StartOut News

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.”

StartOut’s Gene Falk quoted as source in Associated Press: “Gay Business Owners Still Face Serious Challenges”

NEW YORK (AP) — It happens a few times a year: A customer refuses to work with Dave Greenbaum because he’s gay.

Greenbaum, who owns a computer repair business in Lawrence, Kan., often needs to go into customers’ homes. Some people realized he is gay after he was quoted in a newspaper story about gay rights. They told Greenbaum, “I don’t appreciate your lifestyle and I don’t want you in my house.” Others canceled appointments saying, “I found out you’re gay.”

Despite increasing acceptance of homosexuality in the U.S., gay small business owners say they still encounter discrimination from possible customers and investors. The discrimination is often subtle. An owner senses from a potential client’s body language or from a sales conversation cut short that they’re uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s more overt, like the rejections Greenbaum has gotten.

The need to raise public awareness about AIDS, which has affected many gays, and the fight for legalization of same-sex marriage have encouraged more gays to be open about their sexual orientation and has increased acceptance of them by others. Still, gay rights advocates note that 29 states don’t prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Business owners are also vulnerable, they say.

“They’re at a business meeting, and no one’s particularly identified as gay, and then there’s a gay joke or gay slur,” says Gene Falk, CEO of StartOut, an organization that supports gay entrepreneurship. “You don’t have to go through that too often to develop a real sense of what you’re up against.”

Publicist Sam Firer specializes in working with chefs. He finds many American male chefs don’t want to work with him; they meet with him but choose a woman-owned public relations firm. Firer, who co-owns New York-based Hall Co., says he doesn’t believe those chefs act out of malice. He thinks they’re uneasy around gay men.

“Stressful and busy people want to be as comfortable as they can from moment to moment,” says Firer, who does have accounts with male chefs who are from other countries. Some who initially reject him later call him for help.

A challenge for some gay owners is they’re not part of what they call the good old boy network. Straight men in business often connect by talking about a football game or golf trip, topics that some gay men don’t care about.

“A lot of the way guys relate to each other is with sports, and frankly, that doesn’t interest me,” says Nayte Carrick, owner of ClikClok, an Orlando, Fla.-based software company.

His home life is different and that can also make it difficult to connect.

“I don’t have a girlfriend and I don’t have a wife. I’m 36 and don’t have kids. That’s bizarre to them,” he says. “Even people I think of as open-minded have difficulty relating to my life.”

Some believe that being gay costs them business. Cindy Weigel, owner of Roxy Insurance in Chicago, finds it hard to sell policies to suburban families, while her wife is more successful. Weigel says she believes it’s because she looks gay — her hair is short and spiky and she says she doesn’t look as feminine as other women. Her wife, Weigel says, is “pretty” and “does not look gay.”

Weigel has a solid business selling to gay clients and straight ones who are single. But families are the most lucrative customers for an insurance agent.

“I feel that being gay is hurting my business,” Weigel says. “It’s just the way it is.”

Some owners develop strategies to avoid losing business or head off an unpleasant situation.

Stephanie Davis uses an upfront approach. She owns an entertainment publicity business in Philadelphia and sometimes works with churches. She tells pastors she is gay because she understands they may not want to work with her. Two pastors have refused to work with her — but most want her services.

“Some say, I’m working with you because you do amazing work,” Davis says.

Jeffrey Cesari asked a female colleague to work with a prospective client who seemed to be uneasy with him. Cesari’s first phone conversation with the man a year ago started well, but Cesari began to feel tension as it went on.

Cesari, whose Philadelphia-based company Shimmer Events organizes conferences and other events, wasn’t ready to give up.

“I called a couple more times to get more information, but I couldn’t get anywhere,” Cesari says. When his female colleague tried, the client was willing to schedule an event.

Ryan Hayward is anxious about potential investors for New York-based Hatch Co., which operates a website where crafts makers can sell jewelry, home furnishings and other items. Investors ask why he started the business. Hayward’s inspiration was his boyfriend.

“Every time I’ve spoken with potential investors, I found myself nervously, quickly making a decision about whether I was going to say ‘friend’ or ‘boyfriend’ or leave it out. It’s something I have to think about every time,” Hayward says.

Owners who have been in business for many years say attitudes have changed for the better. Bob Hayes and Jim Burba have been a couple for 24 years, and partners in Burba Hotel Network for 13. The first decade they were in business, Burba attended meetings alone so they wouldn’t be seen as a couple.

“It was partly a conscious decision on my part. I thought it could cause some problems,” says Hayes, vice president of the Costa Mesa, Calif.-based company that organizes investor conferences for the hotel and tourism industry.

About three to four years ago, Hayes and Burba sensed a more accepting atmosphere. They started attending meetings together.

“We’re at the point where, if people don’t like us because of the fact we’re gay,” Hayes says, “that’s too bad.”




