StartOut News

StartOut Attends White House LGBT Innovation Summit with Community and Administration Leaders

Washington, DC –  Technology and LGBT advocacy came together at a White House meeting on Monday, July 7th, to discuss how innovation can help deliver change and resolve issues in the community.

The StartOut delegation of sixteen, including several members of StartOut’s boards of directors and governors, as well as senior StartOut leadership, major donors, and entrepreneurs were in attendance.

The President’s offices of Public Engagement and Science & Technology Policy, with the leadership of Leanne Pittsford (Lesbians Who Tech) and Taryn Miller-Stevens (Get / Out), hosted nearly 200 entrepreneurs, tech experts, and leaders from the LGBT community at the first White House LGBT Innovation Summit.

“To have the White House hold a summit on LGBT innovation and technology is truly remarkable,” said Thomas McAfee, president of gay social network and a StartOut member.

548481_TILE_574029Speakers included Meghan Smith, VP GoogleX;  Tim Gill, founder of Quark publishing software and a prominent gay rights activist; Geena Rocero, founder of transgender rights group Gender Proud; and Leanne Pittsford, founder of Lesbians Who Tech. Participating groups included LGBT Tech Partnership, Maven, NGLCC, oSTEM, Out for Undergrad, Out in Tech, Out Leadership, Reaching Out MBA, StartOut, and Trans*H4CK.

“Everyone is collecting data for their populations, but in most spaces LGBT questions are absent. And data is required for the advancement of any population,” said one attendee. Collecting and quantifying the much-needed data on the segments of the LGBT communities was among the many topics covered.

During the summit there were multiple networking sessions and opportunities to deliver ‘elevator pitches’ introducing the organizations present, and allowing them to connect with resources and advice from fellow business leaders and innovators.

Many organizations and entrepreneurs present saw the tremendous value in StartOut’s ability to connect LGBT leaders to mentoring, education, and access to capital.  Several exciting potential partnerships are already in discussion thanks to the White House LGBT Innovation Summit.


KQED radio in San Francisco highlighted StartOut’s participation in the summit, which you can click to hear below.

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Meet the 2014 Class of Lesbian Entrepreneurs & Their Mentors

We’re excited to announce the 2014 cohort for StartOut’s Lesbian Entrepreneur Mentoring Program – the first-ever program of its kind.

We received over 80 applications from around the country, from which we selected 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 2014 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

Lynn Casper - LynnCasperLynn Casper is a media activist and artist who uses various forms of creative media to promote equality. Growing up in North Carolina and realizing at a young age that there weren’t many representations of herself in mainstream media, she started creating her own DIY-style. From learning HTML to build music fansites to “hosting” radio shows from her duel cassette boombox in her bedroom, she kept up with the evolutions of technology to find new ways to create and distribute media.

Since those childhood days, she has organized DIY collectives, music and film festivals, exhibited in art galleries, performed in various bands and much more. A wearer of many hats, Lynn founded, produces and hosts a radio and TV show for Homoground, a media group that raises visibility for LGBTQ musicians and artists.


Genny LaMorgan - Genny_LaMorgan_Green_Woman_StoreGenny LaMorgan, Owner of, has worked with international environment and development NGOs. In the course of her international work, she became aware of women’s call for “Market Access.” Green Woman Store is the answer to that call. It is her goal to provide fair trade, sustainable, and woman made products to conscious consumers, while supporting women entrepreneurs at all stages of their business development. Sliding scale fees are the cornerstone of her work with women’s cooperatives and sole proprietorships, with 50% to 80% of all sales being paid directly to the women artisans and manufacturers. Studies show that when the resources are returned to the women, everyone benefits!

unnamedEmily Schu - Emily Schu is co-founder and Product Director of Propagate, a literacy and language learning company that seamlessly integrates word learning and adaptive literacy supports directly into what students are already reading online. Propagate is built on key principles from leading literacy and cognitive science studies, and is supported by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the Harvard Innovation Lab, and the Education Design Studio at the University of Pennsylvania. Emily holds an Ed.M in Technology and Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education where she studied product design for education.

