Patrick Driscoll: Empowering, Supporting, and Guiding LGBTQ+ Founders to Success
Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Hi everyone, Spiffy here, your one and only interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth. I’m thrilled to be talking to Patrick Driscoll, an entrepreneur working to make the world a better place through his General Partner work with Chasing Rainbows. Are you ready to be enlightened?
Spiffy: Thank you for joining us all the way from San Francisco today, Patrick! What challenge are you addressing at Chasing Rainbows?
Patrick: It’s a pleasure to be here, Spiffy—thanks for having me! Did you know that LGBTQ+ founders are often overlooked and underfunded? They face an increasingly uphill battle to succeed in the competitive startup ecosystem. Stories of getting kicked out of families and friend groups simply for being a member of the queer community are commonplace. With these hardships, however, tenacity, drive, and a disruptive mindset are inherently planted and fostered. Chasing Rainbows aims to tap into this underlying resiliency in the LGBTQ+ founder community. We provide capital to companies that cannot rely on “friends and family” due to hatred or bigotry. Via our founder playbook and mentor-driven approach to portfolio management, we also provide support and guidance to these founders to get them to the next tier of funding.
Spiffy: What motivated you to do it?
Patrick: I have been in the global entrepreneurship ecosystem for more than a decade. Truth be told, I have witnessed general bigotry in the entrepreneurship and VC industry firsthand, specifically for the LGBTQ+ community. Backstage Capital estimates that LGBTQ+ founders receive less than 1% of all VC funding. StartOut’s SPEII estimates that more than one third of LGBTQ+ founders choose to keep their sexual orientation hidden. Fortunately, there have been amazing investment leaders who have launched funds targeting overlooked opportunities, specifically for women, people of color, veterans, and more. However, when I sought out an early-stage fund focused on the LGBTQ+ ecosystem, there was a staggeringly small amount of options.
Spiffy: Can you elaborate on how you and Chasing Rainbows are working towards a more equitable world?
Patrick: Chasing Rainbows is founded and led by LGBTQ+ VC leaders with more than 20 years of combined experience. It has cultivated relationships with LGBTQ+ communities like StartOut, Gaingels, Out Investors, and more. We are economically empowering founders through access to capital, providing impactful mentor opportunities, and allowing for queer investors to break into VC as limited partners. We want to combat imposter syndrome and fear of rejection by validating our community. Our fund will invest in 50-75 early-stage startups. In addition to this capital, we will set up a KPI-driven acceleration plan where we pair our portfolio companies up with mentors. We will then pass them to the next tier of investors from our network.
Spiffy: That sounds fantastic! Tell me about a recent organizational milestone or initiative, and the impact it makes on your community.
Patrick: We are in the midst of fundraising for the $10 million fund I. Our most recent milestone is closing on our first group of limited partners (LPs). This is especially important as most of these LPs have never invested in VC before. This required general VC education to ensure that they understood timelines and managed expectations accordingly. We also realized that LGBTQ+ angels and high-net-worth individuals were going to be a huge part of our story, specifically those driven by impact in addition to financial returns. We are leveraging their commitment to empowering their LGBTQ+ community to speak with institutional investors, family offices, and funds of funds. We are on a roll.
Spiffy: Definitely sounds like it! I’d love to hear about an inspiring startup that your organization has helped to advance its impact.
Patrick: Mate Fertility is a group of expert fertility providers and operators whose goal is to make the path to parenthood accessible and achievable. Mate partners with experienced ObGyn surgeons to provide expert and affordable fertility care with the oversight of board-certified reproductive endocrinologists and Ph.D. lab directors. We were immediately blown away by the CEO Traci Keen's leadership, intelligence, and drive. We are strong believers in the mission of Mate and were impressed with their traction, team, and go-to-market strategy. We also had a mentor, Kellie King, who successfully ran a franchise model company that aligned perfectly with Mate’s business. With the capital allocated and the mentor selected, we are off to the races.
Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience before we wrap this up?
Patrick: If you would like to be a positive change agent for the LGBTQ+ startup community, let us know. We are happy to discuss investment, mentorship, partnership, and more. Contact email@example.com for more information.
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Patrick—it’s been an honor!
Patrick Driscoll joined Chasing Rainbows as a General Partner after leading initiatives for LGBTQ+ investors and startups in the US, Africa, Latin America, and Europe for more than a decade. Patrick is the chair of StartOut’s VC and Fundraising board of 15 diverse entrepreneurs and investors. Before joining Chasing Rainbows, Patrick led an acceleration program for BMNT, deploying $1 million checks. In addition to his role at Chasing Rainbows, Patrick is a Venture Capital Product Marketing Lead at Carta. (First published on the Ladderworks website on January 12, 2023.)
© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.