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“StartOut LGBT Entrepreneurial Network Hosts Second Chicago Event” via


Originally posted on, April 2, 2014

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, told, “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 ”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

“Take Us To Your Leaders” via HeSaid Magazine

Originally posted on HeSaid Magazine, April 15, 2014

Starting a business takes more than launching a web site, renting a storefront or discovering the secret recipe for blue crystal meth.

And succeeding requires much more than an appearance on Shark Tank (well, typically).

That’s why we’re excited about StartOut, a national nonprofit dedicated to creating great business leaders by fostering the skills and business acumen of LGBT entrepreneurs via 57 annual events and a pool of more than 5,200 participants nationwide.

Since 2009, the organization has helped entrepreneurs find co-founders, employees and mentors, as well as provide funding to build or grow their companies.

Currently, there are chapters in Austin, Boston, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, with developing chapters in Chicago and Denver. Events take place in even more cities.

Membership starts at just $95 or contact StartOut to find out more about how you can participate in the future of LGBT business and mentor or become one of the next great leaders.

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And a cash register full of 20s.

Meet the 2013 Class of Lesbian Entrepreneurs

We're excited to announce the 2013 cohort for StartOut’s Lesbian Entrepreneur Mentoring Program – the first-ever program of its kind.

We received over 120 applications from around the country, from which we selected 15 promising entrepreneurs and businesses. We then paired them with seasoned entrepreneurs, investors and senior level executives to provide support and guidance.

We’re happy to share our second class of mentors and new entrepreneurs in the 2013 Lesbian Entrepreneur Mentoring Program.

Over the course of this program, we've seen some incredible successes. Some of our new entrepreneurs have received funding as a result of the program; others have identified potential partnerships. More importantly, we've made steps towards fulfilling StartOut’s commitment to create wealth and opportunity in the LGBT community by supporting entrepreneurs and serving the immediate and long-term needs of growing businesses.

The New Entrepreneurs

Li Han Chan

Li Han Chan over 10 years of experience in technology commercialization, business development and strategy consulting. Li Han cut her teeth at ST Engineering, Singapore's largest defense and engineering company, and successfully led sales and business development efforts while based in Singapore and London. Subsequently, she was a strategy consultant at Marakon Associates, a boutique top-tier management consulting firm in London, where she advised Fortune 500 clients in the oil and gas, energy and hospitality industries. Most recently, she was Vice President of Operations at NIREC, a clean energy technology incubator where she worked with universities and research institutions to license and commercialize early stage technologies. Li Han is a graduate of Stanford University, a member of the Sierra Angels and an avid climber/skier/biker.

Elizabeth Keyser

Elizabeth Keyser is the founder and CEO of Evoncea, a healthcare data provider. Evoncea's technology continuously tracks the market demand for each treatment and service for a condition at the zip-code level. Empowering healthcare executives with hyper-local consumer insights at a scale never possible before. Evoncea completed a highly selective startup accelerator, Blueprint Health, in 2013 and a has strategic partnership with a national health media company.

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, Carla made the leap to the wine industry by creating the Drink Chick consulting firm in 2011. Carla is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Greystone School of Wine and a Certified Wine Professional, and is—at this very moment—studying for the Certified Sommelier exam. As an avid bicyclist, you might catch sight of Carla toting wine on her bike to clients and friends throughout the Bay Area.

Andrea Minkow

Andrea is an entrepreneur, event guru and change maker. She is currently the Co-founder of MINKERMAN, a technology company with the backbone for making event management smarter. Her unique cloud based software, CE2, helps your favorite events increase efficiency, develop new revenue streams, cut costs and use their data to deliver a better attendee and sponsor experience. Prior to her role as Co-founder Andrea served as a Director of Event Production and New Business for Eventage an award winning event production company. She was known for creating and implementing large-scale public events that attract the media, weave branding and marketing strategy through conception and execution. Andrea helped global and national clients bring products to life, execute galas that thrill and produce walks, runs, and rides that inspire. From SAP Brazil, to the X Games to the Chicago Olympic bid, to NYC Fashion Week Andrea’s clients succeed. She cut her teeth in national policy and politics. Andrea has served as a National Domestic Policy Coordinator for the Dean for America Campaign, the Deputy Director of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee in the United States Senate for Senators Harry Reid and Hillary Rodham Clinton and as a Senior Advisor to the Speaker of the New York City Council. Andrea holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Vermont and a Master’s Degree from Columbia University. She is a passionate sailor, water-skier and snowboarder who lives in Manhattan with her poodle Reuben.

Meg Omainsky

Meg Omainsky, innovative educator from Palo Alto, founded June Labs to connect exceptional teachers with schools and startups anytime, anywhere. Through its revolutionary edtech virtual desk, the company empowers educators to easily share and monetize their expertise while improving education tools and programs for students worldwide.

