Entrepreneurship News

StartOut Expands Leadership: New Board Members Reflect Commitment to Diversity & Expansion

For Immediate Release

NEW YORK, NY–StartOut announced four new members of the Board of Directors, adding to the roster of LGBT entrepreneurial and business professionals who govern the national organization. The addition of three out lesbian business leaders along with an openly gay entrepreneur & investor is a demonstration of StartOut’s commitment to increasing diversity on its Board and more accurately reflecting the network of over 12,000 LGBT professionals they serve each year.

“I am delighted that StartOut’s sixth year begins by expanding our Board of Directors to its most diverse makeup yet.  Reflecting the diversity of the LGBT entrepreneurial community is top priority for our Board,” said Patrick Grosso, Chair of the Board of Directors. “Businesses benefit tremendously from diversity, especially when there is diversity in their leadership. The work of improving the visibility of women and minority leaders is never finished. This holds particularly true on boards. I’m proud of StartOut’s commitment to supporting diversity in leadership throughout our work.  These new Board members bring a vast array of skills and insights from every sector of entrepreneurship, education, corporate governance, and nonprofit leadership. They will be invaluable to the continued expansion of our programming this year, and beyond.”

The new Board members include business consultant and marketing professor Mary Shea, attorney Nicole Dogwill, serial entrepreneur Carla McKay, and digital content and investor Chris Young.


New Board Member Biographies:

Nicole Dogwill

Nicole Dogwill, Partner in Joseph & Cohen’s San Francisco office, is a skilled litigator with experience in advising and defending leading, established and emerging companies, as well as their directors and officers, on matters involving fiduciary duty, corporate governance, securities, fraud, antitrust/unfair business practices, and related business claims. Ms. Dogwill also advises and litigates fiduciary duty and related claims arising in trust and estate matters. She has significant experience advising and litigating claims involving directors, officers, trustees, and all other fiduciaries including in precedent setting reported cases.

Ms. Dogwill was named a “future star” in both the 2012 and 2013 editions of Benchmark Litigation. The National LGBT Bar Association selected Ms. Dogwill as one of the Top 40 under 40 LGBT Attorneys for 2010. She is currently the President of the National LGBT Bar Association’s Board of Directors. Prior to joining Joseph & Cohen, Ms. Dogwill was a partner at Shartsis Friese LLP and Winston & Strawn LLP, respectively. Ms. Dogwill received a B.A. in Political Science and Economics from the University of Michigan in 1994 and a J.D., magna cum laude, from Michigan State University College of Law in 1998, where she was managing editor of MSU College of Law Review.


Carla McKay

After more than 20 years in Business Development and Sales positions for big corporations and startups, coupled with eight years of toiling on the weekends for a winery in Sonoma, CA., Carla took her background and brought it to the wine industry in 2012 when she created the Crushed Wine app to power social sharing of wine which launched in iTunes in 2013. Currently, Crushed is launching a content and lifestyle platform for the wine industry.

Carla’s background includes business development, sales and client relationship management roles with Vault, Jobster, Mercer, Buck, Ceridian and ADP. Carla is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Greystone School of Wine and a Certified Wine Professional. She grew up and spent much of her career on the East Coast before a job moved her to San Francisco. She now splits her time between San Francisco and New York City. As an avid triathlete and cyclist, you might catch sight of Carla toting wine on her bike to clients and friends throughout the Bay Area.


Mary Shea

Mary Shea is the Founder & CEO of The RevvEX Group, a growth consulting firm, and an Adjunct Professor of Marketing at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Mary has over sixteen years of general management, commercial leadership, marketing and direct selling experience at companies ranging from high-growth startups to publicly traded firms. Her expertise includes creating and implementing go-to-market plans, building and developing sales teams, establishing winning cultures and increasing the effectiveness of underperforming teams. Mary has been recognized for recruiting, developing, motivating and retaining high-performing talent and for establishing the critical infrastructures and repeatable processes that enable market-facing organizations to quickly scale and achieve long-term profitable growth.

