MANAGING DIRECTOR, GAINGELSView profile
In 2008 we founded a non-profit called Start Out, which has over 10,000 members around the country, and is the only network and organization that is really focused on supporting LGBTQ founders and entrepreneurs.
I met David Beatty and Paul Grossinger through that network, and we started talking about how to leverage the resources of the LGBTQ community to invest in the next generation of LGBTQ founders and entrepreneurs. As a non-profit, Start Out wasn’t going to do that, so David and Paul set up an angel group called Gaingels that was really supportive and dedicated to the LGBTQ community.
There was no way for us to support each other in the way that affinity groups existed for women or ethnic minorities in entrepreneurship.
We can become a partner for diversity in all companies – helping every company we invest in realize that building a diverse and inclusive organization is first and foremost good for business.
We basically said, we can become a partner for diversity in all companies – helping every company we invest in realize that building a diverse and inclusive organization is first and foremost good for business. Also, we could be effectively helpful in bringing talent, in bringing leadership, in bringing board of director leadership, and in bringing capital from diverse capital sources, bringing that diversity on to the capitalization table structure.
That’s when our growth really started. We realized that together we can play a meaningful role as investors and partners, being a sounding board for ideas, and a helpful guide when it comes to policies for equal recognition or equality policies and non-discrimination, or DEI in general.
In order to succeed, any organization needs to know what it stands for, and you need to really be able to communicate to your stakeholders why they should work with you.
We always have been very focused that our mission was to bring about social change and create more equality and access for all people. Now there is an increase in understanding why having more diverse and inclusive leadership structures and organizations and capital structures is good for business. There’s more data on it, and people are paying attention. I think that timing has been on our side and we have been given access to an opportunity.
We also felt there was a good chance that people were afraid to come out as founders to their investors.
I feel like Pride is a moment to celebrate representation, because there is no more powerful force for change than representation. When people see themselves reflected in the kind of future they want to build for themselves, through the eyes of someone that looks like them, or comes from the same neighbourhood, or has had the same life experiences, that’s when they know it’s possible and that leads them to actively work to make their aspirations come true. Until they know that it is possible, things don’t happen.
One of the most recent projects that we’ve launched is called ‘Gaingels 100’, a book and an online directory of 100 amazing LGBTQ venture-backed founders who are an incredibly impressive and diverse group of people. The idea is to elevate their stories in a way that makes everybody who recognises themselves in those experiences, in that background, in those ideas, to feel like they too can dream to do the same. We are so proud of this project, and of the pride it in turns instils in the people it will reach.
When people see themselves reflected in the kind of future they want to build for themselves, through the eyes of someone that looks like them, or comes from the same neighbourhood, or has had the same life experiences, that’s when they know it’s possible.
It is so much more about the process and the journey than it is about the destination and the outcome.
I also have a real need to learn, and to interact with people. So many of the things that I have done are about me going into something I have never done before because it is an opportunity to work with new people and learn from them about new constraints and a new industry and I think that that will probably always be the case for me. I can’t imagine that I would just stick to the same thing for decades.