Silicon Valley’s full of people from all walks of life, but very little of its wealth is distributed evenly, especially when we’re talking about the LGBTQ+ community.
Currently, it’s estimated that less than 1% of venture capital goes to openly LGBTQ+ founders. There are no numbers on how much of that capital goes specifically to trans founders or how many investors identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community. What is known is that LGBTQ+ founders still feel the need to hide their identity from investors.
Enter LGBT+ VC, a nonprofit organization that aims to advance LGBTQ+ and LGBTQ+-allied venture investors. Launched by investors Tiana Tukes, a Black trans woman who has worked at Accenture, Sequoia Capital and Silicon Valley Bank, and Jackson Block, a former early-stage investor who identifies as bisexual, the nonprofit hopes to foster a new generation of inclusivity within the venture ecosystem by cultivating and educating investors to champion and accept LGBTQ+ founders and funders.
To that end, LGBT+ VC plans to run networking events, conferences and education classes for the LGBTQ+ community to help them learn how to become accredited investors, one of many steps needed to change the mindset and add more intersectionality within venture theses.
“We are trying to change who is an investor and who these founders can have opportunities with,” Block told TechCrunch+.
“The best investors right now are investing in LGBTQ-founded companies,” Tukes added. “Open AI is a prime example. That, to me, is the hot-ticket company at the moment.”
The initiative comes amidst a historic wave of hate being directed at the LGBTQ+ community in the U.S., with anti-trans legislation sweeping the country and crimes against the LGBTQ+ community increasing nationwide. In fact, Tukes and Block were inspired to launch the nonprofit after the Colorado Springs nightclub shooting late last year, which saw a gunman target the only LGBTQ+ club in the city and murder five people.
“It was really difficult to see the silence of the venture community,” Block told TechCrunch+. “Tiana and I came together, and we thought, ‘where can we make a difference?’”
That resulted in the duo tapping into their networks and assessing the relationship the LGBTQ+ community currently has with the tech ecosystem. So far, Tukes says the reception has been warm and the nonprofit has managed to attract investors from a few law and accounting firms as well as banks and larger tech companies.
On June 19 and June 20, the nonprofit will host its first summit in New York City, dubbed Stonewall to Silicon Valley. This is all part of a larger mission to change what it means to be a venture capitalist. I recently sat down with the two investors to talk about their nonprofit, how they started it and their plans to build a network of allies.
(Editor’s note: The interview below has been edited for length and clarity)
Why did you decide to launch this nonprofit together, and how did you know now was the time to take the risk?
Jackson Block: There’s a huge opportunity hiding in plain sight. Twenty percent of Gen Z identifies as LGBTQ+. Moreover, according to Gallup, the LGBTQ+ community is one of the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. population. That’s a market opportunity.
Tiana Tukes: Our mission is to help all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and queer people prosper. In U.S. history, in particular, there are moments, particularly in the civil rights movement, where Black leaders and Jewish leaders [Block is Jewish] came together in times of crisis for social advancement. We see this as a continuation of that legacy first and, secondly, as part of our LGBTQ+ history.