Christina Saint-Laurent

Christina Saint-Laurent is a social entrepreneur, educator and anthropologist. She is Founder and Executive Director of Calliope Academic Mentoring in San Francisco, a firm dedicated to supporting all types of learners while creating a personally meaningful context for the acquisition of knowledge. When teaching any academic skill, Calliope starts by asking its students: “Who are you?” “What makes you happy?” and “What is the relevance of this knowledge to you and the world?” Christina now seeks to expand her impact on education and the empowerment of girls by translating the experience of academic mentorship into the virtual world of Anthrodollogy. Anthrodollogy’s first project is an on-line universe where girls learn academic skills, wrestle with real world social and environmental issues, and connect with other girls around the globe in exciting multi-player video adventures. Anthrodollogy is a B Corp whose mission includes the fiscal support of girl survivors of rape, incest and human trafficking.

Jen Snook

Jen Snook is developing a household consumer device for the coffee market. Supporting this effort, she is a lead contributor to the blog Iced Coffee Revolution, which pontificates on iced coffee in San Francisco and related discourse. Prior to this venture, Jen was a Strategy & Operations Senior Consultant at Deloitte Consulting. She holds an MBA, Master of Environmental Management, and a BA in Economics from Duke University.

Sativa Turner

Sativa is the founder of Whooz?, a product based company that turns your boring white iDevice chargers into little characters with spunk and personality.

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Whooz started as a Kickstarter project in the fall of 2012 and is slowly infiltrating the world with fun. As a brand, Whooz allow you to personalize your iGoods so that you know Whooz is Whooz. As a company, Whooz is about bringing simple, fun solutions to ease the gripes and groans in our daily lives (like having someone steal your charger!).

Rebecca Wilhelm

Rebecca founded Objective Integration to make transformational improvements to Systems Engineering available to the satellite acquisition community. Objective Integration brings the Systems Engineering discipline into the digital age by applying cutting-edge model-based techniques to complex system design, ensuring space acquisitions are affordable, reliable, and on-schedule.

The Mentors

Donna Bonifield

Donna is co-founder and Chief Visionary Officer of D2S Games, where she provides strategic vision and leadership in the development of the innovative new approach to mobile and social gaming. Prior to D2S Games, Donna co-founded GENUUS, an AI software company. A gaming and software industry veteran, Donna’s experience has spanned all aspects of media and technology businesses, and included leadership positions at Disney and Broderbund Living Books.
Deanna Brown

Deanna Brown is Byliner's President and is responsible for overseeing all strategic business goals and day-to-day operations for the company. Prior, Brown was FMP’s chief executive officer. Prior to joining FMP in 2009, she served as President at Scripps Networks Digital, where she led the charge on bringing Scripps more fully into the digital space. In 1995 she co-founded CondeNet, the digital division of publisher CondeNast.

She has also held VP and General Manager titles at Yahoo and AOL, and founded other successful media companies including Powerful Media/ (acquired by Primedia) and Gaming Industry News (acquired by Ziff Davis).

Brown began her career as a founding member of a small L.A. advertising agency upon graduation from the University of Southern California. She has more than twenty-five years experience as a seasoned media executive, entrepreneur and Fortune 500 executive.

Tina Cannon

A seasoned entrepreneur, Ms. Cannon was the CEO and co-founder of, the leading online pet health resource. (acquired in 2011) She is also the co-founder of Book-a-Vet, a B2B veterinary appointment application. Ms. Cannon has been a featured presenter at various technology events and has mentored numerous start-up businesses. Ms. Cannon is the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Texas State University and has been a guest blogger for CBS ( Ms. Cannon is the Co-Founder of PreAccelerate, a pre-seed stage startup bootcamp. Prior to her entrepreneur experience, she was a financial auditor and business consultant in the private sector. Cannon graduated from Texas State University with a Bachelors degree in Accounting.
Cynthia Dai

A seasoned entrepreneur, Cynthia Dai has co-founded several high technology start-ups and served on the executive team of both early-stage and public ventures including Sun Microsystems, HP, WebMoney and others. Leveraging her experience for Dainamic Consulting, Cynthia works with high growth companies on all aspects of marketing from product strategy and strategic alliances to branding and positioning.

Lisa Henderson

Experienced, hands-on and strategic Go to Market executive with over 100 product and company launches in her career. Specialized in helping early and mid stage companies articulate and execute on their value proposition. Lisa is a expert in launch planning including positioning, pricing, service packaging and RTM. She also has extensive experience in online and SaaS revenue generation, branding, demand generation, marketing communications, product management, database optimization, business development, web operations (front and backend upgrades), selling strategy and partnership marketing.

Early/founding team member of three companies that were acquired and currently has two companies in market. Executive experience includes top and early stage companies from mokafive (award winning virutalization), Polkast, eBay, Infectious, Symantec, Yahoo!, McAfee and Amazon.

Action oriented leader in high growth markets such as cloud based services, mobile applications, virtualization, green tech and social film & entertainment media platforms.

Titles held include CMO, COO, GM, CEO and VP of Marketing and Product Marketing.

