Celebrating LGBTQ entrepreneurship

It’s LGBTQ Pride month! To celebrate, we’re shining the spotlight on a handful of the inspiring initiatives run by LGBTQ business leaders paving the way for a more inclusive and diverse future.

When Tim Cook came out in 2014, he was the only openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company. That rarity isn’t limited to big companies, though — the startup ecosystem has a very limited number of openly LGBTQ founders: 37% reported they are not “out” to their investors, with 12% citing that they fear it could hurt them, if they were to come out.

Openly gay business leaders face a number of challenges, especially when it comes to peer connectivity and access to capital. Today, less than 10% of VC funding goes to female founders, founders of color, or LGBTQ founders. In response, resources to provide LGBTQ founders with mentorship and capital have emerged.

LGBTQ-focused groups:

  • A particularly prominent community, StartOut, supports LGBTQ startup leaders by offering educational and networking opportunities.
  • Capital resources include Gaingels, an investing organization that targets companies that have at least one LGBTQ founder, and Backstage Capital, which funds startups built by female, colored, or LGBTQ founders.
  • Lesbians Who Tech, and Out in Tech organize events, summits and other networking opportunities to connect LGBTQ professionals in tech.

Below are just a handful of the inspiring startups led or run by LGBTQ business leaders. Be sure to check them out!

Kenzen

  • Backed by Gaingels, Kenzen is bringing about the next wave of wearable technology that delivers real-time information. Kenzen is improving health monitoring by showing lab-based information at the touch of a button.
  • Heidi Lehmann, Kenzen’s Chief Commercial Officer, says, “I’m not only a female, I’m LGBT, and while these two diversity angles may present challenges, they also present unique opportunities and perspectives that others don’t have.”

Thinkful

  • Thinkful is an online coding bootcamp that offers intensive programming courses, one-on-one mentorship, and guaranteed job opportunities within six months of graduation. Led by Darrell Silver, the startup is closely connected to the LGBTQ community: in 2016 they collaborated with Lesbians Who Tech to provide a $100k scholarship. Since 2012, Thinkful has raised $5.25M in funding.

Elemental Path

  • Elemental path, which reminds us of RaceYa for older kids, is using AI to create toys that educate youth with continued dialogue. Over the last three years, Elemental Path has raised $4M in total funding and disrupted the toy industry with new interactive “smart toys.”
  • JP Benini, Elemental Path’s Founder and CTO, represented mobile development trends at the White House LGBT Innovation Summit.

Killer Infographics

  • Killer Infographics builds stunning visual content including data presentation, engagement campaigns, and interactive dashboard designs. The company often does discounted work for LGBTQ nonprofits.
  • Amy Balliett, co-Founder and CEO of Killer Infographics, is also a big name in LGBTQ activism. Using social media, Amy helped overturn the 2008 California Proposition 8 (thus legalizing same-sex marriage in CA) by mobilizing a network of 2-million people.

We are proud to stand alongside the amazing LGBTQ founders whose hard work makes progress and acceptance possible.

These are only a few LGBT companies and initiatives. Who did we miss? Give your favorite companies a shout-out in a comment below!


Originally published at republic.co.

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