The first startup I was involved with was a management consulting company in Germany. I had been out of college for less than a year when I joined four much more experienced guys in forming Bossard Consultants Germany (some initial funding was provided by Bossard France, a well established consulting firm there). We got off to a great start, landing some premier clients such as Lufthansa and Porsche. The firm grew rapidly and we hired a lot of very smart guys to join the team.
Notice a pattern here? Yup, one day we found ourselves reaching two dozen consultants and everyone was male. At that point, we finally woke up to this not being healthy. But correcting the mistake now turned out to be hard. Several of the most qualified women simply didn’t want to join. It is not that any one of us was scary, it’s just that “trust us, this isn’t a frat house” is not all that compelling. The de facto lack of diversity spoke much louder than any words.
I am writing this because I see some startups these days going down a similar path. Very rarely will this be a result of any malice, rather it is easy to just not pay any attention to what’s happening until you find yourself without diversity. Changing the course then turns out to be genuinely hard. You want to be able to hire the best people. So make sure to build a team along the way that will be able to attract the best.