Heidi E. Lehmann

Heidi E. Lehmann is a NYC based social /digital media and influencer marketing strategist who consults with brands, agencies, venture capital firms and start-ups as well as founder and CEO of MoxieQ, a cross-media network of influential lifestyle celebrity experts.

Recent clients have included a fashion blogger network in partnership with Hearst Digital Media, a social gaming platform for professional athletes, their fans, and their charities, a Mobile Digital Assistant that deployed celebrity lifestyle experts to engage their female skewing audience of 7 million, a wearable-tech, high-style accessory that insures no important call is ever missed, and a social engagement platform that connects the physical world to the digital.

Heidi’s previous endeavors include Co-Founder of Third Screen Media, a mobile ad network and ad delivery platform that was acquired by AOL in 2007. She has led business development at venture-backed Kaon Interactive, Artificial Life; and head of ad sales at, which sold to Autoweb in 2001.

Heidi was also a partner at Emerging Interest, an NYC marketing accelerator that brought together Ad Agencies with Emerging Technology companies in a “speed dating” like format (over 500 events were produced).

Heidi has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Ad Age, Adweek, Mediapost, ClickZ, SheWired and in multiple Mobile Marketing publications and spoken on and moderated panels at events such as CTIA, AdTech, OMMA, Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, New York Economic Development Council, Reuters Media Day, Start-Out, iMedia Summit and Digital Hollywood.

Heidi was voted a 2011 Female Founder to Watch by Women 2.0, a 2011 Most Influential Woman in Wireless by Fierce Wireless, and a 2010 Woman to Watch by Mobile Marketer. Heidi is on the advisory board of Women in Wireless, Level9 Advisors, and a mentor to LGBT entrepreneurial organization StartOut.

She is a contributor to The Huffington Post and Curve Magazine. Heidi splits time between her work hub in New York City and Kansas City, loves Jeeps, BBQ, Travel, and her two French bulldogs.

Helen Russell

Helen Russell is Co-founder and CEO of Equator Coffees & Teas® in San Rafael, CA. Under her direction, Equator has earned a reputation as a quality-oriented, customer-focused business that takes the lead on issues of social and environmental responsibility.

Helen is responsible for company strategy and growth. She has defined competitive advantage to include social responsibility and sustainable choices. She strives to deliver innovations in procuring, roasting, brewing, and sales and business practices. These initiatives tangibly support the company’s commitment to sustainability and social responsibility and they also enhance the bottom line. Under her direction, Equator has recently become Certified B Corporation.

Under Helen’s strategic guidance, Equator has achieved 10-15 % annual growth over the past 18 years. She has done this by remaining focused on developing strong, lasting partnerships with Equator’s customers and helping them execute their vision and business plans.

Sonia Sousa

Sonia Sousa is a senior business development, corporate strategy, and strategic marketing, executive, who has led and directed organizations from product concept to commercialization with a passion for innovation and track record in synthetic biology, mobile and wireless technologies and life science.

She has successfully created, grown and shaped companies, expanded and opened markets, and developed new business across the Americas and Europe with global 1000 and fortune 50 partners and customers. Sonia has held positions in business development, commercialization, strategic marketing, and corporate development for Solazyme, Agilent, ThermoFisher and DuPont. She was the CEO and founder of SpectroScape Inc., a start-up company with offices in the US and Switzerland.

She is investor in early stage startups, currently a member of Silicon Valley Angels, and serves as adviser and consultant for start-up companies, Sevident and gDiapers as well as having served on the advisory boards of Power Self, and GlamStarLife in addition to hands-on experience in IPOs and M&As.

Sonia is a named inventor on over 15 issued and pending patents, in the US and worldwide. She has an MBA from Pepperdine University, a PhD in Photonics and Neural Networks from Utah State University, and BS Industrial Chemistry from University of Sao Paulo.

Sonia volunteers at Taproot Foundation, and NESsT. Sonia invests in Kiva, supporting microloans for women in business.

Sonia grew up in Brazil where she developed a love for music and exotic foods. She has a passion for travel, photography, and digital storytelling.

Cheryl Traverse
Ms. Traverse has been CEO of 5 technology companies. She secured funding, set the strategic direction, delivered market-leading products, built revenue traction and created successful exits for 5 companies. Acquirers included: Novell, Symbol, Macromedia, PeopleSoft and SCT.

Her serial entrepreneur endeavors spanned multiple technologies and markets and utilized a skill set that blends technology expertise, market timing, and the ability to create customer traction. Technologies include: SaaS, Enterprise Hardware/Software, Mobile and Applications. Ms. Traverse is an active advisor to CEO’s in the social media, enterprise application software, education, B to B and consumer markets.

In addition to her 5 acquisition transactions, Ms. Traverse is skilled in creating and closing revenue producing partnerships and large enterprise deals such as: a $30M single source deal with the DOD, multi million dollar partnerships and OEM deals. Ms. Traverse has raised over $50M in funding and ran or consulted for over 60+ companies during her high tech career. Previous to her start up experience, Ms. Traverse managed and grew revenue for large divisions in public corporations. These roles included building a $600 M division for Sprint, a $120M division for MCI and a $25 million business for Gupta Corporation, a manufacturer of development tools and databases.

