Startup & StartOut: Researching and Empowering LGBTQ Entrepreneurs

As of 2022, there are 1.4 million LGBTQ business owners in the United States, contributing $1.7 trillion annually to the national economy. LGBTQ entrepreneurs often find themselves navigating a system that perpetuates inequalities, limiting access to the necessary financial resources to thrive and succeed. In honor of Pride Month, I wanted to share some research findings on the LGBTQ community and resources for queer entrepreneurs.

  1. Out of $2.1 trillion dollars of funding tracked after the year 2000, only 0.5% of all the funding raised for startups went to LGBTQ entrepreneurs. The nationwide LGBTQ+ population stands at 7.1%.  
  2. The average LGBTQ+ entrepreneur created more jobs (+36%), patents (+114%), and exits (+44%) with less funding (-16%) as compared with the average entrepreneur.
  3. Of the funding raised by LGBTQ founders, there is a large discrepancy by location: 85% was raised in only 5 metros (San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, Austin, and Boston). And founders in San Francisco received 6 times more funding than New York and Los Angeles.
  4. The largest entrepreneurial metros without identifyable LGBTQ founders are Orlando (FL), Charlotte (NC), and Birmingham (AL). These metros are located in states without comprehensive non-discrimination policies for LGBTQ people.

Tracking and reporting of this LGBTQ data is necessary; without data, it’s difficult to estimate the impacts of discrimination in the entrepreneurship and investment space. To combat this prejudice, StartOut, a national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization was founded in 2009. We support LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs in starting and growing new companies while engaging entrepreneurs as role models and mentors. 

The StartOut Growth Lab is a startup accelerator that provides mentoring, education, and networking opportunities for companies founded or co-founded by LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs. The idea was first formulated on the back of a napkin over dinner at a restaurant in San Francisco:  the objective was to establish a program that supports queer founders in scaling their businesses through a cohort-based approach.

Since its launch in 2018, the Growth Lab has worked with 65 companies, raising over $763 million in funding and generating more than 3,650 jobs. During their time in the cohort, founders receive bespoke business support, planning, and advice tailored to meet their company’s needs based on the industry and stage of the company. A unique curriculum has been curated and delivered via weekly lunch and learn sessions with industry expert speakers. Additional benefits include free legal consultations provided by DLA Piper, expert office hours on 7 key business topics, mentorship, perks, and more.

The Growth Lab accepts companies from various backgrounds and industries, as it is industry-agnostic. Here’s a few companies that have participated in the Growth Lab:

  • Rain Neuromorphics creating brain-scale artificial intelligence
  • Carbon Reform reducing CO2 in commercial buildings through a retrofittable and modular carbon capture device called the Carbon Capsule
  • Kyndoo curing fraud in the influencer marketing industry with data intelligence
  • Zeguro offering cybersecurity and cyber insurance solution for small and mid-sized businesses
  • inKind connecting 250,000+ high-spend guests with 800+ of the best restaurants in the country through a restaurant marketplace

Applications for the next cohort are now open! If you wish to apply, please complete the application before the end of June at

Happy Pride!

About the Author

Irene Tang (she/they) is an accomplished Program Director at StartOut, a leading national nonprofit accelerating LGBTQ+ entrepreneurship. Irene oversees research and insights on queer entrepreneurs’ impact on the United States economy. Irene has spoken about LGBTQ entrepreneurship at the US Census Bureau, the Department of Commerce, and other organizations and foundations. Prior to StartOut, Irene gained extensive experience managing programs at Google and CBS Interactive. Irene also leads the nonprofit project Nice Queer Pals, a sober-friendly LGBTQ space that creates positive community through sports and outdoor activities. Irene holds dual BA’s in Economics and Psychology from the University of California – Berkeley, and a Product Management certification from the Haas School of Business.

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