LGBTQ+ people have had an unmeasured impact on the world at large, and the same is true within our industry of venture capital, private equity and M&A.

Although there’s little research on the prevalence of LGBTQ+ founders, Backstage Capital estimates that they receive less than 1% of VC funding. And, according to a survey conducted by Start Out, more than a third of founders choose to keep their sexual orientation hidden while fundraising.

Our 2021 list aims to highlight some of the achievements of out LGBTQ+ founders, venture capitalists, technologists and innovators—all trailblazers who created space for themselves and others in an industry that largely lacks diverse voices.

We’re including links to each person’s Twitter page where possible. Additionally, we’ve linked to profiles of the companies and firms these pros are associated with, which will have further details on funding history and who’s investing.

LGBTQ+ founders and entrepreneurs 

Alicia Garza
Activist and cofounder of Black Lives Matter, a globally recognized organizing project that focuses on combating anti-Black state-sanctioned violence and the oppression of all Black people.
@aliciagarza

Amy Errett
Founder and CEO of Madison Reed. Errett founded the at-home hair color company in 2013, which has raised nearly $200 million in funding since its inception. Errett also joined True Ventures in 2018 as an investor. 
@AmyErrett

Andrew Goetz
Cofounder of MALIN + GOETZ (alongside Matthew Malin), a luxury skincare and fragrance line of cleansers, moisturizers and shampoos that combines natural ingredients with advanced technology.
@malinandgoetz

Angelica Ross
Founder and CEO of TransTech Social Enterprises, a co-learning and co-working community with a focus on economically empowering trans, lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer people and allies with practical, career-ready skills.
@angelicaross

 

Brandy Hoffman
Hoffman, alongside Patricia Santos, cofounded Volition Beauty in 2016, an online platform of beauty lovers who can share and vote on ideas they’d like to see come to fruition.
@VolitionBeauty

Bunny McKensie Mack
Cofounder and CEO of MMG, a Black-led and nonbinary-led social justice organization and change management firm that works to change structure. 
@mckensiemack

Courtney Craven
Craven cofounded Can I Play That?, a provider of accessibility video game reviews, in 2014 with their late partner, Susan Banks. A valuable resource for gamers and developers alike, Can I Play That? is revolutionizing gaming for the disabled community.
@CyclopediaBrain

Dan Owens
Founder and Executive Producer of Radimo, a gender-fluid brand house and consulting agency focused on increased representation for marginalized individuals in media, entertainment and advertising.
@danowensmgmt

Gina Trapani
Trapani, an engineer, entrepreneur and writer, is currently a managing partner at Postlight. She is perhaps best known for founding Lifehacker, a blockbuster tech blog acquired by Univision.
@ginatrapani

 

Hayley Sudbury
Founder and CEO of WERKIN, a people analytics platform using behavioral science to promote diversity.
@hayleysudbury

Isabella Giancarlo
In 2018, Giancarlo and Laura Kraber launched Fluide Beauty, a queer, cruelty-free cosmetics brand for people of all gender identities, fighting against the norms of marketing makeup to women only.
@fluidebeauty

Jess Page
Cofounder of Open Water, a company that sells still and sparkling water in 100% recyclable refillable aluminum water bottles and aluminum cans, curbing harmful plastic consumption. 
@jess_page

 

Kara Swisher
Cofounder and executive editor of Recode, which was acquired by Vox Media in 2015. Swisher is also host of the Recode Decode podcast and co-executive producer of the Code Conference.
@karaswisher

Kelly Rakowski
Founder and CEO of Lex, a text-centered dating app that connects the queer community. The software platform raised $1.5 million in seed funding in 2020.
@KellRakowski

Leanne Pittsford
Founder and CEO of Lesbians Who Tech, which offers programming and opportunities to give visibility and opportunity to LGBTQ+ women, non-binary and trans individuals in the tech sector.
@lepitts

Martine Rothblatt Ph.D
In the '90s, Rothblatt cofounded Sirius XM Satellite Radio. She is also cofounder and CEO of biotech company United Therapeutics. Her latest venture is Lung Biotechnology, which works to democratize the treatment of lung diseases.

