500 Startups launches LGBT tech event series
The tech world spends a lot of time talking about "brogrammers" -- the cult of white, straight men who, at their worst, act as though the world owes them a debt of gratitude for "crushing it" at their silly little crowdfunding startup or whatever. The fact that these guys still disproportionally outnumber women, gays, and non-whites in Silicon Valley reveals “systematic and hidden biases” in technology funding, writes Astia CEO Sharon Vosmek. The observation is more than anecdotal: Only 13 percent of venture deals went to female-led companies in the first half of last year. Meanwhile that insular, homogenous culture may explain why people like Uber's Travis Kalanick think it's okay for CEOs of billion dollar companies to make "boob" jokes in magazine interviews.
That's why it's so refreshing to see organizations like Dave McClure's 500 Startups accelerator fund and support so many entrepreneurs who don't fit into John Doerr's infamous "white, male, under 30, nerds" demographic. Today they continue this trend announcing "Rainbow Round," a monthly speaker series highlighting LGBT tech founders. The series is a partnership with StartOut, a non-profit fostering LGBT founders, and Galvanize, a community and education organization for entrepreneurs. The first event is on March 19 in San Francisco and will feature Kortney Ryan Ziegler, founder of the transgender hackathon and speaker series Transh4ck. You can register to attend here.
For McClure's part, supporting LGBT and women entrepreneurs is about more than paying lip service. When 500 Startups launched an AngelList Syndicate for women a couple weeks ago, he told me, “Smart women entrepreneurs are not getting the access to capital they could. We are not theorizing women are a good bet, we have proof they are a good bet." Last October, partner Christine Tsai told me that between 25 and 30 percent of its accelerator and seed companies have at least one female founder, which is double the national average.
With gay entrepreneurs, the issue may be less that there aren't enough gay founders, but that they don't always feel comfortable talking openly about it. As Scott Allison, a gay founder, writes at Forbes,
Although in California you can’t be fired for being gay, you can in 29 other states in the US. That’s totally unacceptable. It’s no doubt one reason why many gay people compartmentalise their true identities out of necessity, separating gay friends from work colleagues and sometimes even from family too. In the whole of the Fortune 1000 there isn’t a single openly gay CEO. It’s a shame there’s so few role models for young gay entrepreneurs.This dearth of role models for LGBT entrepreneurs is the precise need "Rainbow Round" looks to fill.