UntitledRachel Wolan - Rachel Wolan is the founder and CEO of YadaZing, a leading online education platform for English students. YadaZing helps English students become fluent in real, conversational English by adapting real videos, like movie clips and TED Talks, into entertaining grammar and vocabulary lessons. Founded in 2013, YadaZing is already used by 3 of the top 5 domestic English school chains, and is poised to revolutionize English learning, teaching, and assessment both domestically and internationally.

Before founding YadaZing, Rachel worked as a software developer in Edtech (Pearson-owned startup) and in business roles at consumer Internet giants (Facebook and Say Media). She holds a B.S. in Education from Northwestern and an M.B.A. from UC Berkeley.

B. Cole - Cole Headshot 10.10Cole is the force behind Brioxy, a life design platform for young people of color bringing life hacking, social capital, and membership services to one central place for the country’s fastest growing demographic. A graduate of the London School of Economics, Cole is a BMA Echoing Green Fellow, Coro Fellow, Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar, and Spirit of Dolores Huerta Award recipient, she has worked across the US and internationally on issues of leadership development and social capital. She is also the Founder of the Brown Boi Project, the largest leadership development organization for young LGBT people of color in the US.

Teresa Tuan - TeresaTuan-18squareTeresa Tuan is a physician, award-winning filmmaker, musician, and digital health entrepreneur in the San Francisco Bay Area. She started college at 12, went to medical school at 16, and became a board-certified, practicing pediatrician at age 23. Her passion for innovating a better healthcare system inspired her to launch DoctoRec, a digital media company that delivers short and highly engaging online health education videos in both the clinical setting and on a patient’s computer, tablet or phone. She believes that by giving patients an accessible, physician-vetted tool to understand their health better, they’ll have more meaningful relationships with their doctors and enjoy the health they deserve.

LLouise Sloan headshot 6_13ouise Sloan - Louise Sloan is founder of, a content, social networking and dating site for single moms and dads. She’s part of this large, under-served market herself: “Knock Yourself Up,” Louise’s 2007 book on becoming a single mom by choice, garnered international media attention. As an editor-in-chief, Louise has produced magazines for clients like Target, Nordstrom, GlaxoSmithKline and Dr. Phil. She’s written and edited for numerous mass-market publications including Glamour, Out, Ms., and Ladies’ Home Journal. Of the national awards she’s won, she’s perhaps proudest of the one from the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association for her 1994 Glamour article, “Do Ask, Do Tell: Lesbians Come Out at Work,” and of the GLAAD award nomination for a 2010 Ladies’ Home Journal feature on gay teens and bullying.

unnamedKate Atkinson Kate Atkinson is co-founder and Head of Product, at a measurement and reporting platform that delivers insight into proximity triggered engagement. datasnap’s core focus is on the emerging iBeacon space, but will draw upon other location signal as well as contextual data so that marketers, developers and business users can make sense of how people interact with real, brick and mortar spaces and why. Prior to starting datasnap Kate was VP of product and design at Metaresolver before it was acquired by Millennial Media where she headed up reporting and UX.

Darla Hollander

Dedra Chamberlin - dchamberlin_prof_photoDedra Chamberlin is CEO and Co-founder of Cirrus Identity, a cloud-hosted digital identity company that enables quick and easy access to university services through the use of social identities (Google, Twitter, Facebook). Dedra has led digital identity strategy at leading universities, including UC Berkeley and UCSF, and chaired the workgroup which sets identity strategy for the University of California system. She has participated in numerous nation-wide identity strategy workgroups and speaks regularly at higher ed IT conferences. Dedra knows the pain points of identity in higher ed because she’s lived them, and as leader of Cirrus Identity, she is bringing innovative, easy-to-integrate solutions to educational institutions around the globe.

