Catalyzing Community

The power of people in driving systems change

Entrepreneurship has long helped systemically marginalized populations find a path to employment. According to the World Bank, in wealthier economies most markedly, the pandemic also led to a sharp increase in entrepreneurial activity, including by LGBTQ+ individuals.

StartOut is a national US-based organization supporting LGBTQ+ founders. Its mission is to contribute to “building a world where every LGBTQ+ entrepreneur has equal access to lead, succeed, and shape the workforce of the future”.

The not-for-profit was founded in 2009, as a volunteer, events-based organization, with the intention of providing safe spaces to convene LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs, share resources and knowledge, and build a community of peers in the process.

In the past 5 years, as corporate partners began investing in achieving the dual goals of supporting entrepreneurship and investing in diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives (DEI), StartOut saw an opportunity to morph its convening role into one of an accelerator, ecosystem builder, and, more broadly, a community champion.

This desire to contribute to community-level efforts led the organization to embark on the creation of the StartOut Pride Economic Impact Index, in partnership with JP Morgan Chase and Socos Labs. The index visualizes the gap between the current state and the achievable state of entrepreneurial performance for diverse founders — including BIPOC and women — should the level of support they receive see an increase.

This partnership is just one example of the 50+ relationships StartOut nurtures with corporate and mission-aligned community partners, nationally, and globally. Sarah Burgaud, Programs and Partnerships Lead, attributes the organization’s steady growth (21,000 members worldwide) to this intentional, long-standing commitment to fostering alignment and collective effort.

44 graduates of the StartOut Growth Lab to date have raised over $600 million, creating 3,500 jobs.

“It’s a necessity right now that we work with community partners that are trying to build a more equitable startup ecosystem, taking into account a lot of underserved populations, because we are so far from where it should be,” she explains.

Collaboration requires a robust set of checks and balances and StartOut’s approach to measuring its impact and value creation has enabled its continued expansion. The numbers speak for themselves: a mentorship program supporting 350 founders every year, working with more than 400 accredited investors, 44 graduates of the StartOut Growth Lab to date, raising over $600 million, creating 3,500 jobs.

With this momentum established, StartOut is doubling down on a 5-year plan to facilitate $1 billion in funding for 3,000 companies and create 25,000 jobs.

StartOut’s Equity Summit takes place Thursday, September 15th in New York City. For the full conversation with Sarah, tune in to the episode here.

Isabelle Swiderski founded her design-for-impact agency Seven25 in 2007 to help values-driven organizations leverage the power of design. Marrying an MBA and MA in Design, Isabelle facilitates systems change and social justice and innovation work in partnership with NGOs, universities, governments, entrepreneurs, and ecosystem builders globally.
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