Chicago, IL —
Over the past few years it has become easier for LGBT entrepreneurs to start a new business. Being out and open is not as large a barrier to being a successful business founder as it once was, but there are still real barriers that include region, gender expression and openness within particular industries. In 2009, a group of business leaders founded StartOut, a national organization to help LGBT business owners develop their entrepreneurial and professional careers, network and exchange ideas.Last month, StartOut launched it's sixth chapter in Chicago.
StartOut's founders were heavily involved within various LGBT charities in New York and San Francisco when they realized that "creating economic empowerment within the LGBT community was going to be an important part of the future of LGBT philanthropy". Economic independence and wealth creation within the community was vital to achieve greater growth and they wanted to help others to create their own success stories.
James Bain, StartOut board member and Head of Sales at ParkingPanda.com, told ChicagoPride.com, "I look at it like any other networking community. People that attend top-ranked schools or work at the best consulting or investment banking firms have a network to call on for mentorship, advice and to open doors. I want being gay or trans and being involved in StartOut to be the same unfair advantage as having gone to Chicago Booth or worked at McKinsey."
On their local launch last month: "Chicago is quickly becoming a tech and entrepreneurial epicenter," says Bain. "There are so many great incubators and co-working spaces and successes of startups like Groupon and soon-to-be-public GrubHub are only fueling this nucleus of innovation."
"It's growing so fast! The momentum is great in Chicago and what is particularly exciting from a diversity perspective is that it's coming from so many perspectives. It's not simply apps and social media, but manufacturing, alternative energy, infrastructure and design. It is a great metaphor for the LGBT community."
When asked about growth plans in Chicago for StartOut, Bain commented that "right now our focus is on throwing great events that LGBT entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs (a manager within a company who promotes innovative product development and marketing), investors and techies find useful and exciting."
"In addition to a strong membership base, corporate and individual donors will be instrumental in making that happen. The great thing about StartOut is that the very thing it is designed to support is the same machine that will contribute to its growth – a virtuous cycle of LGBT folks building businesses, growing their wealth and networks and then giving back."
StartOut board member Vivienne Ming is also Chief Scientist at Gild, a company that applies machine learning to predict optimal candidates for technology jobs and brings meritocracy to job markets.
"The growth of StartOut captured my attention and I knew I wanted to get involved," Ming told ChicagoPride.com. "The growth of the group, ranging from the rich content of the meetings through to the broad diversity of the attendees (I met) engaged in wonderful discussions about the differences between male and female founders without falling back on the traditional tropes of the debates" stood out to Ming who began her own transition from male to female in 2005 and has found many mentors within the organization.
Joe DiPasquale is a co-founder of StartOut. A graduate of Harvard and Stanford Business School, DiPasquale had internships at McKinsey and MTV Networks prior to founding Regroup, a leading provider of emergency notification and mass communications solutions for business and government clients, in 2006.
"I first came up with the idea for an LGBT entrepreneurs network after raising money for Regroup. My inspiration came after raising $2 million in venture capital for Regroup. During the networking-heavy process, I realized that a support system for LGBT entrepreneurs was needed, yet non-existent. In early 2009 I started getting others together to start and organization to foster and develop entrepreneurship in the LGBT community," said DiPasquale.
Together with Darren Spedale, Bryan Janeczko and Lorenzo Thione, DiPasquale founded StartOut to bridge the gap that existed and served as a barrier to business success for members of the LGBT community. Through the group, DiPasquale, who heads up programming in the Bay Area, has been able to leverage assistance for his own efforts.
"I've enjoyed giving back by setting up events, I've also met people to do business with. For example, I made an angel investment in a company whose founder I met through StartOut.
StartOut will be hosting a Venture Capitalist Pitch Competition on Thursday, April 3, 2014 from 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM at Spring Rewards, 314 W. Superior Street, Suite 600, Chicago
More information on the event can be found at http://gopride.com/Za3v