Spiffy here! I’m back with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only Interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Sarah Burgaud, Director of Programs and Partnerships at StartOut. Let’s see what she is doing to make a positive impact in the world.
Spiffy: Welcome, Sarah! I’m really excited to finally have the chance to sit down and talk to you. It’s Pride Month! Can you tell me about your work and the challenges you’re addressing?
Sarah: Thanks so much for inviting me, Spiffy! I’d love to. StartOut’s mission is to increase the number, diversity, and impact of LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs. We are the champion for undiscovered visionaries in the LGBTQ+ business community. We aim at levelling the playing field so that all entrepreneurs can have a seat at the table, focusing on LGBTQ+ founders.
Spiffy: Sounds amazing so far! What motivated you to focus on equalizing the entrepreneurial playing field for LGBTQ+ founders?
Sarah: I love the work that we do as I believe that becoming a successful entrepreneur should not be reserved for the highly connected or those who already look the part. I also love how we bring the community together and create safe spaces for LGBTQ+ founders to be themselves and thrive.
Spiffy: Everyone needs to be free to be who they are! Can you tell me more about how you are working to make the world a more equitable place?
Sarah: Well, Spiffy, we provide direct individual support to LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs so that they can grow their business, scale faster, and find a community that truly champions their success. In addition, we create spaces and events for the LGBTQ+ community to connect. For example, we connect LGBTQ entrepreneurs to investors via our Demo Day event coming up on June 22, 2021.
Spiffy: Has StartOut reached any milestones that you’re particularly proud of?
Sarah: We recently accepted eight new founders to join the 8th cohort of the StartOut Growth Lab, our six-month accelerator program. That is one of the most exciting programs we run. Since our founding, the 33 graduated startups that went through the program have raised $160 million in funding and created over 250 new jobs. Beyond the incredible economic impact, the founders we have been supporting are exceptional business leaders who are the role models of tomorrow and can inspire LGBTQ youth to become entrepreneurs.
Spiffy: Can you tell me about a startup or project you’ve worked with that exemplifies the impact you’re striving to make?
Sarah: As an organization that has diversity and inclusion at the root of its mission, we want to create diverse and equitable spaces where all members of the LGBTQ+ community can thrive. In order to better support women and gender non-conforming founders within the LGBTQ community, we have set-up full scholarships to make sure everyone can have access. It is crucial to be very intentional about this and to work with amazing community leaders who are sharing the same goals. In the process, I have been very fortunate to work with organizations like SoGal, Hello Alice, FlIK, SheWorx, and others, who are doing an amazing job supporting underrepresented founders.
Spiffy: People in the entrepreneurial field are always learning, right? What is something unexpected you’ve learned from recently?
Sarah: We recently got the opportunity to meet with the team in person. One of our team members reminded us that it is crucial sometimes to “stop and smell the roses”. We have been through a lot, both as an organization but also in our personal lives, and it is important to step back for a minute and celebrate the impact and the results of the work we do everyday.
Spiffy: Before we sign off, is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Sarah: The stories you hear shape your vision of the world, of what is possible and what is not. In that context, in a world where we spend more and more time watching media and entertainment, media representation is critical. A lot of inspiration can be triggered by making sure uncommon stories are being told. I love working on making sure that queer entrepreneurship stories are being told and shared with the world!
Spiffy: Keep sharing those stories, Sarah, they are so important. Thank you for taking time to step back from your work to tell me all about it. It’s been an honor!
Sarah Burgaud leads Programs and Partnerships at StartOut, an organization supporting LGBTQ+ founders. Sarah previously worked as the COO at CALSO, a nonprofit organization supporting social entrepreneurs. Before moving to the Bay Area in 2014, Sarah managed incubation programs for social entrepreneurs in more than eight countries. Prior to her international work, Sarah worked as an investment officer in an impact investing firm in Europe. She holds a master’s degree in finance from Sciences Po Paris. (First published on the Ladderworks website on June 2, 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.