She has served on 6 for profit and 2 non-profit boards.

Currently Ms. Traverse is on the advisory board of Astia, Start Out and on the Board of Directors for Openhouse.


StartOut Awards 4 Outstanding LGBT Leaders

Pioneers Tim Gill, Heather Hiles, Jordan Goldman and Zoe Dunning Recognized at StartOut’s 2nd Annual Entrepreneurship Awards

May 3, 2013, San Francisco, CA – A truly inspiring evening of celebration was held at the Hotel Nikko in San Francisco on April 19, 2013, recognizing business and community leaders for their accomplishments in both the entrepreneurial and LGBT communities. The evening was energetic and inspiring as our community came together to recognize its shared interests and fearless leaders. The compelling stories from the night’s honorees provided invaluable insight into the communities’ champions, innovators, and trailblazers.

The Entrepreneurship Awards serves as StartOut’s premiere annual event, drawing guests in the LGBT entrepreneurial community from around the country for an evening celebration and inspiration. Last year's event recognized four amazing and inspiring individuals, including Peter Thiel (recipient of the JP Morgan Leadership Awards in Entrepreneurship), Ramona Pierson (recipient of the Google Innovator Award), Kathy Levinson (recipient of the Pillsbury Advocate Award) and Geoff Lewis (recipient of the Wells Fargo Next Generation Award).

Each award recognizes exceptional leaders for their vision, leadership and achievement in entrepreneurship, and for providing inspiration to the LGBT community. The honorees for the Second Annual Entrepreneurship Awards were four of the LGBT community’s prominent business and community leaders: Tim Gill (Founder, Quarck & Chairman, Gill Foundation), Heather Hiles (Founder & CEO, Pathbrite), Jordan Goldman (Founder & CEO, Unigo), Zoe Dunning (DADT Repeal Activist) who all spoke candidly about their individual experiences that contributed to their extraordinarily meaningful and successful careers.

Among the 275 guests gathered to recognize these exceptional individuals were young aspiring entrepreneurs, angel investors, seasoned and serial entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and relevant startup service providers from across the country.


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Chairman of the Board, Chris Sinton, and Chair Emeritus, Lorenzo Thione, kicked-off the evening’s festivities with a general welcome and narrative of the organization’s evolution since 2009 and concluded by noting the organization’s strategic focus for 2013. StartOut premiered its updated video highlighting the milestones and successes that StartOut has achieved over the past year, including a substantial increase in programming, new chapter developments and a significant grant of $250,000 from the Kevin J. Mossier Foundation.

The first two honorees of the evening were Heather Hiles, recipient of the 2013 Pillsbury Winthrop Innovator Award, and Jordan Goldman, recipient of the 2013 Kevin J. Mossier Next Generation Award. Mike Sullivan, Chair of StartOut’s Board of Governors and a Partner at Pillsbury, presented the Innovator Award to Heather Hiles. Hiles spoke about her experience of being out in the workplace and how that has affected her work with Pathbrite. “Being out since 17 and now at 44 it’s important to be authentic and who I am. When I get to be my whole self at the job, then so does my team around me. For my team, being their fully expressed selves starts with the culture that gets set at a company,” Hiles remarked. In correlation with Pathbrite’s product, Hiles explained, “Pathbrite allows [college students] to showcase their whole set of capabilities, knowledge and experiences…It’s the future that we all get to be out and be happy and whole.”

Following the Innovator Award, Charlie Rounds, Trustee at the Kevin J. Mossier Foundation, presented the Next Generation Award to Jordan Goldman. Goldman explained his entrepreneurial journey, stating, “I never started out wanting to start a company, I just saw a process that was inefficient and thought if I worked really hard I can make it a little better.” From there Goldman described his involvement with StartOut mentioning that he met many friends and mentors through the organization. “Over and over and over again people from StartOut have made time for me which has been unbelievably important to our growth, so on a personal level, I don’t think I’d be where I am without StartOut and I know my company would not be where it is without StartOut.

“[StartOut] plays an incredibly important role in the startup ecosystem both in New York and San Francisco and increasingly all over the country,” Goldman added.

The evening continued with additional remarks from Chris Sinton and Lorenzo Thione, as they announced StartOut’s participation in Give OUT Day – the first national effort to support non-profit organizations that serve the diverse lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community. They explained that Give OUT Day is helping LGBT organizations to mobilize thousands of people on a single day – May 9th 2013 – to raise awareness around issues and activities that matter to the LGBT community from sports to policy change, from entrepreneurship to families.