Early in her career Mary was a concert oboist and Musicologist who performed extensively throughout Mexico, Italy and the United States. Mary holds a PhD in Musicology and Ethnomusicology from Kent State University.


Chris Young

Chris is a serial entrepreneur and 15-year veteran of the digital video advertising space. He is currently a general partner at Revel Partners. Chris is also a partner at Wider Wake LLC, an angel investment firm and digital consulting practice. Chris serves on the board of directors of Collective, Vidible and Believe Entertainment.

In 2013, Chris sold Digital Broadcasting Group (DBG), of which he was CEO, to Alloy Digital.  Founded in 2008, DBG emerged as content production and video content syndication platform and was at the forefront of creating digital-first content.  In 2011, DBG produced the web series, The Confession starring Kiefer Sutherland and John Hurt, debuting it on Hulu and later on Netflix.  The mission was to prove that A-list talent, A script and A production values could work digitally and not just in the traditional TV model.  In 2012 DBG won a Webby Award for the project and Forbes ranked DBG #3 on its list of America’s Most Promising Companies.

Prior to starting DBG in 2008, Chris co-founded online video advertising and management solutions company Klipmart in 1999 and grew it into the nation’s largest video rich media vendor taking advertiser’s TV commercials and putting them online.  In 2006, under Chris’ leadership, Klipmart was sold to now Google-owned DoubleClick. Chris assumed the role of Executive Vice President of Rich Media and Emerging at DoubleClick, where he worked to accelerate innovation in digital video and emerging advertising formats.

Chris began his career as an investment banker at Citibank before founding his first company. Chris holds a BS in Business from Skidmore College and an MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Chris loves to travel and is hooked on any amazing wine or food experience. A self-proclaimed music connoisseur, he considers himself a rock & roll savant and has decided to join the Rolling Stones as a member when they tour again…if they will have him of course — they are still in negotiations.



About StartOut:

StartOut is the national non-profit organization dedicated to fostering and developing entrepreneurship in the LGBT community. StartOut empowers aspiring entrepreneurs to start new companies, helps current entrepreneurs to grow and expand their businesses, and engages successful LGBT entrepreneurs as role models and mentors for the next generation of business leaders. Annually StartOut produces over 60 programs on mentorship, education, networking, and access to capital, serving a network of 12,000 (and growing) LGBT entrepreneurs.

For more information, visit http://www.startout.org and follow @StartOut


For Media Inquiries & Interviews:

Jonathan D. Lovitz

Director of Communications + Operations





Bonnie Lai – The Space Saver

unnamedPowered by StartOut | Written by Adam Sandel

People who live in cities have a lot of stuff – but not always enough space to store or park it all. That’s why Bonnie Lai (who goes by “Bon”) and her business partner Jonathan Gillon co-founded roost.com in March 2014.

“It came out of a need,” she says. “My Co-Founder’s brother was moving to San Francisco and he needed a place to store things, but he didn’t want to get locked into a monthly contract for a public storage space.”

Their concept has been smart and simple enough to generate interest from 500Startups, a San Francisco incubator that provides startups with guidance, advice, workspace, and funding http://500.co/accelerator. Roost.com is one of the companies that will receive 500 Startups support in 2015. 500Startups was founded by 2014 StartOut Award winner Dave McClure and is a partner is StartOut’s Access to Capital program.

Lai is also a mentee in StartOut’s Lesbian Entrepreneur Mentoring Program (LEMP), working with her mentor Anne Moellering, an executive leadership and career coach. “I really enjoy our face-to-face meetings and our pow-wows with other members in the group,” she says. Working with a fellow lesbian who understands her professional needs as an entrepreneur as well as the personal journey of being an out business leader has been invaluable asset.