unnamedSandra Elliott Sandra Elliott is the Director of Consumer Technology and Service Development with Meridian Health.  Her role is to develop new technology based services and business ventures targeting population segments such as the boomer and aging populations.  While aggressively employing new approaches to understanding the health and wellness needs of consumers, technological applications are aggressively evaluated as a new method to meet those needs.  As a result, Meridian Health is creating innovative connections with individuals in the market.  She has been instrumental in defining opportunities to work with innovative companies and begin to understand how home or person-based technology can be integrated into a health delivery system.  Her most recent role as the Executive Director of a new startup company, iMPak Health, is a good example of how she and the team at Meridian Health are translating new understanding into new business opportunities.  Sandra is a national speaker and published many articles in developing opportunities for growing business in publications such as Trustee Magazine, Journal of Healthcare Financial Management, FutureAge, Hospitals and Health Networks, and the Health Strategist.

Bonny Lai

The Mentors


unnamedMáire Walsh - Máire P. Walsh is a Partner and VP, Sales & Marketing at Next Steps Marketing, a company that specializes in building and monetizing audiences for media and tech companies. In this role, she helps guide content strategy, develops audience and monetization models, and oversees marketing efforts across multiple platforms (desktop, mobile, and tablet) for clients and their partners.

Prior to Next Steps, Máire went from managing circulation for Curve magazine to leading a team that helped build retail sales and partnerships for over 70 national magazines at the Independent Press Association. She has been featured in Folio, Audience Marketing, Media Shepherd, The Irish Times, and Yahoo Finance and is a regular speaker at media industry conferences.


Máire is the former two-term President of Exceptional Women in Publishing (EWIP), a national organization dedicated to mentoring, educating and supporting women in media. Each year, EWIP hosts an annual Women’s Leadership Conference that brings together leading women executives in media and tech to share insights and best practices on new content and business models in publishing. Máire is a native of Ireland, loves squash and soccer, and has an MBS from National University of Ireland, Galway.


Steph Smith - Untitled“Looking back on my career path, I really am amazed and very fortunate. I was able to connect and teach History and Civics to high school students struggling with behavioral and emotional obstacles. The Anthropologist in me was fascinated by how my students learned best and identified with various historical icons. Joan of Arc, Sitting Bull, Sandra Day O’Connor to name a few. Teaching taught me a lot about myself and my potential.

After a few years of teaching I decided to explore the massive nonprofit sector of Washington, DC. Still very much interested in education, I started working with a large trade association with the focus on education and development. From there I helped one of the nation’s largest capacity building organizations with marketing and membership campaigns. It was there at the Center for Nonprofit Advancement that I was given two golden nuggets of advice by my boss, an openly gay woman and the longest standing Executive Director at the organization. First, “work smarter not harder” and second, “remember that what makes each of us different is what makes each of us valuable.”

When I relocated to Austin in 2009 and started working with the State Bar of Texas this advice was just as helpful. I was tasked with educating folks of all walks of life, backgrounds, and socio-economic levels on the importance of having access to the legal system. From there I went to Project Transitions and was afforded the opportunity of creating more visibility for the organization and more awareness for HIV/AIDS.

Now with L Style G Style, I feel like Goldielocks and the Three Bears because finally things are just right. I look forward to helping Alisa and Lynn make more connections for L Style G Style and for our community…and beyond. I am also looking forward to getting to know our readers and our supporters.”

UntitledEilish McCaffrey - Eilish McCaffrey is an accomplished startup CEO/cofounder and active mentor to International and U.S incubators with an expertise in all Software and Infrastructure technologies. She has over 30 years in business development, sales/marketing, commercial product development; and venture/incubation.  She has raised well over $50M in the course of being senior management in startups, consultants to early stage startups and as a Venture Partner.  Her focus today is doing what she enjoys, which is leveraging her experience in helping other early stage companies with whatever might be their next growth objectives.