The second slate of award honorees was Zoe Dunning, recipient of the 2013 Morrison Foerster Advocate Award, and Tim Gill, recipient of the 2013 StartOut Leadership Award in Entrepreneurship. Ruth Borenstein, Partner at Morrison Foerster, presented the Advocate Award to Zoe Dunning. Dunning discussed her coming out story, attributing it to a spontaneous decision which she linked to entrepreneurship. “That’s the attitude you have to have as an entrepreneurs. If you have a startup idea you have to act on it quickly. You have to have the courage of your conviction, you have to believe in yourself and you have to take that belief and move it forward and make something out of it.” Dunning finished by giving three pieces of advice whether one is embarking on an advocacy or entrepreneurial venture, “Find a need and fill it, find those you want to give voice to and be a voice for them and follow your passion.”

The final award of the evening, the Leadership Award in Entrepreneurship, was presented by StartOut’s Chairman of the Board, Chris Sinton to entrepreneur and philanthropist Tim Gill. Gill gave brief remarks about StartOut stating, “I wish I had had this kind of community as a support community to make my journey easier. I would have made a lot fewer mistakes.”

Gill expanded on StartOut’s role in the broader community by explaining, “Every time you see an LGBT person in a new context, it changes perceptions and ultimately we win our freedom by changing perceptions and by making people realize that we’re part of their community and only can we succeed as a society if we accept everyone and we allow everyone to meet their full potential.”

Following Tim’s remarks, Thomas Roberts, MSNBC’s award-winning anchor, was invited on stage to moderate an exclusive keynote interview with Tim Gill, recipient of the 2013 Leadership Award in Entrepreneurship. To view the exclusive interview with Tim Gill, please visit StartOut’s website ( later in May.

About StartOut

StartOut, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering and developing entrepreneurship in the LGBT community, is growing at a rapid pace and expanding into new cities. In their first year, StartOut grew from an idea into a national organization with over 2,500 participants from coast to coast. They have managed to attract some of the greatest LGBT names in the entrepreneurial community to participate in their events. StartOut supporters benefit from a multitude of programs that are specifically designed address a broad variety of entrepreneurial issues and bring together resources needed to succeed. StartOut also helps the LGBT community by building equality through promoting the economic empowerment of the LGBT community, and combating discrimination by promoting the visibility of successful LGBT entrepreneurs, among other activities. More information can be found at


For media inquiries or for more information about StartOut or the Annual Entrepreneurship awards, please contact


Support StartOut on "Give OUT Day"

At our 2013 LGBT Entrepreneurship Awards, we announced StartOut's participation in the first-annual Give OUT Day – an unprecedented national initiative to raise money for LGBT non-profit organizations within a 24-hour period on May 9, 2013. Give OUT Day is helping to mobilize thousands of people on a single day to raise awareness around issues and activities that matter to the LGBT community.

StartOut is proud to participate in Give OUT Day to increase economic empowerment through entrepreneurship in the LGBT community. We've built an organization that last year held 32 events in 4 cities attended by over 3,500 people. That's 70% more attendees than the previous year! StartOut is on a path to scale its efforts and reach even more LGBT entrepreneurs to have a greater societal impact, but we need your help.

We urge you to support StartOut on Give OUT Day and the days leading up to Give OUT Day by making a donation to our cause and sharing our story with others.

With your support we'll continue to build the organization, with the addition of key resources, to improve programming and offer more events across the nation, develop ways to provide access to capital and deploy a new technology platform which will support an online community and online educational content.

Please mark your calendars and support LGBT entrepreneurs by making a donation to StartOut on May 9th and the days leading up to it. You have the opportunity to show your support for the StartOut community by helping us continue to build a strong foundation to move forward and realize our mission of educating, supporting, and inspiring LGBT entrepreneurs.


Scholarship Recipients Announced for StartOut’s Pilot Program StartOut Smart: The Founder Institute

San Francisco, CA – April 4, 2013

StartOut Smart: The Founder Institute is a pilot program providing scholarships for LGBT entrepreneurs to participate in a proven accelerator program to kick-start their businesses. Through this pilot, StartOut expands its traditional programming delivering a curriculum and mentor-based approach to support entrepreneurs in developing their business ideas. This program aligns with StartOut’s mission by providing LGBT entrepreneurs with opportunities, resources and connections to support them in actualizing their entrepreneurial ventures.

In early 2013, applications were accepted and reviewed by a committee of serial entrepreneurs and investors. The committee awarded 11 qualified candidates with scholarships to the Spring 2013 semester of The Founder Institute – a startup accelerator that has helped launch over 675 technology companies worldwide.

StartOut is proud to announce this semester’s StartOut Smart Founders:

  • - Andres Anton-Diaz, Los Angeles
  • - Bryan Frank, New York
  • - Jacki Trinh, New York
  • - Sean Apparicio, New York
  • - Aleksandar Vukasinovic, New York
  • - Laura Teodosio, New York
  • - Jasmine Burems, New York
  • - Yann Metz-Pasquier, Silicon Valley
  • - Larry Rich & Benny Shum, Silicon Valley
  • - Brian Backus, Silicon Valley

During the course of the semester, the scholarship recipients, known as Founders, will receive training, advice and mentorship from a team of successful entrepreneurs and experts. The Founder Institute team provides Founders with knowledge and feedback to ensure that their companies are on the path to success. Founders are given a platform to mature their business idea, as well as exposure to potential investors at the culmination Demo Day event.