Coming of age, both personally and professionally, in the San Francisco Bay Area has given Lai perspective on how to integrate both sides of her life. “At work, I never felt the need to keep quiet about being gay,” she says. “My focus in the workplace is to be respectful of others and their lives.”

So what is her advice to young LGBT people who are entering the workforce today? “Understand that there are certain norms in different work environments. Don’t try to challenge them, just do your best work and let people recognize that. Channel your energy towards doing the best job you can, and being a really good person.”

“Speak openly about your life,” she says. “And be comfortable with who you are.”

Since launching roost.com in August 2014, they’ve already signed up more than 500 users and 100 unique storage spaces in San Francisco without doing any marketing. They plan to expand to other cities in 2015, such as New York, where real estate and rental costs far exceed available urban storage space. “Public storage spaces are always in commercial areas, the ones in cities can be very expensive, and many people don’t have cars,” she says. “I don’t think we’ll cripple the storage industry, since people will always be willing to drive.”

Born in Hong Kong, and growing up in Nigeria from the age of 5 to 15, Lai was surrounded by cultural diversity. “I went to a very conservative school,” she says. “We had Muslims, Christians, Indians, and Pakistanis all together. Being gay was never spoken about. I didn’t even know about homosexuality until we moved to San Francisco when I was 15.”

Coming out was never a big issue for her. “There was no ‘aha’ moment, just a gradual realization. My friends and family knew I was gay before I did. My mother knew, but she was just waiting for me to tell her. My father used to be vocally anti-gay until my mother told him about me.”

Throughout her college years at UC Davis, she majored in Psychology but had a passion for building computers. Her passion for technology and business grew throughout her product manager and consultant jobs at Charles Schwab, Wells Fargo, and Intuit.

“As a product manager I knew everything about hardware but I wanted to learn about coding,” she says. She enrolled as a student at Coding Dojo in Mountain View, and within a year, she was teaching others as a T.A.

MSNBC – “The Victories and Obstacles for LGBT Business”

Watch the full video here.

December Announcements + 2014 Year in Review



-Upcoming Programs-

Keep checking StartOut.org for new programs added weekly.

Programs for January and February will be announced soon!


with StartOut Today 

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What can StartOut do for YOU?



Happy Holidays from StartOut! 

Because of your gifts, StartOut continues to produce over 60 programs annually to empower a network 12,000 strong and growing.

Here’s some of what YOU have helped StartOut achieve in 2014:

  • StartOut produced over 60 programs nationwide, attended by over 5,000 active members just like you
  • New StartOut memberships have increased 89% in 2014 because of your support in expanding our reach
  • New partnerships with LGBT funding sources, including VentureOut, Gaingels, with more on the way, are providing greater access to capital than ever before
  • LEMP (Lesbian Entrepreneur Mentoring Program) is celebrating its largest class yet, having received double the applicants of 2013
  • The 2014 StartOut Awards were the most attended, most inspiring, and most star-studded yet. Planning for 2015 is already underway

You can make a difference today by becoming a new, or renewing, member or donor. Help us bring the high quality programming you have enjoyed from StartOut to an even larger audience.

Your tax-deductible, print/website-listed donation will level the playing field and ensure success for the entire LGBT business community.

Happy Holidays from everyone at Team StartOut!

Success of the Month

“My mentor joined our Board of Directors, helped us recruit a CEO and also introduced us to industry-leading talent in our space. Sevident would not be where it is today without my mentor, Kim Frank; and it was all due to StartOut.” 

-Emily Stein, President & Co-Founder of Sevident

Click HERE for more inspiring Success Stories.


2015 Women’s Economic Empowerment Series

Click HERE to watch the announcement of StartOut + NYC LGBT Community Center’s grounbreaking program.

Too often women attending LGBT events ask, “Why am I the only one here?” After this series you’ll be asking, “Who knew I had such a powerful network of peers in my city?” Stay tuned to both the GayCenter.org and StartOut.org for announcements.