 

Nicole Doucet
CEO and cofounder of Open Water, which became the world’s first Climate Neutral bottled water company and has also eliminated the need for over 20 million plastic bottles. 
@nic_doucet

Maya Satya Reddy
Former professional golfer and founder of Queer Asian Social Club, a community to validate and increase visibility of queer and trans-APISWAD (Asian-Pacific Islander-Southwest Asian-Desi) people.
@mayareddy

Michelle Kim
CEO and cofounder of Awaken, a company that offers workshops and training on authenticity, social justice, and inclusive leadership to transform the way people show up and thrive.
@mjmichellekim

Peter Arvai
Cofounder and CEO of Prezi, a cloud-based platform intended to reinvent how people share knowledge, tell stories and inspire their audiences to act.
@peterarvai

Rachael Rapinoe
Founder of Mendi, a CBD-based health brand for sports recovery. The company offers gummies, salve sticks, massage oils and creams. Rachael’s products are endorsed by her twin sister and world-renowned athlete Megan Rapinoe. @themendico

 

Scott Lewallen
Cofounder of Grindr (alongside Joel Simkhai), a social networking app for gay, bisexual, trans and queer people. Lewallen is also an accomplished artist and currently sits as the Vice President of TAG Gallery.
@ScottLewallen

Stephanie Lampkin
A Stanford engineer and MIT MBA, Lampkin cofounded Blendoor, an inclusive recruiting and people analytics software designed to mitigate unconscious bias in hiring.
@stephaneurial

Suki Sandhu
Founder and CEO of Audeliss, an executive search firm dedicated to leveling the playing field for diverse candidates. Sandhu is also a board member of OutRight Action International.
@MrSukiSandhu

Vivienne Ming
Theoretical neuroscientist and serial entrepreneur, Ming cofounded Socos Labs, an independent think tank experimenting with new versions of work, education and inclusive economies to inform more human-centered policy.
@neuraltheory

LGBTQ+ investors and venture capitalists

 

Arlan Hamilton
Founder and managing partner at Backstage Capital, a VC firm that invests in women, people of color and LGBTQ+ founders.
@ArlanWasHere

About Backstage Capital  
In 2015, Arlan Hamilton founded Backstage Capital and built it from the ground up while homeless. The venture capital firm is based in Los Angeles, California and invests in startups whose founders identify as women, People of Color or LGBTQ+.

Since its inception, Backstage Capital has invested over $7 million in more than 130 companies led by underrepresented founders.

See Backstage Capital’s investments

Joe DiPasquale
Cofounder of StartOut, an LGBTQ+ nonprofit promoting equality and combating discrimination in business. He’s also CEO of cryptocurrency hedge fund BitBull Capital.
@JoeDiPasquale 

Lorenzo Thione
Cofounder of StartOut, an LGBTQ+ nonprofit promoting equality and combating discrimination in business. He’s also the CEO for the influencer platform The Social Edge.
@thione

Bryan Janeczko
Cofounder of StartOut, an LGBTQ+ nonprofit promoting equality and combating discrimination in business. Alongside Kuda Biza, he cofounded Nunbelievable, an organic baked goods brand to help end hunger.
@bjaneczko

 

Darren Spedale
Cofounder of StartOut, an LGBTQ+ nonprofit promoting equality and combating discrimination in business. He also cofounded Family by Design, a community for modern co-parenting.
@DarrenSpedale

About StartOut 
Founded in 2009, StartOut is an accelerator with the mission to increase the number, diversity, and impact of LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs and amplify their stories to drive the economic empowerment of the community.

With the support of JP Morgan Chase & Co., the firm released The StartOut Pride Economic Impact Index, a groundbreaking research initiative that measures the contributions LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs make to the larger economy and calculates the unrealized potential. 

See StartOut’s investments

Densil Porteous
CEO of Pride Fund 1, a $10 million venture capital vehicle that invests in companies led by LGBTQ+ founders or entrepreneurs, or firms serving the community.
@densilporteous

Jennifer Pritzker 
Pritzker is an angel investor, philanthropist and founder of private wealth firm TAWANI Enterprises. She is considered the world's first and only known transgender billionaire.

Pocket Sun
Sun is a venture capitalist and cofounding Partner at SoGal, one of the world’s largest communities of diverse entrepreneurs and investors with 40+ chapters worldwide.
@pocketysun

 

About SoGal Ventures
Cofounded by Pocket Sun and Elizabeth Galbut, SoGal ventures is the first women-led, next generation venture capital firm. It focuses on early-stage diverse founding teams in the US and Asia, and aims to be the strongest ally for its portfolio companies. The firm has made investments in 65+ startups across the world, including Everlywell and SWAAY.

See SoGal Ventures’ investments
 

See more on diversity in VC

Quantifying LGBTQ+ impact and unrealized potential
Read customer story: How StartOut uses PitchBook to help quantify the unrealized potential of “out” high-growth LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs

Black founders and investors
Read our blog: 53 Black founders and investors to watch in 2021

Female founders and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
Download this in-depth report: All In: Female Founders and CEOs in the US VC Ecosystem

 


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