The breathless profile of Sidewire in Fast Company raves about the quality of the participants in their "compelling" conversations: Ron, Shermichael, Travis, Tommy, Bob, Tim, Jon, Jacob, Kurt … hey wait a second, I’m noticing a pattern here! Strangely though it isn't ever mentioned in the article. I wonder if the author David, company founders Tucker and Andy, and investors Kevin and Mike also see it?*
Don't get me wrong, I very much agree that there's a strong desire for high-quality political conversation. Sidewire's approach of discussions between "newsmakers" is an interesting variant on TVs and radio's classic talking heads formats. It's high-quality content, from a range of political views. By putting a premium on "expertise," it's very attractive to current influencers, so it's no surprise they've gotten a lot of interest.
From a business perspective, though, the site's lack of diversity certainly seems like a challenge. Sure, there are plenty of people who who are so used to only hearing guys' opinions that they don't notice something's missing -- and for that matter, plenty of people who would just as soon not hear what women have to say. But especially in a year where, y'know, we have the first ever major-party female candidate for President, and early polls show yuuuuge gender differences in people's reactions to the candidates ... why would you want to limit your audience?
Of course the guys who started the company, and the guys who are advising them, and the guys who have invested in them probably aren't thinking of it that way. Given which, I though the the closing quote of the article was pretty entertaining:
Sidewire may be a slick app trying to transform texting threads into the next media format, but for [founder Tucker] Bounds and his newsmakers, it's a personal attempt to turn the clock back to the politics they want, not the politics we have.
* Women actually do exist on Sidewire, at least in small numbers. Looking at their front page (which by the way is overwhelmingly blue, and no option to change colors), a handful of the chats actually are hosted by women; overall, the list of chat hosts is probably "only" 80% guys. Still, that's a lot. And the company's employees are similarly "only" about 80% male; Meredith Carden (who was the only woman quoted in the article) and Carolne Chalmers work on partnerships, Winne Cheng is an engineer.