Coming Soon to StartOut in 2015

-A complete overhaul of our website and online platform to provide greater access for you
-Expanding mentorship programs to serve even more of you
-Even more inspirational, advocacy, and educational programs that support youth, college students, and the economically disadvantaged
-So much more!

A Great Holiday Season Read for You:

Featuring StartOut Supported Company, Hip Chick Farms

“I could spout all sorts of number crunching data about how I see the company skyrocketing in the next few years due to their increasing distribution outlets – which is very useful when I’m talking to other investors. But for me, this is only compelling when it’s part of the strong belief I have in the integrity of the product (and all the ways that you can prepare chicken!)”

StartOut Spotight: Highlighting Successful LGBT Entrepreneurs

Through the StartOut Spotlight profile series, we highlight successful business leaders and up-and-coming entrepreneurs in the LGBT community.

StartOut helps build equality through promoting the economic empowerment of the LGBT community, and combats discrimination by promoting the visibility of LGBT entrepreneurs. The StartOut Spotlight program produces profiles to inspire entrepreneurship in the LGBT community. 

We also feature community stories and business issues related to diversity in entrepreneurship. Relatable profiles offer readers insight into up-and-coming entrepreneurs that they can identify with, whereas aspirational profiles offer readers a glimpse into the entrepreneurial and life journey of some of the most highly successful LGBT entrepreneurs.

Check Out Our current StartOut Spotlight Profiles HERE.

Lesbian Entrepreneur Mentoring Program (LEMP)

Meet our 2014 LEMP Class HERE.

Our mentors and mentees have begun their active relationships for the season ahead. We encourage you to get involved in our various mentoring programs and pay it forward to those who could benefit from your business expertise.

Because StartOut is committed to creating success and opportunity in the LGBT community through entrepreneurship, we developed the Lesbian Entrepreneur Mentoring Program to offer unique learning experiences to our female members.


Calling all Active Investors:
StartOut is looking for active investors of all stages to participate in opportunities including speaking on panels, judging competitions and representing StartOut.

Share YOUR Success Story:
Help us promote your business story and inspire others. From connections to mentors, to finding co-founders, to getting funded, we want to hear about it.


Join our national network of over 12,000 LGBT entrepreneurs, investors and professionals by making a tax-deductible investment in our community today.

                         Thank You to Our Sponsors


StartOut OCTOBER News & Events



Upcoming Programs:

  • Oct 1 – Chicago – Founder & CEO Panel -Chicago’s most dynamic CEO/Founders converge for a panel discussion to they share lessons learned, how they are managing growth, and how being out has played a role in the way they lead and manage their companies – among many other inspiring topics.
  • Oct 4 – SF - StartOut / ROMBA Pitch Competition- Students with “pitch ready” new venture ideas will present to a panel of serial entrepreneurs and leading investors.The most promising idea will earn up to $5,000 in cash prizes.
  • Oct 6 – SF – Q&A With Chip Conley -Chip Conley, hotel entrepreneur, AirBnB executive, author, and Burning Man board member, has covered a lot of ground in his career since arriving in San Francisco in the mid-80′s. Come hear him talk about his wide-ranging history and interests in a Q+A format that is guaranteed to inspire entrepreneurs at every stage of their career.
  • Oct 8 - AUSTIN – Meet My Mentor: Social Mentoring -Whether you’ve got an idea, a plan, a startup, or a pending IPO, having someone to talk through it, network with, and boost your effectiveness is great. And when you’ve done all that stuff, or helped others achieve dreams, nothing’s better than helping someone along.
  • Oct 28 - NYC – Designtrepreneurs NYC -Chip Conley, hotel entrepreneur, AirBnB executive, author, and Burning Man board member, has covered a lot of ground in his career since arriving in San Francisco in the mid-80′s. Come hear him talk about his wide-ranging history and interests in a Q+A format that is guaranteed to inspire entrepreneurs at every stage of their career.
  • Nov 5 – SF - Silicon Valley Idea Night -You’ll get the chance to talk to members of the LGBT/StartOut community about your idea, practice your pitch, and start getting valuable feedback and advice. This is a pressure-free, fully-supportive environment to share your ideas and learn from brilliant LGBT entrepreneurs, like yourself!

