A year or so ago, I got to tag along to a Y Combinator event . Just weeks before, I’d gotten a full introduction to incubators and how startups work by talking to a friend that was going through the process. I was excited to attend the event, and the whole concept of Y Combinator sounded quite cool.
The event consisted of the majority of one “class” of the incubator from a previous year, plus a couple tag-alongs like me. Upon arrival, I found myself in the midst of an extremely demographically homogenous group. This is even compared to all the open source conferences I’ve attended. It was eerie, and quite a shock.
I got over this shock once the event got in swing and founders started speaking. But I was periodically reminded of the demographic as the speakers and hosts alike chummily refered to their peers as “the Y Com-bros” throughout.
As a startup-curious person, I started taking mental notes. To be honest, one of them was to not apply to this particular incubator if I wanted to start a business. Why? There wasn’t anyone like me there. Who knows the multitude of reasons leading up to them not being there, but they weren’t. Not only that, but everyone seemed to be satisfied with that.
Afterwards, I mentioned to my friend that the “Y Com-bro” shoutouts could be alienating to the one woman founder, and he balked. He said that she wouldn’t care, in a way that implied that she shouldn’t care. I could only guess that he got this attitude from the environment he’s in.
Life is short. I’ve learned from several years of surprisingly tough times as a minority in this industry that it’s not worth anything to surround myself with people that don’t understand or don’t care. Luckily, there’s competition and there are other incubators and other paths.
I’m a programmer, and not an entrepreneur. But I’ve had some ideas and a few strong urges to build them. Maybe someday one of them will top the urgency I feel with my full-time job. I’m confident that if I were to take an idea to a startup incubator in the future, it would be to one that was clearly concerned with getting a more diverse bunch of entrepreneurs and making them feel welcome.
Update: Since then, they have discussed and decided to drop the “bros” nickname. I think that’s a really good call.
 I don’t know what kind of event this was. I’m pretty positive I was allowed to be there and my friend was definitely under the impression that I was. I want to emphasize that I’m glad I got to go, and I got some good stuff out of it too.