Eilish is also active as a non profit board member and currently sits on the board of that helps children.  She began her non profit work over 15 years ago as advisor and mentor to ASTIA companies, an international women lead business incubator.  She supports other non profits that focus on areas such as healthcare, women/children, education and her local community.

Eilish holds a Masters of Science Degree, Summa Cum Laude, Software Engineering, and a Bachelors of Science, Mathematics\Computer Science and Chemistry, from Manhattan College of NYC also Summa Cum Laude.

On a more personal side, Eilish is certified, through the American College of Sports Medicine, and provides coaching to colleagues and friends on wellness and nutrition.  She enjoys integrating the technology of emerging Healthcare models of application, delivery and support with her wellness focus where possible.

Anne Moellering - unnamedAnne Moellering of WaveWorks Coaching is an Executive Leadership & Career Coach with a 20-year background in the business world of Silicon Valley.  Having begun her career as a management consultant for Bain and Company, Anne moved into consumer marketing after receiving an MBA from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.  Within the marketing world, her posts ranged from being the Director of marketing for video game giant Sega and Account Director for Electronic Arts to being VP of Marketing for Planet Out & and Chief Marketing Officer for TaskRabbit.

As a coach, Anne specializes in Executive leadership development, team effectiveness and career transition coaching.  Her clients range from rising stars with rapidly expanding scopes of responsibility to executive team members, start-up founders and CEOs.  Anne works with individuals and teams across a wide range of organizations including eBay, Facebook, Google, Evernote, Intel, Nerd Wallet, Bain & Company, McKinsey & Company, Stryker, Genentech, Sift Science and Prospect Sierra School.  In addition, Anne is a talented and energizing speaker and workshop leader.

Anne graduated magna cum laude from Dartmouth College with a degree in Economics and then earned her MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.  She holds certifications from both the Coaches Training Institute (CTI) and Team Coaching International.

Anne is based in San Francisco and, when not coaching, can often be found happily surfing somewhere off the coast of Northern California.

unnamedDonna Bonifield Donna is a visionary technology entrepreneur and 20+year software industry veteran. In 1994 Donna co-founded GENUUS, a social software studio to bring A.I. to life.  Her role as Chief Visionary Officer (CVO) is to provide leadership in all aspects of company operations, including production, business development, strategy, and executive management. Prior to GENUUS Donna joined Broderbund’s Living Books division in 1990 when it was less than 5 people; she spent four year
s there in production roles culminating in Technical Creative Director. From her Disney background she created the Living Books production methodology that led to a $15 million Random House / Broderbund Software joint venture.

Anne Dorman Anne has served as Consulting CFO to venture backed companies since 1986. Early in her career, Anne founded three successful companies before joining Arthur & Young (predecessor to Ernst & Young) and was a member of the founding team for the firm’s Entrepreneurial Services Group. In addition to advising high growth companies, Anne runs a small business tax and consulting practice.


HH-headshot-1Heather Hiles Heather Hiles is the founder and CEO of Pathbrite, the world’s leading Portfolio Learning Platform. Launched in 2012, the company currently supports more than 500 schools, colleges, universities, and organizations in the United States. Headquartered in San Francisco, with an increasingly global footprint, Pathbrite’s portfolio platform is poised to reshape learning, teaching and assessment across the globe.

Kim Frank Consummate advisor to entrepreneurs, startups and technology companies ranging in size from the garage to Fortune 100. Kim has built businesses from the ground up and through a mix of internal innovation, mergers & acquisitions, strategic alliances and fundraising. With her broad executive and technology expertise, Kim has identified and negotiated more than 60 acquisitions and alliances ranging from $2M to $5B.

