Workplace diversity is an emerging priority- and young entrepreneurs are taking note. As, Jacob Demmitt recently wrote in the Puget Sound Business Journal,

“No Excuses: How this Seattle startup fought to achieve 50 percent female leadership.

Apptentive looked like your average Seattle startup when the founding team first got together in 2011.

It consisted of four men, all born in the United States. Three of them were white, and the other, CEO Robi Ganguly, was half Indian and half white — which he notes isn’t exactly diverse for the technology space.

Ganguly remembers the same time his mobile app rating software business was getting off the ground, so was a conversation about diversity in the industry. At the companies where the founding team had worked before — like Yahoo, Microsoft and Apple — people were starting to ask why the industry is so dominated by men and what Ganguly and many others called a “frat culture.”

Apptentive decided to tackle the issue from the onset and make diversity part of its DNA, even as a startup with limited resources.

Companies such as Microsoft and Amazon have recently come under more pressure to address diversity discrepancies in their ranks, but it’s not common for a startup to take such an aggressive stance. Apptentive’s efforts were first highlighted by Fast Company.

Today, the business has 27 employees. Half of the leadership team is female and about 20 percent of the entire company identifies as a minority.

I caught up with Ganguly to ask how — and why — his startup did it.

Do you think some startups give themselves a pass on diversity? It’s not a pass. It’s more of, it’s really hard. For the first couple years we were talking about this we hadn’t seen results. It wasn’t for lack of interest. We just weren’t getting enough candidates in the door with a variety of backgrounds. And so I think it’s very challenging and the thing that more startups need to be thinking about is that it’s not binary: I got somebody diverse now or I didn’t. It’s a continuum. I’m going to continue to work on this because it’s important. And if the team believes and talks about it together, we’ll get there. Even if it isn’t today, it might take us years and years. But we’ll make progress.

So how do you get people in the door? We’ve tried to make it easy for our team to go to [various diversity events]. The more we go to them, the more we’re part of the conversation, the more we’re meeting people in the community. Every time I’m at one of these events, I’m meeting people and asking them for advice. How can we be supportive? Asking those questions about simple actions we can take and how we can participate has given us a lot of insight.

What kind of benefits has Apptentive seen with its more diverse workforce? There are a lot of benefits you see pretty quickly. The first is just changing the voices around the table. I think just the conversation tone can change, but it’s also the notion that people approach problems differently. Maybe it’s just as simple as understanding our customers better. When we have more people around the table with different opinions and different experiences, our product gets better.

Read the full article here.