Chris Davidson: Security, Support, and Growth for LGBTQ + Entrepreneurs


Ladder work is a publishing platform for various picture books and online curricula with the aim of empowering over a million children to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring social entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship ecosystem builders who advance the UN SDGs.

Hello! It’s me, Spiffy, the interplanetary journalist who covers planet Earth with the latest insights into entrepreneurial ecosystems that are making a difference to the LGBTQ + community. Today’s rock star is Chris Davidson, who heads the GrowthLab at StartOut. Let’s see how he does it!

Fancy: Welcome Chris, it’s a pleasure to have you here today. I look forward to your inspiring work with StartOut. First of all, can you tell me about the challenges you are facing?

Chris: Thank you for hosting me, Spiffy! As a brief background, I am a board member of StartOut and head of the StartOut accelerator called GrowthLab. StartOut’s mission is to increase the number, diversity, and impact of LGBTQ + entrepreneurs, and to expand their stories to fuel community economic empowerment. StartOut has three main challenges that we are trying to address. First, the lack of safe space and community for LGBTQ + entrepreneurs. Second, the lack of access to corporate networks and resources for entrepreneurship, regardless of where founders live and where they are on their journey. And finally, the lack of role models and success stories.

Fancy: These are great challenges! What motivated you to build the platform for LGBTQ + entrepreneurs?

Chris: Great question! What motivates me is to be part of the playing field for underrepresented founders. A short story can help illustrate what I’m talking about. When I first started working with StartOut, I was giving advice to a colored trans woman on how to raise capital and she looked at me and said, “Your tactics are great. They’ll work great for a white man – but what about me? ”It was one of the most challenging and inspiring conversations I’ve had in my life. This encounter reminded me that access is not fair, that I am part of the problem and more need to be part of the solution.

Fancy: So how are you part of the solution? How are you specifically working to make the world a fairer place?

Chris: The StartOut GrowthLab is a perfect example of what we want to achieve. The Growth Lab is a six-month accelerator that supports five to eight promising LGBTQ + founders per cohort. Unlike most accelerators, GrowthLab has provided individual and bespoke growth plans and strategies for each company based on where the company is today and where it wants to be in six, 12 and 24 months. The # 1 aspect of GrowthLab by previous cohort members is a community of other LGBTQ founders, the safe space it creates and the support that space provides.

Fancy: Can you tell me about a recent milestone? What impact do you expect?

Chris: Working with Socos Labs and with support from JPMorgan Chase, StartOut released the first of our Inclusion Impact Indexes to provide insight into the economic impact of LGBTQ + entrepreneurs in terms of job creation, patents, funding and exits – and what those Metrics could be with equal access to critical resources such as funding. We can now quantify the impact of LGBTQ + founders as well as the unrealized potential of the LGBTQ + entrepreneurial community.

Fancy: That’s phenomenal, Chris! Before we opt out, can you tell me about a startup you’ve worked with that exemplifies the impact you want to make?

Chris: Absolutely, Spiffy. One example is Cerebral, a company that was in Cohort 6 of GrowthLab. Cerebral is a mental health startup that provides counseling, medication, and other mental health services. They recently announced that they had completed a round of $ 127 million on a valuation of $ 1.23 billion. Cerebral is the first StartOut unicorn and will be a role model for other LGBTQ + founders. As a quick contact point for the GrowthLab, we have so far supported 35 founders who have collected over 250 million US dollars in funding and created over 300 new jobs.

Fancy: Wow, Chris, the world is already looking brighter! Thank you for all the work you are doing to empower LGBTQ + entrepreneurs. It was an honor to speak to you today. End of the announcement!

Chris Davidson is the head of StartOuts GrowthLab and expert in venture capital and private equity investments. Chris has also held investment positions in the hedge fund, real estate, and venture capital industries. Chris founded Map n Scale to leverage his background in investing and growing operations. (First published on the Ladderworks website June 24, 2021.)

© 2021 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jill Landis Jha. Spiffy’s illustration from Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s interviews with founders building a fairer world Here.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


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