This post originally appeared on Incentivize
A few weeks ago I attended South by Southwest (SXSW) for the first time ever. I think the best way to describe it was kind of like a Las Vegas for nerds.
SXSW is filled with incredible panel discussions, amazing speakers free food and live music. But what really makes the place magical is the serendipitous nature of the event that leads to authentic bonding and new friendships. SXSW is about randomly meeting cool people while in line for breakfast tacos in the morning and then going out for drinks and talking shop with them until 4:00 AM. Often times, these people turn out to be founders of startups, who are looking to partner with other startups or venture capitalists who are looking for deal flow. The type of authentic bonding that occurs at SXSW makes it easier to strike deals down the road, as people like to work with people they get along with.
However, after four days and nights of parties and world-class networking, I had a bit of an epiphany. SXSW made me recognize that the startup and social enterprise worlds are still nothing more than a giant boys club. At the very end of each night I would look around and it would just be a bunch of dudes having a good time. While I was having a blast, I simultaneously thought to myself, ‘how difficult must it be for a female to fit into this world?’
I’ve founded two social ventures (GiveForward and DealGooder), both with incredible female co-founders. I’ve always had a huge amount of respect for the women I work with, but after attending SXSW my admiration and appreciation has grown by ten fold. Startups are incredibly hard to build, even when you are a white male. But they are infinitely harder when you are an outsider looking in.
While I am not going to pretend I have a solution to this problem, my question to everyone is how do we make the startup and socent worlds more inclusive to the other 50% of the population?