More events being announced soon!

See more about StartOut and what it can do for YOU in our new video: 


A Note from our CEO

Dear StartOut Community,

As we enter the fourth quarter, many of you are looking back on your last year of growth and looking toward an even brighter year ahead. I hope that StartOut continues to play an active role in your success as an entrepreneur, allowing you to network, ideate, and grow through our shared connections and opportunities.

Our 2014 StartOut Awards in September were a breathtaking reminder to me and to those who attended that the power of the LGBT and ally entrepreneur cannot be overstated. The inspiring business leaders that are the backbone of this organization are actively changing the face of American commerce, finally leveling the playing field for all of us. 

To quote our Board of Directors Chair, Chris Sinton, “That’s StartOut’s dream, and that’s my dream. Thank you.”

We have so many events coming up this fall, so keep checking-in for programs in your area. Stay tuned for our biggest year yet! 

Entrepreneurially Yours,

   Gene Falk, CEO of StartOut

Engage with StartOut Today! 



StartOut in the News:



StartOut has teamed with Amazon Smile to allow you to shop for your favorite goods while donating to your favorite LGBT nonprofit: us! 


StartOut Celebrate LGBT & Ally Leaders

at Record-Breaking 2014 StartOut Awards


A truly inspiring evening of celebration was held at the Marriott Marquis in San Francisco on September 11th, recognizing business and community leaders for their accomplishments in both the entrepreneurial and LGBT communities.

The evening was energetic and inspiring as the community came together to recognize its shared interests and fearless leaders. The compelling stories from the night’s honorees provided invaluable insight into our community’s champions, innovators, and trailblazers.

Videos and photos of the event will be available on StartOut.org and on Facebook.com/StartOut

Attendance, sponsorship, and donations vastly exceeded prior years, proving that the momentum toward a level playing field in business continues to inspire and motivate the community to stay involved in the cause.

The recipients of the 2014 StartOut Awards were:

  • George Takei, legendary LGBT advocate, actor, and spokesman, receiving The Leadership Award, recognizing someone who has demonstrated the entrepreneurial spirit in service of the community
  • Dave McClure, venture capitalist, founder of 500Startups, and community ally, receiving The Pilsburry Winthrop Advocate Award, recognizing a champion for LGBT business leadership
  • Amy Errett, entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and social-mission visionary, receiving the Trailblazer Award, recognizing an innovator who is revolutionizing an industry
  • Li Han Chan, engineer, entrepreneur, and nature-lover, receiving the Kevin J. Mossier Next Generation Award, recognizing an emerging entrepreneur of great accomplishment.

 Following George Takei’s remarks, Dan Savage, famed LGBT pundit and co-creator of the “It Gets Better” campaign, was invited on stage to moderate an exclusive interview with Mr. Takei. 

The sponsors of the 2014 StartOut Awards were: Pillsburry Winthrop, The Social Edge, Bank of America / Merryll Lynch, Credit Suisse, JP Morgan Chase, Lowenstein Sandler, Marriott, Morrison Foerster, Perkins Coie, Pandora, ROI Genius, and Silicon Valley Bank.


StartOut Spotight: Highlighting Successful LGBT Entrepreneurs


Ryan McNally – Investing in Authenticity

The impact of being out and gay in business is something that he describes as being a neutral to a positive factor. “All of the people I deal with don’t really care, and I talk openly about my husband. People respect honesty and openness, and they respect authenticity.” 

Ty Walrod: Service, Community, and Impact

“We’re using technology to make giving easier,” he says, admitting that his career has now come full circle: from finance, to giving, to a happy combination of the two.



