24 Jun 2021

5 LGBTQ+ VC and Tech Founders You Should Know

Startup, Venture Capital, LGBTQ, Founders, Vivienne Ming

To this day, an entrepreneur’s funding can be impacted by their sexuality or gender identity. According to VC firm Backstage Capital, less than 10% of venture capital deals go to women, people of colour, and LGBTQ+ founders.

This has led to talented entrepreneurs concealing this part of their identity. In America, 37% of founders who identify with the community actively choose not to “out” themselves to investors.  

CEOs and founders from the LGBTQ+ community are challenging these inconsistently inventive ways. From AI to launching specialist VC firms, to being publicly open about who they are, these founders are advocating for change and inspiring thousands.  

Ana Arriola (She/her/hers) (They/them/theirs) 

The Director of Product Design, AI and Insights at Microsoft, Ana Arriola, has had a long career in tech working with giants such as Facebook, Samsung and Sony. Ana identifies as a queer lesbian woman of trans and non-binary experience and is very open about her own challenges and challenges facing the LGBTQ+ community within tech.   

In 2018, Arriola led a talk on how AI can be used to disrupt the bias towards the LGBTQ+ community online and within the industry. She highlighted how AI can be used to “steward a queer future” by using “natural language processing and computer vision to ensure that none of us is misgendered”, for example.

Advocating for changes to the systems that have oppressed the LGBTQ+ community, Arriola encouraged future and current tech designers in the audience to “instil AI to bring proper and inclusive culture into our world as we move forward”. 

Arlan Hamilton (She/her) 

Arlan Hamilton is the Founder and Managing Partner of Backstage Capital, a VC firm investing in a vast amount of startups from tech to beauty. The $15 million funds are dedicated to “minimizing funding disparities in tech by investing in high-potential founders who are people of colour, women, and/or LGBT”. Backstage Capital has already invested in more than 170 startup companies. 

As a black woman and an LGBTQ+ person, Hamilton was inspired to start a VC fund after coming across some direction changing statistics in 2011 which revealed that over “90% of venture funding and angel funding goes to white men in six cities across the world”.

In a podcast with Decoder, she said that these statistics pushed her away from starting her own tech startup, and instead drew her closer to creating a VC fund that breaks the bias, something she now considers her “calling”. 

Arlan Hamilton, Startup, Tim Cook, Venture Capital, LGBTQ+

Image belongs to Arlan Hamilton and Backstage Capital.

Peter Arvai (He/him) 

Peter Arvai is the executive chair and co-founder of cloud-based presentation platform Prezi used by over 100 million people to give slide shows some much-needed flair. Arvai is a known advocate for inclusive workplaces that stimulate creativity.

In an interview with San Francisco Business Times, he described why it is important to him to be open about his sexuality as a gay man in the workplace: “I think it’s an important way of indicating the type of culture you’re setting with the company…  It’s really worthwhile to be open and to share who you are with people if you’re wanting to develop authentic relationships, candid conversations, and creativity.” 

Tim Cook (He/Him) 

In 2014, Apple CEO Tim Cook became the first openly gay Fortune 500 company CEO 

In an interview with CNN in 2018, Cook admitted that he is a private person, but was inspired to publicly come out after receiving letters from kids who had heard rumours about his sexuality and who were struggling with bullying or their own LGBTQ+ identity. After receiving these messages, he felt that keeping private “was a selfish thing to do”.

He added: “I need to be bigger than that, I need to do something for them and show them that you can be gay and still go on and do big jobs in life.” 

Tim Cook, Apple, LGBTQ+, Startup, Venture Capital

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple. Image by Budley via Flickr and Creative Commons.

Vivienne Ming (She/Her) 

Dr Vivienne Ming is a theoretical neuroscientist, entrepreneur and AI Expert and the founder of Socos Labs (her fifth company); “a mad science incubator that explores messy human problems”.

Socos Labs uses AI, amongst other methods, to address problems within the work, education and innovation sector. Ming is a trans woman, a mother of two and is deeply involved in AI-driven research into inclusion and gender in business.  

Ming addresses her own experience with gender bias within the VC and tech industry openly. During a panel, she said: “I have raised money as a man and I have raised money for a startup as a woman, and if you think it is the same game you are completely deluded”. 

In reference to how physical appearance, gender, skin colour and sexuality can impact funding, she highlighted the need for a change in tone: “There needs to be some fidelity to understanding what makes a difference…It’s the deeper person that actually makes the change in society.” 

Header Image via Ted Talk and The Guardian.

LGBTQ+ Founders
Tech Founders
Venture Capital