There are several tactics—including a small number of emerging resources—that can help you find women, minority, or other board members:
1. Get a diverse set of angel investors early on. Build these relationships early in the life of the company, and by the time you need to add a board member you will already have numerous bridges to great independent board candidates. You will get to know their thinking firsthand and will be able to build relationships with them that allow you to convert them to board members later.
For example, Color Genomics, which I cofounded, has over a dozen female investors. Color’s first external board member was Susan Wagner, cofounder of BlackRock and a board member at Apple, BlackRock, and SwissRE. Sue started off working with Color as an angel investor, and we were lucky to eventually convince her to join our board after she got to know the company and its mission.
2. Pitch diverse venture capitalists. Pitch women and minority venture capitalists as part of each round of funding. This increases the likelihood you will have a more diverse board.
3. Tell recruiters and investors what you are looking for. If you hire a recruiting firm to help you with your board search, you can specify diversity as a criterion that is important to you. Similarly, your investors are often involved with the hunt for board members; ask them for help and introductions.
4. Check theBoardlist. Sukhinder Singh Cassidy recently launched theBoardlist as a resource for suggesting and finding female board members.
5. Review “most powerful” lists. There are numerous “top” and “most powerful” lists for women, African Americans, Latinos, and other groups. These can be segmented by geography or other factors. Go through these lists and find someone to introduce you to potential members. 1