Lesbian Entrepreneur Mentoring Program (LEMP)

Meet our 2014 LEMP Class HERE.

Our mentors and mentees have begun their active relationships for the season ahead. We encourage you to get involved in our various mentoring programs and pay it forward to those who could benefit from your business expertise.

Because StartOut is committed to creating success and opportunity in the LGBT community through entrepreneurship, we developed the Lesbian Entrepreneur Mentoring Program to offer unique learning experiences to our female members

Calling all Active Investors!

StartOut is looking for active investors to participate in opportunities including speaking on panels, judging competitions and representing StartOut on international delegations.

We want to hear about your StartOut success!

StartOut actively promotes members who achieve success through participating in events or programs. From connections to mentors, to finding co-founders, to getting funded…we want to hear your story.


Thank You to Our Sponsors

Copyright © 2014, StartOut, All rights reserved.
www.StartOut.org | info@startout.org

StartOut Spotlight: Ryan McNally — Investing in Authenticity

StartOut Spotlight – Highlighting LGBT leaders in business

 Written by Adam Sandel | Powered by StartOut


ryan_mc_nally_13975Wall Street is one of the last bastions of old school boys’ club machismo. So when he was fresh out of Harvard, Ryan McNally did not feel especially at ease as an Analyst and Associate at Bear, Stearns & Company.

“I was surrounded by jocks and I could tell people were making fun of me,” he says. “No one was gay in ‘89 on Wall Street. And I didn’t like investment banking. It’s a bit soul-less with all the focus on closing the deal.”

Venture capital and private equity were more appealing to him, so three years later McNally joined, and served as Vice President of, Daniels & Associates, a boutique investment firm which raised private capital for growth-stage companies in the media, telecom and tech sectors.

In 2000, along with business partners Brian Rich and Chris Shipman, McNally co-founded Catalyst Investors (www.catalystinvestors.com), a New York-based private equity fund making growth-stage investments in tech-enabled services and digital media companies.

McNally remains an anomaly as an out gay man in the investment business. “I know only one or two other gay partner-level venture capital professionals,” he says.

“I made a conscious decision after my first year at Bear that I didn’t want my sexuality to be the one thing that defined me. I’d get people to know me as a person before mentioning my sexuality. Straight people don’t start of by saying they’re straight.”

The same year that he co-founded Catalyst, McNally met his partner Paul Bowden. “We got married in 2010, as soon as it was legal in New York, and we’re celebrating our 15th anniversary this year.” The two live in SoHo and Bowden, who is retired, is dedicated to non-profit and charitable causes.

McNally notes that a lot of gay professionals avoid unfriendly corporate environments by starting their own firms and services. “At Catalyst, we have a wonderful corporate culture and spend a lot of time together,” he says. “I’m incredibly lucky and blessed.”

The impact of being out and gay in business is something that he describes as being a neutral to a positive factor. “All of the people I deal with don’t really care, and I talk openly about my husband. People respect honesty and openness, and they respect authenticity.”

In the workplace, he neither shies away from nor leads with his sexuality unless it’s relevant to the business. Being in the business of evaluating and investing in other people’s enterprises, he appreciates and is especially sensitive to authenticity in others.

“We get to know the people we’re going to work with, and people can always sense if you’re trying to present yourself as something other than what you are.”



The first national network of LGBT entrepreneurs is here to help you accelerate your ideas. We’re StartOut, a national nonprofit with a network over 12,000 strong — and growing. Connect with your community and experience events in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago and Austin (with more cities in development).  Visit StartOut and sign up for our events newsletter and let us help accelerate your entrepreneurial goals! Join the LGBT startup network StartOut.org.


