes a valid point or do you find his reasoning unfair? If you could ask Graham any question about his statement, what would you ask him?

Information for this article provided by Business Insider
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