Voices & Visibility in Venture: How VCs can celebrate LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs in their own community - Technical.ly Baltimore

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Voices & Visibility in Venture: How VCs can celebrate LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs in their own community

Squadra Ventures' Carlos Bello offers five resources to support the LGBTQ+ startup ecosystem.

Author Carlos Bello (in the hat) with husband and dog, Rooster (in the orange vest).

(Courtesy photo)

This is a guest post by Carlos Bello, a venture fellow at Baltimore-based VC firm Squadra Ventures. It originally appeared on the company's blog, and was reprinted here with permission.
Look, I know it’s hard not to laugh when June rolls around each year and American corporations suddenly start reminding us to “be proud” as a consumer by purchasing rainbow-adorned hats, special edition bottles of our favorite adult beverages, and commemorative Listerine Pride Mint Mouth Wash.

Just last week, while scrolling through TikTok, I myself came across a Top 5 list ranking the worst clothing pieces of a popular retail chain’s Pride Collection. In its efforts to celebrate pride and create visibility, this popular retailer instead presented a fashion line of couture meets clown attire — drowned in vibrant, blinding rainbow colors that somehow felt offensive to the point of being homophobic.

Despite my smirks, I couldn’t help but applaud their efforts. It was only six years ago this month that my now-husband and I were celebrating the legalization of gay marriage in my home state of Indiana, and the idea of a large corporation branding itself in rainbows or focus-group tested “yas, Queen” mantras was completely inconceivable to us at the time.

Still, over the past decade, I have to admit that it’s been heartening to see just about every major company come out in visible celebration of Pride Month. Places where being openly gay during my parents’ generation meant permanent derailment from a senior leadership track have finally realized that their LGBTQ+ employees should be celebrated, not shamed. It certainly took us long enough, but that kind of visible change means something. LGBTQ+ visibility is important, and when it comes with action it changes opportunity.

As a young LGBTQ+ person working in venture capital, I have been thinking a lot about how visibility meets action in our field. Ultimately, venture capital is not just about investing in ideas, balance sheets, or patents — it’s about investing in people. With that in mind, how do we show LGBTQ+ founders that, not only do they deserve to feel proud coming to VC firms with their ideas, but also their diverse experiences and perspectives are recognized for the holistic value that they bring?

It’s not a simple “one-bullet” solution, but in terms of VC support in championing underrepresented founders, I warmly highlight Squadra’s approach as being one of the main reasons I joined the Baltimore-based venture capital firm’s team at the start of the year.

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In the written thesis on our website, we note:

“Squadra Ventures is committed to hearing from, supporting, and funding underrepresented founders and diverse teams. We believe that diverse teams perform better and that it is our responsibility as funders to ensure we’re seeking out diverse deal flow, and be helpful to those entrepreneurs even when the investment doesn’t meet our thesis. We’ve recently decided to start tracking the gender, identity, and race of the founders and companies we review to hold ourselves accountable to this commitment.”

As a team, we actively embody this ethos, and always make the extra effort to pass along decks and connect entrepreneurs to other firms or resources that might be in a better position to get a startup to the next stage. Being in a position to highlight founders, especially in our local communities, is truly one of the greatest values found in the venture capital and entrepreneurial ecosystem. It’s about not just being a good stakeholder of capital, but being good citizens to those in our communities and networks that aim to dream, innovate, and create.

5 resources for supporting the LGBTQ+ startup ecosystem

In that spirit, I’d like to recognize the following organizations and programs that actively support LGBTQ+ aspiring VCs and entrepreneurs in and around my community:

DormRoomFund — VC Track for LGBTQ+ Candidates

VC Investor Track Masterclass for LGBTQ+ members. I’ve had the chance to work with the DormRoomFund team, and I was phenomenally impressed with everything they do. They provide this program for aspiring VCs in the LGBTQ+ community. Please share and check it out.

Gaingels

They seek to influence change through business by investing in the best companies that embrace LGBT+ leadership. They offer a scholarship for LGBT students seeking to attend college, or to continue attending college.

The LGBTQ Fund at BCF

A worthy donation if you’re looking to make one during Pride Month. The LGBTQ Fund at the Baltimore Community Foundation provides life-sustaining and life-affirming support for Baltimore’s diverse LGBTQ community, particularly vulnerable young people.

Maryland LGBT Chamber of Commerce

Empowers and promotes LGBT+ professionals and business owners. Check out and follow them for events, jobs, and other related resources.

Reaching Out MBA

For those considering or getting their MBA, this is an incredible organization for the LGBTQ+ community. Their yearly conference is an institution, but they also have other events, fellowships, resources, and other support. I highly recommend it.

Visibility is a powerful tool, but action aims to change the system for the better. For pride month, if you have the chance to help an underrepresented founder in your community, please do so — if you have the chance to post and highlight programs or initiatives like the ones below, please do so as well!

And with that, Happy Pride.

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