The volunteers who make up our Programming Board are the lifeblood of StartOut. They’re seasoned entrepreneurs, proven leaders, and community builders who embody a dedication to LGBTQ+ founders. And we’re growing every year.
To coincide with the launch of our 2023 Programming Board application, we’ve spoken with our current volunteers and asked them to share their stories. The StartOut Programming Board operates in eight major cities across the United States and nationally through our virtual and signature boards. Our growing chapters showcase how entrepreneurship in a post-pandemic world is moving beyond Silicon Valley and directly into the communities that support our founders. Our Denver chapter, launched just this year, has already proven that the Mile High City has everything queer entrepreneurs need to thrive and succeed – the only thing missing was a community.
Helping lead the Denver chapter as co-chair is Al Wynant (he/him/his). Al is the co-founder and CEO of Ingomu, a digital coaching app that helps subscribers with any and every issue they may face. He’s also a gay social entrepreneur looking to bring Denver to the national startup stage.
Al, could you share a little bit about your background and what led you to entrepreneurship?
I grew up in a household where my parents owned a business, so I got a taste of entrepreneurial life early on. Right after college, I was hired by a company to do public relations. I was also a development director and started a meeting planning company that morphed into an event software company.
A couple of years ago, I was looking for my mission in life. What was my why?
I knew I wanted to help as many people as possible and positively impact the world doing so, and Ingomu was born out of that. Throughout my career, I worked with all kinds of coaches, personally and professionally. What could happen if we connected people and coaches and made it accessible and scalable?
We incorporated it in 2020 and launched our mobile app in October last year.
How does Ingomu work?
We’re a subscription-based app focused on creating a holistic coaching community for our users.
Everyone has something that keeps them up at night. Whether it’s work-related, a relationship issue, or a personal problem, we all have something. We’ve curated a network of about 50 coaches on our mobile app, each scheduled for a live group virtual session twice a month. And there are hundreds of on-demand sessions to engage with as well.
Our users, who we call ‘learners,’ can open our app anytime and anonymously engage with our coaches during their live virtual group sessions. They can ask questions, learn from other learners, and have a unique coaching experience in an hour or less.
The community aspect of Ingomu is essential. We’re shifting the coaching paradigm from a one-on-one session to one that feels more collective. We call our sessions coaching communities. It’s about making it easier, more accessible, equitable, and engaging. Our users self-report an average improvement of 2.8 points in their well-being – or a 35% boost between the start and end of their sessions.
How do you manage your growing community to make sure you’re keeping your learners happy?
It’s all about listening to our learners, hearing their needs, and what they’d need to have addressed. We just recently brought a loss and grief coach because we saw a trend in what our community needed support with.
Running a startup successfully is about pivoting to what your audience needs. We’ve adjusted our business model to get it right for our learners, but it’s helped us grow as a company and understand what people want.
What challenges have you faced since launching?
Launching a new business is always challenging. People understand coaching but only on a one-on-one basis. Changing the narrative to a group setting has been challenging.
Additionally, even though general consumers can download our app, we focus on B2B. Everyone in a company can benefit from our product, and what benefits the user helps companies address issues around retention, engagement, productivity, absenteeism, and culture.
Hiring diverse coaches who represent our community has also been tricky, but it’s something that we wholeheartedly believe in. We need to create a community of coaches in which people can see themselves and trust. That path to an equitable future has to start with us.
What brought you to StartOut and joining the Programming Board?
A couple of years ago, I was introduced by a community member. I immediately fell in love with the organization’s mission and knew I wanted to do more. After only living in Denver for a year, I was looking for a community in town. I had been to two meetings before the pandemic struck. There are few peer networking organizations for LGBTQ+ people in the Denver community. I thought, ‘who’s going to take the lead to help bring this back? As a community, we must support each other and help bring value to our peers.’
After the pandemic, when things started to come back, I realized how much I missed the in-person StartOut events and asked if we could bring the Denver chapter back.
It’s been so cool seeing how StartOut has grown in the last few years and how we’ve created this genuinely national community. It makes me feel good about helping to lead my local chapter with my co-chair and programming board, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Denver.
Meet us, network with us, get to know StartOut and us, and be part of this. It’s not an easy journey as an entrepreneur, but you must have a community to get by.
Are you interested in joining the Denver chapter or our virtual network of volunteers? Apply to join the 2023 StartOut Programming Board today!
You can connect with Al on LinkedIn for the latest updates on Ingomu and follow our blog on Medium for more monthly founder stories.