StartOut is the “must belong to” organization dedicated to creating great business leaders by fostering Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBTQ) entrepreneurs. It is the LGBTQ business life line.
With 15,000 members and chapters in 6 cities StartOut is reaching out to expand and engage LGBT entrepreneurs across the US and the rest of the globe through the new StartOut online community.
While there has been an increase in gay friendly businesses, the legalization of same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination laws in this decade, many LGBT entrepreneurs have been at a disadvantage in getting funds, support and PR.
StartOut aims to level the entrepreneurship playing field by providing LGBTQ entrepreneurs with networking events, access to investors, mentors and each other.
Research has shown that investors invest in people they like and who they feel comfortable with and who share common values. Investors want personal connections with people they’re going to give money to.
However, 37% of LGBT entrepreneurs are not out to investors and are reluctant to risk losing potential investors but not being out and trying to hide sexual orientation or gender identity limits personal connection.
Andres Wydler is the Executive Director of StartOut. “I know people who lost their opportunity for funding after they came out to investors, who were homophobic. It’s hard enough to run a business when 90% of entrepreneurs fail, and to be LGBTQ and be afraid to be open about who you are, is like working under a constant cloud which impacts your chances for success.
“At StartOut,” Andres continued, “we want to remove any obstacles an LGBTQ entrepreneur has to success by not only providing opportunities to network, get support and mentorship but to also give people access to investors who are either LGBT or allies.”
This is particularly important in parts of the country and the world where LGBTQ people are more isolated. If you’ve ever had to hide part of who you are, you know how difficult it can be to think and do your best. Creativity gets stunted.
Andres was very clear that StartOut is not interested in a parallel economy for LGBTQ people.
“We want our members to be able to use the same resources as everyone else, which is why we bring in speakers, investors and networking opportunities that are not LGBTQ.”
StartOut has many success stories; people who sold their businesses through StartOut, found investors at meetings, and developed profitable business partnerships.
Right now StartOut has an IndieGoGo campaign to raise money to expand online services, and engage people who can’t get to a StartOut meeting but need information, contacts, and support.
How many brilliant products, ideas and services has society lost because LGBT or other “minority” entrepreneurs didn’t have the opportunity, contacts or money to bring their concepts to market?
How much human capital has been lost because an LGBTQ entrepreneur couldn’t get the money or resources he or she needed because they were isolated, and gave up?
What if they had the access, money and mentorship they needed? For LGBTQ entrepreneurs, that would be StartOut.
To support StartOut or become a member visit their IndieGoGo campaign.
Email any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Find StartOut events at www.startout.org