At last night’s StartOut gay entrepreneurs demo event, queer tech founders competed for venture capital attention in a warehouse in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood.
Entrepreneurs from 10 startups pitched to VCs including Dave McClure from 500 Startups and Andy Wheeler from Google Ventures. No one was granted money that night, but organizer Chris Sinton said the exposure to venture capitalists and other founders — nearly 200 showed up to watch — would help get the ball rolling for the companies.
StartOut and other minority affinity groups have grown this year, as more tech entrepreneurs, frustrated with the venture capital old boys’ networks, are looking to cultivate their own.
Michael Witbrock, who sits on the board of StartOut, watched from the back of the room. The next step in gay activism, he argued, will be through helping the gay community in Silicon Valley become richer and more powerful.
“There are things money can do that nothing else can,” said Witbrock, the vice president of research at artificial-intelligence company Cycorp. “This is a means for us as a community to empower ourselves financially. It’s about building people who have the resources to defend the community, who have the resources to buy those who would discriminate.”
So advancing gay rights is about money now?
“We don’t just need a place at the table,” Witbrock said. “Sometimes you need to buy the table.”