StartOut Spotlight: Ty Walrod: Service, Impact and Community

StartOut Spotlight – Highlighting LGBT leaders in business

 Written by Adam Sandel | Powered by StartOut

Ty Preston WalrodTy Walrod is passionate about two goals: having an impact, and building community. Following his conscience and his talent has enabled him to achieve both.

Although he grew up in a rural Kansas town of 2,000 people, his coming out during his freshman year of college was met with surprisingly little conflict. “I was super-lucky. All of my friends and family were very supportive,” he says. “My family is religious, but they’re also reasonable and just.”

After getting his degree in Finance from Topeka’s Washburn University, Walrod headed for San Francisco, where he worked as an Audit Associate for Deloitte & Touche, and then worked his way up to Senior Business Analyst at Coverity, building a circle of both work and gay friends along the way.

“One of my best friends, Josh Seefried, called me and said he was being fired from the military for being gay,” says Walrod. “He was a recent Air Force Academy graduate and I couldn’t understand how anyone of his caliber could be fired. I learned about the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy and started reaching out to my San Francisco network.”

That led him to activist Zoe Dunning, and then Tom Carpenter, who had been fighting to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. In 2010, Walrod and Seefried co-founded OutServe, a network to support active duty but closeted LGBT service members.

“It was an underground network that grew very quickly,” he says. “We published the first ever hard copy and online LGBT magazine for active duty personnel: http://outservemag.com. As a civilian, I could be identified, but we knew they needed a voice, so we brought in a PR firm and spokespersons Jonathan Hopkins and Katie Miller.”

Capitalizing on the groundswell of support for the repeal of DADT, OutServe contributed to the policy’s ultimate repeal, which became official in September 2011. After that historic event, Walrod handed the organization over to the active duty service members for whom it was created.

In early 2012, along with his former Coverity associate Rutul Dave, Walrod co-founded Bright Funds, www.brightfunds.org that combined his skills in finance with his passion for giving back.

The company provides a platform for charitable giving, used by individuals and companies to help facilitate workplace donations. It manages curated charitable funds that users can donate to through payroll deductions, PayPal, or credit cards.

Bright Funds’ wide variety of charitable categories include education, human rights, environment, poverty, animals, disaster relief, health, and veterans causes, among others.

While Rutul Dave serves as Chief of Products and Marketing, Walrod serves as CEO, focusing on the business, sales, and investor relations. “We’re using technology to make giving easier,” he says, admitting that his career has now come full circle: from finance, to giving, to a happy combination of the two.

As Co-Founder of the San Francisco Bay Area’s Startup & Tech Mixer, which promotes networking among tech professionals, Walrod has found yet another outlet for his passion for building community.

SF Demo Day featured in Re/Code story about LGBT advocacy and economics

At Gay Entrepreneur Demo Night: Is Getting Rich the Next Step in Activism?

By Nellie Bowles

At last night’s StartOut gay entrepreneurs demo event, queer tech founders competed for venture capital attention in a warehouse in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood.

Entrepreneurs from 10 startups pitched to VCs including Dave McClure from 500 Startups and Andy Wheeler from Google Ventures. No one was granted money that night, but organizer Chris Sinton said the exposure to venture capitalists and other founders — nearly 200 showed up to watch — would help get the ball rolling for the companies.

StartOut and other minority affinity groups have grown this year, as more tech entrepreneurs, frustrated with the venture capital old boys’ networks, are looking to cultivate their own.

Michael Witbrock, who sits on the board of StartOut, watched from the back of the room. The next step in gay activism, he argued, will be through helping the gay community in Silicon Valley become richer and more powerful.

“There are things money can do that nothing else can,” said Witbrock, the vice president of research at artificial-intelligence company Cycorp. “This is a means for us as a community to empower ourselves financially. It’s about building people who have the resources to defend the community, who have the resources to buy those who would discriminate.”

So advancing gay rights is about money now?

“We don’t just need a place at the table,” Witbrock said. “Sometimes you need to buy the table.”