About StartOut
Founded in 2009 with chapters in New York City, San Francisco, and Austin StartOut is a national non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to fostering and developing entrepreneurship in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (“LGBT”) community. It helps 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 up-and-coming entrepreneurs. StartOut’s’ goals are to educate, inspire, and assist members of the LGBT community around entrepreneurship. For more information, visit

About The Founder Institute
The Founder Institute ( is an early-stage startup accelerator and global launch network that helps entrepreneurs create meaningful and enduring technology companies. Through a part-time four-month program, existing and prospective founders can launch their dream company with expert training, feedback, and support from experienced startup CEOs – while not being required to quit their day job. Their unique Graduate Liquidity Pool also enables graduates and mentors to share in the equity upside of each class, creating local, teamwork-based ecosystems where great new businesses can flourish.
In just over three years of operation, The Founder Institute has helped launch over 675 companies across 39 cities and 5 continents – making FI the world’s largest startup accelerator. Their goal is to “Globalize Silicon Valley” by launching 1,000 meaningful and enduring technology companies per.

Contact: Tony Moraga –



StartOut’s Tech Dinner – Discovering SideTour

Last night at StartOut’s NY Tech Dinner hosted by Pivotal Labs, rising startup SideTour’s Co-Founder and key employees took the stage for what proved to be a very candid Q&A session. The space was packed with StartOut’s community of entrepreneurs, engineers and investors whose questions prompted the SideTour team to really open up.

SideTour ( offers a unique marketplace where locals can find new and off-the-beaten-path ways of discovering their cities. SideTour engages talented locals that host all handpicked activities, tours and creative adventures. “SideTour is a marketplace for experiences – experiences that happen in real life,” said Co-Founder and CEO Vipin Goyal., who told the crowd that the idea for the company was developed from a trip he and his wife took. “We left our jobs, sold our stuff and bought two around-the-world tickets.” Goyal stated that all the best experiences on their trip came from times they were with locals. So, after returning home he asked himself, “We are in NY, surrounded by so many creative people and what if we could step into their shoes…?”

Lee Edwards, one of the tech gurus for the company actually jumped shipped from the night’s host, Pivotal Labs to work for the startup. “I was so happy when I was at Pivotal, but leaving was so amazing…flying above the safety net.” Edwards went on to say that when working in big business, your goal is to please your boss and that is how you win, but in a startup, you win by winning.

SideTour, which is NY-based but also has “tours” in Chicago and Washington D.C. is about to launch in Philadelphia and has plans to rapidly expand to many more cities, thanks to Joanna Ehrenreich, who works in Business Development. A question from the audience sparked a conversation on how the “tours” were selected and how the relationships with the hosts were maintained. Goyal quickly explained that the majority of the hosts are not merchants but in fact individuals, clearing up any misconception that they were mainly dealing with businesses. Community Staff, Suri Ratnatunga, who proudly claims the title of “personal assistant” to every host, was candid and open about how important it was for her to maintain close relationships with all the hosts and always be available to them.

SideTour is not located in each city they operate in and Ratnatunga explained that the company relies on the community for feedback. “Not physically being on the ground in our new cities has not been an issue.” She also explained that the hosts are not contracted so therefore, if there is a lot of negative feedback, which hasn’t happened yet for any of their experiences, SideTour is not obligated to continue the relationship with the host. As an alternative, SideTour intends on sending an employee to participate on a second tour if the first received a lot of critical feedback from participants. The business is dependent on the users and the user experience.

An average SideTour runs anywhere from $50-$80 and the possibilities are wide-spread and of varied interests. These aren’t your average city tours. From brewing your own ale in Brooklyn, to dinner with a NYC casting director, to learning the secrets of JP Morgan’s private art collection, SideTour has something for everyone.

Special thanks to SideTour and our host,

First, lasts and for it soaps of. Ve, immense and sparingly party.

Pivotal Labs.


StartOut Announces Full Slate of Recipients for Entrepreneurship Awards

Recognizing Outstanding LGBT Entrepreneurs

San Francisco, CA March 1, 2013

Today StartOut announced the additional awardees for its Second-Annual LGBT Entrepreneurship Awards, to be held on Friday, April 19th, 2013, in San Francisco. These award recipients represent those in our community who have made significant personal and professional contributions to the both the entrepreneurial and LGBT communities.

Previously announced StartOut Leadership Award recipient Tim Gill will headline the evening as the keynote speaker. As an early software pioneer, Tim is recognized for founding Quark, a company that revolutionized the publishing industry with innovative and affordable page-layout software. As notable, Tim is also a prominent philanthropist, starting the Colorado-based Gill Foundation, which has invested over $220 million to support programs and nonprofits across the country that share a commitment to equal opportunity for all.

