Chris Davidson: Safety, Support, and Growth for LGBTQ+ Entrepreneurs
Hi! It’s me, Spiffy the interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with the latest scoop on entrepreneurship ecosystem builders making a difference for the LGBTQ+ community. Today’s rockstar is Chris Davidson, the Head of GrowthLab at StartOut. Let’s see how he’s doing it!
Spiffy: Welcome Chris, it’s a pleasure to have you here today. I am looking forward to hearing about your inspiring work with StartOut. Can you start by telling me about the challenges you’re addressing?
Chris: Thanks so much for hosting me, Spiffy! So, as a quick background, I am a board member of StartOut and the head of the StartOut’s accelerator called GrowthLab. StartOut’s mission is to increase the number, diversity, and impact of LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs and amplify their stories to drive the economic empowerment of the community. StartOut has three main challenges that we are trying to address. First, the lack of safe space and safe community for LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs. Second, the lack of access to business networks and entrepreneurship resources, no matter where founders live and where they are at in their journey. And finally, the lack of role models and success stories.
Spiffy: Those are significant challenges! What has motivated you to raise the platform for LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs?
Chris: Great question! What motivates me is being a part of the playing field for underrepresented founders. A quick story may help illustrate what I am speaking about. When I started working with StartOut, I was giving capital raising advice to a trans woman of color and she looked at me and said, “Your tactics are great. They will work great for a white man—but what about me?” That was one of the more challenging and also most inspiring conversations that I have had in my life. This encounter reminded me that access is not fair, that I am part of the problem, and that I need to be more part of the solution.
Spiffy: So how are you being part of the solution? Specifically, how are you working the make the world more equitable?
Chris: The StartOut GrowthLab is a perfect example of what we are trying to accomplish. The Growth Lab is a six-month accelerator supporting five to eight high-potential LGBTQ+ founders per cohort. Unlike most accelerators, GrowthLab provided individual and customized growth plans and strategies for each company for scale, based on where the company is today and where they want to be in six, 12, and 24 months. The #1 rated aspect of GrowthLab, from previous cohort members, is having a community of other LGBTQ founders, the safe space that this creates, and the support that this space offers.
Spiffy: Can you tell me about a recent milestone that you’ve reached? What impact do you anticipate?
Chris: In partnership with Socos Labs, and with support from JPMorgan Chase, StartOut launched the first of our Inclusion Impact Indexes to gain insights on LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs’ economic impact in terms of job creation, patents, financings, and exits—and what these metrics could be with equal access to critical resources like funding. We can now quantify the impact of LGBTQ+ founders as well as the unrealized potential of the LGBTQ+ entrepreneurship community.
Spiffy: That’s phenomenal, Chris! Before we sign off, can you tell me about a startup you’ve worked with that exemplifies the impact you’re striving to make?
Chris: Definitely, Spiffy. One example is Cerebral, a company that was in Cohort 6 of GrowthLab. Cerebral is a mental health startup that provides counseling, medication, and other mental health services. They recently announced that they closed a round of $127 million at a valuation of $1.23 billion. Cerebral is the first StartOut unicorn and will be a role model to other LGBTQ+ founders. As a quick plug for the GrowthLab—to date, we have supported 35 founders who have collectively raised over $250 million in funding and created over 300 new jobs.
Spiffy: Wow, Chris, the world is looking brighter already! Thanks so much for all the work you’re doing to amplify the work of LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs. It’s been an honor speaking with you today. Over and out!
Chris Davidson is the Head of StartOut’s GrowthLab and an expert in venture capital and private equity investing. Chris has also held investment positions within the hedge fund, real estate, and venture capital industries. Chris founded Map n Scale to leverage his background in investing and growing operating businesses. (First published on the Ladderworks website on June 24, 2021.)
© 2021 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jill Landis Jha. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s interviews of founders building a more equitable world here.