The tech world is a place where entrepreneurs are constantly starting businesses and creating new and innovative products; creative, up-and-coming LGBTQ+ entrepreneurship is on the rise as more queer people feel safe and welcome in the tech community; the path to success, however, hasn’t been easy. How has the LGBTQ+ community created a community that is intertwined with the tech sector? And how has this led them to further triumph?
History of LGBTQ+ and Tech
The LGBTQ+ community has had a special relationship with the internet since its creation; its principal use was to safely connect people on online forums, groups, and communities. Anonymity was important for people during a time when most people didn’t feel safe sharing their sexual orientation and/or gender. Through meeting online and creating groups and communities over the internet, the LGBTQ+ community persevered by relying on one another and also set a precedent for future generations of LGBTQ+.
Founding these groups was also majorly important for the dissemination of information and online support during the devastating AIDS epidemic during the ‘90s. Not only did medical organizations provide crucial health information, but also individuals could join the fight through fundraising efforts to further support the community. Continuing into the 90s and 00s, websites and social media elevated LGBTQ+ publications and voices, providing them the opportunity to occupy more space and share their identity more freely and proudly.
Similarly to online communities and social media, the creation of dating websites such as Gaydar, Adam4Adam, and even Craigslist and later on the invention of apps such as Grindr and Scruff allowed people to connect quickly and directly. As progress and acceptance increased, people felt more comfortable with both finding their matches, but also being more visible on dates, showing the validity of their love.
Moving into the 2010s and beyond, many tech companies embraced the LGBTQ+ collective both internally and externally; they knew that they would bring innovative ideas and mindsets to their companies as employees and at the same time, support them in a variety of ways, such as:
Sponsorship for Pride events
Employee resource groups
Diversity and inclusion initiatives
Training and sensitivity programs
Supporting the LGBTQ+ community and providing these initiatives, training, and policies, companies both big and small do their part and give back to the community. Some of these LGBTQ-friendly tech companies include:
Although these tech companies are some of the biggest ones out there, there are a lot of smaller tech businesses that LGBTQ+ people founded and run which deserve to be highlighted as well. Some of these smaller companies in the LGBTQ tech industry include:
All companies have their beginnings as startups and entrepreneurship entails helping them grow from a financial deficit into a profit. But what are the risks that LGBTQ+ people face beyond the typical challenges they’re met with? And what are some of their successes and achievements? Let’s dive in:
LGBTQ+ Challenges in Tech
Bias and discrimination
Although many strides have been made in terms of LGBTQ+ rights and visibility, there are still people that have their biases and discriminate against the community. Discrimination can rear its ugly head when entrepreneurs are trying to secure funding and partnerships or even when looking for mentors that could reach out a helping hand.
How can LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs battle discrimination and bias? The answer lies in the abilities that make a true entrepreneur fantastic: patience, determination, and networking. With both patience and determination, LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs will keep moving forward and use their networking skills to reach not only allies, but also their LGBTQ+ teammates that will help them achieve the funding and partnership opportunities.
Access to capital
What does every entrepreneur need to make a company grow and become profitable? Capital–and lots of it. When LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs are building their company, they may face difficulties in securing capital, especially when dealing with investors that may not understand their project or even judge it.
LGBTQ+ entrepreneurships may be presenting a business or product that is geared towards a specific aspect of LGBTQ+ life, such as an app that supports users in transitioning or a dating app that requires more of an understanding of what it means to be a part of the community. LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs may not be able to convince their investors to back them, which can be a limiting factor to locking down the first investors that will give a kickstart to the entrepreneur’s product or business.
Where would it be best to look for capital? There are many potential investors who will see the great value in their business proposals, but it just means that the entrepreneur needs to focus on those who would understand the product or business: other members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Lack of representation
The world of LGBTQ+ tech is steadily growing but since this is a relatively new part of the tech world, LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs are still finding their places. As they continue to pop up and grow their companies and startups, it may be difficult to find mentors that take you under their wings.
Luckily though, there are many opportunities to network with other queer tech professionals at LGBTQ tech conferences. Bolstering more than 20 years of events is the Out and Equal Summit, where both LGBTQ+ professionals and allies can attend workshops and learn how to make their businesses more inclusive. You may not find the perfect mentor, but at the very least you can connect with other professionals who will be great sources of support.
In addition to LGBTQ+ tech conferences, LGBTQ tech organizations provide professionals with a formidable networking opportunity. Some of these organizations are:
LGBTQ+ Successes in Tech
Building inclusive platforms
Have you ever felt like social networks don’t protect you from haters, trolls, and bigots? For queer folks, building safe spaces for people to express themselves and connect with others is essential; this need for a safe, inclusive space can be seen on not only dating apps, but also social networks. For example, since most social media platforms have failed at properly creating a safe space for LGBTQ+ people, Hornet, the world’s largest queer tech platform, developed its own social media platform called Spaces. Just like other social media platforms, it provides users with the opportunity to socialize and form bonds in a safe, protected space.
Have you ever had a teacher say to you try thinking outside of the box or turn that idea on its head? Just like teachers with their students, companies want to inspire their employees to innovate and create new projects and build a stronger and more valuable business. This type of creativity is born in new perspectives and the LGBTQ+ community has a more unique way of seeing and experiencing the world.
How does this look? LGBTQ+ folks have lived in a heteronormative society their entire lives and by leading a lifestyle that does not follow that mold, they have more freedom to make different choices outside of societal pressures. As a result, LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs can also take these other choices, build upon them, and create new businesses and products that cater to them. The possibilities are endless for innovative and unique ideas.
Advocacy and community building
We are stronger together than apart; this is an important reality for the LGBTQ+ community and in this case, it has been crucial for the advancement of LGBTQ+ rights in the tech world. LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs have advocated for achieving not only visibility for the community, but also diversity, inclusion, and equality. Organizing events, engaging in community building, and encouraging initiatives that provide support for LGBTQ+ professionals and startups are just some ways to support the queer community. Others include:
Seeking out LGBTQ+ tech jobs
Planning networking opportunities
Coordinating alongside LGBTQ+ organizations
Awareness and visibility campaigns
Creating resource sharing platforms
Establishing mentorship programs
The challenges that LGBTQ+ entrepreneurships have confronted have made them stronger and more resilient and their successes prove that they are making their mark on the tech world; LGBTQ+ tech is here to stay as more companies and startups move forward, embrace the community, and create more opportunities for LGBTQ+ professionals.
If you are an LGBTQ+ professional interested in working in the tech world and making your mark on LGBTQ+ tech, check out Ironhack’s courses and sign up. LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs want people like you to form part of their.