Carol Nast

Jennifer Vogel

Kathy Hutton

Lisa Henderson 





StartOut quoted on CNBC story: “Record turnout for tech companies at Pride parade expected”

A record number of tech firms are expected to publicly show support for the LGBT community this weekend at San Francisco’s annual gay pride parade.

Google says more than 1,000 of its employees are slated to participate,Apple recently sent a memo encouraging all of its employees to partake in the event, and Facebook told CNBC that it expects over 800 employees to attend.

Former congressman Barney Frank, one of the parade’s guests of honor, told CNBC that tech companies are smart to support the gay pride parade in today’s competitive business environment. Frank said, “If you get a reputation for not being supportive of fair treatment, it is a handicap in your recruitment.”

Jonathan Lovitz, the director of communications for StartOut, a non-profit supporting aspiring LGBT entrepreneurs, said participating in the parade is great “for retaining and finding the best talent; for finding the best partnerships domestically and globally; and also encouraging the people within their organizations to step up and become the first generation of openly gay CEOs in the tech industry.”

“We know that our community is capable of producing openly gay actors, politicians and athletes, but now is the time for tech to continue creating opportunities for openly LGBT business leaders,” he said.

The LGBT community and tech have had a long-standing relationship in advancing their success.

“Look at what social media has done specially to help us advance our causes, so I think there’s no surprise here that major organizations like Facebook and Twitter and Google, have been such allies of the community,” he said.

Last year’s parade, the largest in North America and the second largest in the world, attracted more than 1.5 million people and another 400,000 viewers through a webcast. At least 15 Silicon Valley tech companies are expected to participate.


Record turnout for tech companies at Pride parade expected

SF Business Times: “StartOut highlights LGBT business issues in San Francisco”

Carla McKay spent much of her career in the corporate world working in sales and client management, when she decided to transform her passion for wine into a business.

She was taking a class about wines at the Culinary Institute of America — where students sometimes sampled 50 wines in a day — when McKay was struck with an idea for an app that could organize details about many wines in a way that was easy to navigate and share with friends. However, McKay had never started a business and didn’t know where to start.

“I had this concept in mind, but wasn’t even aware what it would take to make it a company,” said McKay who is now the CEO and founder of Crushed, a social mobile app based in San Francisco. Her business raised $450,000 in seed money, scored a partnership with Yelp and has seven employees. “It was just an idea in my head when I heard that StartOut was about to start a lesbian mentorship program and I thought this could be a great way to get my company started.”

StartOut is a national nonprofit organization that aims to strengthen the lesbian gay bisexual transgender business community, provide resources to entrepreneurs and raise their visibility. Founded in 2009, StartOut now has chapters in Austin, Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle and Denver.

StartOut and similar groups signal how the needs of the gay community are evolving. For much of the last 50 years, many groups were focused on health issues, politics and social activism. As laws, regulations and public opinion have shifted toward more equality, there isgreater demand for gay groups that offer ways to boost economic development and nurture aspiring entrepreneurs. StartOut been successful doing this and has moved quickly to provide more services to more business people.

In 2012, StartOut launched a program within its organization called the Lesbian Entrepreneur Mentoring Program.

Marie Trexler, who heads program, has played matchmaker to 21 pairs of mentors and mentees and is vetting 100 mentee applicants for the incoming class.

“When we asked lesbians what they wanted from StartOut it was loud and clear: mentorship,” said Trexler who has been on the StartOut board for four years. “I just started the mentorship program with my personal rolodex and any time I met another business woman that impressed me, I asked if she would be interested in being a mentor and most said yes.”

McKay’s mentor, Esther Orioli, started her own management consulting business, Essi Systems, 31 years ago. She knows the value of a program like this because she couldn’t find anything like it when she started out.

“When I decided to start my company, I was a member of business and women’s groups that proved to be rather useless,” said Orioli. “And I think that women mentoring women and lesbians mentoring one another is so valuable because there are certain challenges, struggles and concerns that can be addressed when other matches could not handle that as easily.”