Following the announcement of the Leadership Award, StartOut is proud to introduce the following awardees:

Zoe Dunning, 2013 recipient of the StartOut Advocate Award
Recognizing a champion for LGBT leadership

Retired Navy Commander Zoe Dunning served on the SLDN board from 1993-2000, serving as its Co-Chair from 1993-98. She rejoined the board in 2005 and has been Board Co-Chair since October 2006. Zoe has been a tireless advocate for fighting the military's policies prohibiting open gay service. In January 1993, while a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserves, Dunning publicly came out as a lesbian at a political rally outside the gates of California's Moffett Field. Dunning won her subsequent two-and-a-half year legal battle to remain in the Navy Reserves. The Navy promoted her twice and awarded her the Navy & Marine Corps Achievement Medal and the Navy & Marine Corps Commendation Medal since her coming out. She retired in June 2007 and holds the distinction of serving her country as an openly gay member of the U.S. military for over 13 years. She currently serves on Senator Barbara Boxer's (D-CA) Service Academy Selection Committee. In her civilian life, Zoe is a principal at Quintus Associates, LLC where she partners with executives and their teams to lead major change initiatives. She also facilitates graduate-level courses on Interpersonal Dynamics and Influential Leadership at Stanford University. She is a United States Naval Academy graduate, and received her MBA from Stanford University's Graduate School of Business. Zoe resides in San Francisco, CA with her wife Pam.

2013 recipient of the StartOut Next Generation Award
Recognizing a young entrepreneur of great accomplishment

Jordan Goldman

Frustrated by his own experiences with the college search process, as an 18 year-old Jordan created the best-selling “Students’ Guide to Colleges” series of college guidebooks, which were released in five annual editions from Penguin Books. After graduating Jordan founded Unigo, which The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg called “a college resource built for the age of YouTube and Facebook.”

Jordan and the Unigo team have gone on to raise capital from McGraw-Hill Ventures and The Gates Foundation, grown Unigo to more than 18 million visitors per year, and have forged strategic partnerships with publishers including USA Today, US News & World Report and The Wall Street Journal. Unigo's business lines include direct-to-consumer services and b2b SaaS technology sales to non-profit and for-profit colleges.

As an education expert, Jordan has published papers with The McGraw-Hill Research Foundation, been a columnist for US News & World Report and The Huffington Post, and has been featured on more than 75 episodes of ABC News. He was named “One of the Top 30 Young Entrepreneurs in America” by Inc Magazine, “One of the Top 100 Young Entrepreneurs in America” by the White House, and “One of the 100 Most Influential People in NYC Business and Technology” by Silicon Alley Insider. Jordan studied English Literature at Wesleyan University, Oxford University and The University of East Anglia and lives in New York City.

2013 recipient of the StartOut Innovator Award
Recognizing an innovator who is revolutionizing an industry

Heather Hiles

Heather Hiles has committed her life to closing the education and employment achievement gaps for youth and adults. Her leadership experience spans more than 20 years, during which she founded and led several private and public sector organizations. Her roster of leadership roles includes: Commissioner, San Francisco Unified School District; Executive Director of Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund (SV2); CEO of Hiles Group (a philanthropy consultancy firm); Co-Founder of EARN (Individual Development Accounts program); CEO of SFWorks (NGO to place women from welfare into careers); and COO of Break the Cycle (K-3rd grade tutorial program).

Her newest company; Pathbrite delivers next-generation solutions that help students – and learners of all ages – collect, track and showcase a lifetime of achievement, and recommend pathways for continuous success. This is done by documenting, analyzing and mapping individual achievement of all kinds against individuals’ goals and those of their peers – what’s called a Knowledge Graph. Students use the Pathbrite Portfolios and their performance relative to a wider Knowledge Graph to differentiate themselves to get into their preferred schools or land the jobs of their dreams. School admissions officers and employers rely on the Pathbrite Portfolio Platform to get a holistic view of candidates, and to better evaluate their readiness for and organizational fit to the opportunity at hand. Pathbrite Portfolios are helping people to always put their best foot forward.

Event proceeds go to StartOut, a national 501(c)3 charitable organization that is building the next generation of LGBT business leaders through entrepreneurship.
For more information on the event and to purchase tickets visit:

About StartOut

Founded in early 2009 with chapters in Austin, New York City and San Francisco, StartOut is a non-profit organization dedicated to creating the next generation of LGBT business leaders by helping aspiring entrepreneurs start new companies, assisting current entrepreneurs to grow and expand their businesses, and engaging successful entrepreneurs as role models and mentors for less established entrepreneurs. StartOut also helps the LGBT community by building equality through promoting the economic empowerment of the LGBT community, and combating discrimination by promoting the visibility of successful LGBT entrepreneurs, among other activities. More information can be found at

Editorial contacts: Tony Moraga –




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