The founder of one of San Francisco's hottest startups reveals how diversity is the key to building a multi-million dollar company


  • Weebly, a San Francisco-based startup most recently valuated at half a million dollars, has a leadership and management team that is equally represented by both women and men.
  • Weebly's CEO says that its emphasis on diversity is key to the company's success.
  • Weebly's hiring team goes out of their way to hire diverse candidates in order to create an inclusive work environment.

This month, Weebly achieved a rare milestone for a Silicon Valley-based startup: With its most recent hire, the company's leadership and management teams are now equally represented by both women and men.

But Weebly's company makeup hasn't always reflected an equilibrium of gender diversity - and this change didn't come about by accident.

"That's definitely not how we started out on day one," Weebly co-founder and CEO David Rusenko told Business Insider. "We started out with three founders who were all white men. None of this happened spontaneously. It took a fair amount of brainstorming and focus to get us here."

When Weebly was only one year old, Rusenko realized an uncomfortable fact about his company: Just one-third of its staff was represented by women.

"We looked around and there was this realization in the room that we have a problem," Rusenko said. "We started asking ourselves: Are we going to focus on this? How do we focus on this?"

When it came to considering gender inclusivity within their company, Rusenko and his co-founders took to the drawing board. Instead of waiting for potential candidates to respond to job advertisements, they decided to put in the extra work in discovering new hires - culling the web for female engineers and women in leading tech roles.

WeeblyWeebly's leadership teamWeebly

"We decided to put the work into surfacing amazing female candidates," Rusenko said. "We don't believe in saying, 'Hey, I'll hire the best candidate from whomever shows up at my front door.' It pays to put in a little more effort."

This isn't the first time that Rusenko's company has taken an unconventional approach to hiring. Last year, Weebly revealed that it requires potential hires to participate in a "trial week" to determine whether or not they're the right fit for the job.

Weebly's novel approach to creating an inclusive work environment reflects Rusenko's primary vision for his company.

"If you're trying to build a long-lasting company that has a great foundation, then you need to think about diversity early on," said Rusenko. "You need to think about building a foundation that will support not just 1000 employees, but 100,000 employees."

As an example, Rusenko pointed to the troubles that have plagued Uber over the past year, many of which have stemmed from sexist behavior on the part of the company's chief executives. "It's a perfect example of building a house of cards," said Rusenko. "You have to start thinking about inclusivity when the company is small."

Weebly, which was most recently valued at $490 million in 2015, has established itself as an anomaly in Silicon Valley, where major tech companies have long struggled to include women on their leadership teams.

Rusenko believes that tech's gender gap is inexcusable. In the past, he says he's experienced pushback from fellow entrepreneurs and recruiters who view his company's vision for diverse hiring as potentially cutting them off from a pool of more qualified candidates.

WeeblyMembers of Weebly's team chat during a Facebook live event.Weebly

"It's the most frustrating thing ever," said Rusenko, who said that several recruiters have asked him why Weebly doesn't concern itself simply with hiring the best person for the job.

Rusenko's response to this query is: "What kind of a stupid question is that? I think it's ridiculous. You have to put in the effort to surfacing the best candidate who is also a woman. Too many people are only looking at the candidates that come to them. It's biased and it's not enough."

Ruskeno says his company's emphasis on diversity will inform its success later on.

"If you don't have diversity within your company, then you have a mono-culture, and because you're a mono-culture, you won't perform as well," said Ruskenko. "For a company to be successful, you need different backgrounds and different perspectives."

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