McKay said that her business would not have the seed money, partnerships (including one with Yelp) and its seven employees it has today without guidance from the program and Orioli. But that doesn’t mean that all 21 matches produced 21 new business. Trexler and Oriloi point out that not all mentor relationship provide the same level of success.

“Not every business plan works out and sometime hearing that from someone who has been down that road is more valuable than help with a business plan,” said Orioli, who previously was a board member for the Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center for many years. “But having someone that you can help access resources with and stumble without judgment is the helping hand a lot of women really need to get out of the date.”

Currently the StartOut mentorship program is lesbian-focused and San Francisco-centric due to resources. Trexler says she has connected some mentees in New York, Austin, Washington D.C., Atlanta and Boston and hopes to eventually offer full programs in these cities.

“Once we have our online platform up and running, we can make this a reality,” said Trexler. “The point is not that gays don’t need mentoring, but rather that lesbian entrepreneurs place a higher value on it. We responded to the needs of one of our LGBT constituencies.”

 by: , Social engagement manager-San Francisco Business Times

Original article here:

SAVE THE DATE – StartOut Awards 2014


Actor & LGBT Community Leader GEORGE TAKEI receiving the Leadership Award

With Many More To Be Announced Soon

Mark your calendars for the Third Annual StartOut Awards, to highlight and celebrate exceptional and innovative entrepreneurs in the LGBT Community!

On Thursday, September 11th, 2014, StartOut will once again honor entrepreneurs and business leaders for their accomplishments and personal commitments to both the entrepreneurial and LGBT communities.


This years evening’s festivities will include a cocktail reception, awards ceremony and dinner, and an exclusive keynote interview with the recipient of the 2014 Leadership Award. Each award will recognize exceptional entrepreneurs for their vision, leadership and achievement in entrepreneurship, and for providing inspiration to the LGBT community.


Award categories include:

Leadership Award, recognizing someone who has demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit in leading the community forward

Advocate Award, recognizing a champion for LGBT business leadership

Disruptor Award, recognizing an innovator who is revolutionizing an industry

Next Generation Award, recognizing a young entrepreneur of great accomplishment




Location TBA in San Francisco, CA


Crain’s Chicago Business: “StartOut Launches Chicago Chapter for LGBT Entrepreneurs”

Grant Zallis

Grant Zallis

Grant Zallis was a little surprised when his friend, James Bain, asked him to launch a Chicago chapter of StartOut, a group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender entrepreneurs.

“I just assumed it already existed,” said Mr. Zallis, vice president for operations atInContext Solutions, a Chicago-based software maker.

Despite having a large LGBT community, Chicago didn’t have a chapter of StartOut, which launched in New York and San Francisco in 2009. Mr. Bain, a Chicagoan who heads up sales at Baltimore-based online-parking locator Parking Panda, is a member of StartOut’s national board. The group has chapters in Boston, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas.

Mr. Zallis got to work with Timo Kim of Chicago’s Pritzker Group and tech-sales executive Mary Shea, helping launch the Chicago chapter earlier this year, along with financial-tech executive Joel Bosch and MBA student Natasha Shore.

 “Chicago was a natural,” Mr. Zallis said. “It’s got a fast-growing tech and entrepreneurial center. The LGBT community is established: It doesn’t churn the way it does in other cities.”

 The group hosted its first event at Chicago-based Groupon Inc. in February, and it’s holding another gathering on May 15 at InContext.

 “We’re planning to do events every six weeks,” Mr. Zallis said.

Follow John on Twitter at @JohnPletz.

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.”




Follow Joyce Rosenberg at

View original article HERE

“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.

We may start a new

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business ourselves. As long as we get one of those really cool neon OPEN signs.

And a cash register full of 20s.



StartOut is driven by our vision and the needs of our community. Please share your requests, comments and ideas regarding programs, content and features that can help foster entrepreneurship in the LGBT community.

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