“Ready, Set, Grow”

“Ready, Set, Grow”, headed up by Ernst & Young, is a competition for high-potential entrepreneurs with young companies around the world. Created for talented and ambitious young CEO’s and Presidents, finalists will

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get the chance to fly to Monacco to showcase their product at the Entrepreneur of the Year event in June 2014.

Accepting entries until March 15th, 6 finalists (including 1 by popular vote online) will be picked for this once in a lifetime experience. Applications for the program are available at www.ey.com/rsg.

Past winners who have gone on to huge success include: Howard Schultz of Starbucks; Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com, Sergey Brin and Larry Page of Google; Wayne Huizenga of Blockbuster; and Reid Hoffman and Jeff Weiner of Linkedlnm, Inc.

Jared Polis: From Cards and Flowers to Congress

VentureOut – Highlighting LGBT leaders in business.

Powered by StartOut. Written by Adam Sandel.

Jared Polis

Jared Polis’ passion for innovation in business, education, and leadership has taken him from entrepreneurship to philanthropy to the U.S. House of Representatives.

While still in his early 20s, the Colorado native and Princeton graduate founded the online greeting card company bluemountainarts.com with his parents Steven Schutz and Susan Polis Schutz. Three years later he sold the company to Excite@Home for $780 million.

In 1998 he founded the online floral giant ProFlowers.com. The company expanded to become Provide Commerce, Inc., which was acquired by Liberty Media Corporation in 2006 for $477 million.

Now in his third term representing Colorado in the U.S. House of Representatives, Polis recently took time to share his thoughts on being an openly gay entrepreneur and politician.

“In the business world, the topic of sexual orientation doesn’t usually come

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up,” he says. “The key to being an entrepreneur is taking real risk. Having the right idea is usually easy, but the execution of that idea, and building the right team to do it, is the challenge.”

The seasonal nature of ProFlowers.com posed just such a challenge. “On our first Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, the demand was enormous. We did more business in two to three weeks than we did the rest of the year. So building a system to support that was our biggest obstacle.”

In 2000, he turned his attention from business to social entrepreneurship, creating the Jared Polis Foundation, with a mission of “supporting educators, increasing access to technology, and strengthening our community.”

In addition to sponsoring the Teacher Recognition Awards, and refurbishing and donating more than 3,500 computers a year to schools and non-profits, Polis founded two charter schools with multiple campuses across Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, and the New America College for at-risk students.

“In founding the schools, I became frustrated by the federal laws behind education, such as No Child Left Behind,” he says. “So I decided to run for Congress to do something about it.”

While many LGBT political hopefuls are concerned about being an openly gay candidate, Polis claims it was never a problem for him. After a six-year term on the Colorado Board of Education, he handily defeated opponents in 2008, 2010 and 2012 for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“When you run for office, you’re happy if voters remember your name, let alone your sexual orientation,” he says. “Some voters had concerns about my support of same-sex rights and marriage

equality, but those would’ve been the same for a straight candidate.”

Polis admits that the demands of being in Congress pose the same challenges on his relationships with his partner Marlon Reis and their two year-old son Caspian as they would for any Congressman. “It’s a very busy job with a lot of travel and work, and there’s not a lot of predictability. I spend about half of my time in Colorado and half in D.C.”

In addition to championing causes from education, to LGBT equality and immigration rights, Polis has brought his entrepreneurial expertise to Washington as well, founding the bipartisan Innovation and Entrepreneurship Caucus and the National Startup Day Across America, to get Members of Congress and State and local officials to visit startup companies to learn about the impact of entrepreneurship.

“This country was built by entrepreneurs, who take a chance and go for it,” he says. “And it’s always the execution that makes the difference.”

His advice to LGBT entrepreneurs is the same as it is for aspiring politicians. “Having an entrepreneurial and business background is great, because it keeps you in touch with the real world. It helps you focus on job creation and growth. And it’s always important to give back to your community through public service.”




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