On June 28th, 1969, police raided The Stonewall Inn, a gay club in Greenwich Village in New York City. This moment would be the beginning of a six-day protest and riot and a significant catalyst for the gay rights movement in the United States and worldwide. The Stonewall Riots were an act of resistance against LGBTQ+ discrimination and the start of a liberation movement for silenced voices.
Fifty-three years later, underserved and underrepresented communities still face constant challenges to fundamental human rights. Sexism, homophobia, and unconscious biases still plague society on multiple levels, especially for black professionals, entrepreneurs, or leaders ( furthermore, those identifying as LGBTQIA+). These challenges are even more evident in the tech space. In recent years, diversity initiatives aiming to amplify the communities voice have emerged. However, it is still hard for LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs to raise money from early-stage angel and venture capital investors.
With June coming to a close, Pride is a reminder that whether it is 1969 or 2022, the fight for marginalized communities is still needed. Still, also it is a reminder to celebrate the individuals who serve as trailblazers within the community. There are many black trailblazers of today, and this post highlights black LGBTQIA+ founders, CEOs, and VCs that are paving the way in the business world and the tech industry.
Stephanie (Lampkin) VanPutten
Stephanie (Lampkin) VanPutten is the co-founder and CEO of Blendoor. Blendoor is a social impact and analytics company that utilizes people analytic software and inclusivity measures to build solutions that facilitate environmental, social, and governance advancements. Blendoor’s diversity rating metric “BlendScore,” along with their best practices, allows companies to hire based on merit, mitigate unconscious bias in hiring, and increase diversity.
As a Stanford engineer, MIT MBA graduate, and former slalom ski racer Stephanie Lampkin faced many barriers throughout her 18 years in tec. Stephanie met biases toward gaining entry-level opportunities at tech and VC firms. As a result, she made it a mission to eliminate market inefficiencies that limit opportunities for talented people and innovative firms.
Angelica Ross is the CEO and founder of TransTech Social Enterprises. The non-profit organization’s mission is to “empower, educate, and employ those facing barriers in education and the workplace.” Additionally, their goal is to reduce instances of discrimination, with a concentration on trans and gender non-conforming individuals.”. TransTech is a co-learning and co-working community that empowers trans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer people, and allies with practical, career-ready skills.
Many may know Angelic Ross from her breakthrough role as “Candy” in Ryan Murphy’s Award-Winning FX hit Pose. She also made television history as the first Trans person to star in two-season recurring roles consecutively when she joined the American Horror Story franchise in 2019. However, aside from trailblazing in multi-media mediums, Angelica is an activist, entrepreneur, and leader in the movement for Transgender and Racial Equity movement. Her ultimate goal is to bring economic empowerment to marginalized communities.
Chris Witherspoon is the founder and CEO of PopViewers. PopViewers is an app that helps consumers find what to watch next, react to the TV shows and movies, and encourages users to share the experience with fellow content-lovers. The overarching goal of the app is to bring back the voice of diverse everyday viewers and guide consumers in finding the content they will enjoy without extensive research.
In addition to being the founder of PopViewers, Chris is an entrepreneur, entertainment journalist, and film producer. He recognized that representation at the decision table is still a significant issue throughout his career. In a 2021 interview with The Daily Beast, Witherspoon said, “I attended advance screenings for new movies and TV shows. I would look around and quickly see that I was one of the only people of color in these crowded screening rooms. The fact is that most of the critics and decision-makers working for the major media publications and news outlets still don’t adequately reflect the consumers they are supposed to represent.” These kinds of experiences sparked the opportunity in a platform like PopViewers.
Arlan Hamilton is the co-founder and CEO of Backstage Capital. Backstage Capital is a VC firm that invests in unrepresented founders such as women, LGBTQ+ individuals, and people of color. Since founding in 2015, Backstage Capital has invested 20 million dollars in about 200 companies.
In addition to building a venture capital fund from the ground up while homeless, Arlan Hamilton is also the author of “It’s About Damn Time.” Her memoir details her early career and journey to start a VC fund. Despite the successes of Backstage Capital, Arlan states it is still challenging to raise money from institutional and corporate investors to invest in these startups.
Densil Porteous is the CEO of LOUD Capital’s Pride Fund 1. Pride Fund 1 is a venture capital vehicle that invests in LGBTQ+ founders and firms that cater to the community. The mission of Pride Fund 1 is to empower LGBTQ+/queer entrepreneurs, companies, investors, and communities through investment. The VC firm also aims to educate by cultivating knowledge and experiences for entrepreneurs and the community while inspiring founders through empowerment and community support.
With 20 years of experience in non-profit work on a local and national level. Aside from Pride Fund 1, Densil has an extensive career background in strategic marketing and communications, brand development, and community relations and has even served as an advisor to several early-stage and tech companies. Currently, Densil is also the Executive Director of Stonewall Columbus.
There are ways to Support LGBTQIA+ Community Year-Round
Advocacy, support, and allyship do not have to reduce to just one month. Furthermore, the fight for LGBTQ+ liberation and black liberation is lifelong. Examples of year-round support include but are not limited to:
- Stay informed about what is happening in the community
- Volunteer at LGBTQIA+ organizations or non-profit organizations
- Donate to a black-led LGBTQIA+ organization
- Support queer authors as well as stories that amplify black queer voices.
- Support black and queer-owned business
- Educate yourself and take action as you deem fit (protests aren’t for everyone…and that’s okay).
There are many ways to support black LGBTQ entrepreneurs and creators in and out of the tech space year-round. The individuals listed above are just a few of many CEOs and founders within the black and LGBTQIA+ community.