Entrepreneur

BoardProspects’ launch could bring more diversity to board rooms (exclusive)

BoardProspects launches today to break the monopoly of the “good ol’ boys network” and increase diversity in the boardroom.

Scoring an elusive seat on a private or public company board has traditionally been an invitation-only affair. Boardrooms seek out qualified candidates, not the other way around. As a result, boardrooms are viewed as stuffy and antiquated, and haven’t attracted their fair share of young, fresh talent.

Above: Mark Rogers, CEO of BoardProspects

BoardProspects CEO Mark Rogers (pictured, left) wants to change the public’s perception of boards and usher boardrooms into the digital age. So he developed a free site that connects boardroom prospects from a variety of personal and professional backgrounds, with the right board seat.

“Most people aren’t aware of the tremendous upsides to serving on a board, like professional development or giving back to your community,” he explained. Rogers serves on half a dozen public, private and nonprofit boards. Prior to starting BoardProspects, he was a lawyer at a corporate practice in Boston.

The idea for the company originated when he moved to a business development role in his firm. To increase his network of potential clients, he searched the web to find openings on local corporate boards. A rookie mistake. Rogers quickly learned that he would need to network with the right people (“it is all about who you know”) for months so people would consider him for future openings.

Don’t have time to network but curious about whether you’d be a fit for a local board? Register for free on BoardProspects, and you can search a directory of available board seats. If you’ve never served on a board before, check out the BoardBlogs filled with handy tips from the experts, and the breaking news feed with boardroom issues from around the world.

Existing board-members can log in and list their opening here. The service is available for free (although users may see sponsored content from NASDAQ, Goodwin Proctor LLP, and others), but the founders are considering charging prospects and board-members for premium services in the near future.

Boston-based BoardProspects has bigger goals than most startups — it’s tackling a global issue that affects most businesses. Evidence shows that mixed boards function far better than monolithically male ones do. But boardrooms, especially corporate boards, have failed to break the cycle. For instance, in 2010, only 11 percent of board seats in Europe and 14.9 percent of board seats in the U.S. were held by women.

In Europe, governments have resorted to extreme measures and are imposing quotas for women in the boardroom. They received criticism for encouraging companies to pad their boards with “token” nonexecutive female directors.

Can a startup succeed where governments have failed? For BoardProspects, it’s time to initiate a technology-driven solution. “Our vision is not just about bolstering diversity,” Rogers told me. “I look at board service as a means to tap into a diversity of perspective.”

With this big vision in mind, Rogers convinced industry heavyweights, such as Kathryn Swintek, the managing partner for all-female angel investment network Golden Seeds; Justin Miller, CEO of Plaxo; and Yan Pujante, a founding team member at LinkedIn; to join the company in an advisory capacity. In addition, the company has raised a small amount of capital from family and friends, and plans to raise its first round of investment in the coming months.

BoardProspects is launching to the public at Disrupt 2012, an annual tech conference in San Francisco.


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