Nonprofit ‘LGBT+ VC’ advances the LGBT+ venture capital community


Courtesy of LGBT+ VC

Jack Lehane

LGBT+ VC made history as the first nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing venture capitalists within the LGBTQ+ and ally community.

With a long-term goal of partnering with 10,000 LGBTQ+ and allied investors by the end of the year, LGBT+ VC has both aspiring entrepreneurs and legacy venture capital firms excited for the nonprofit’s future.

Students and alumni of Baruch College stood among several prominent LGBTQ+ startup founders, investors, politicians and donors in celebration of a much-needed shift within the venture capital community when the organization celebrated its launch at the New York headquarters of Netflix Inc. on March 29.

Jackson Block, who co-founded LGBT+ VC, told The Ticker that there was an “abundance of joy and self-expression” during the event, highlighting how the LGBTQ+ venture community is progressing from “panic to pride to prosperity” following the passage of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in other states.

Coming from a family that consists of CUNY alumni and public educators, Block studied business at the University of California, Berkeley. He learned about entrepreneurship and taught a course on venture capital principles during his sophomore year.

Block then worked at a social enterprise and startup accelerator before finding his way to Colorful Capital, an early-stage venture capital firm with a focus on companies run by LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs. It was at this Chicago-based organization where he met future LGBT+ VC co-founder, Tiana Tukes.

“[Tukes] represents what venture capital should be,” Block said, adding that he is “continuously impressed by her vision.”

Through their work at the firm, Block and Tukes were compelled to take action. They wanted to move the needle for the venture community, which has been silent in regard to LGBTQ+ issues. These include drag bans, anti-transgender health-care legislation, equal protection of credit under the law and investment in businesses founded by members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Additionally, the co-founders’ motivation was bolstered by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proclamation to honor Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31, 2022. During this year’s proclamation, the governor told the community that “we see you, we value you,” echoing the sentiments the nonprofit wants to instill in its clients.

Block said that public education is essential to the success of venture capital firms. He encouraged aspiring LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs and investors to “find a co-founder, partner, ally or anyone who can energize and support you.”

He also emphasized the increasing importance of unity for LGBTQ+ individuals within the venture capital space. He said LGBT+ VC welcomes all aspiring and active investors, including students.

In the era in which the discriminatory “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy still casts its shadow over the venture capital community, many entrepreneurs are left out of certain opportunities and support systems.

Indy Sanders is the founder of PerformVu, a streaming platform that facilitates a digital home for experimental performance art. They highlighted to the Ticker the existence of initiatives within the venture community geared toward women and how these events “exclude queer or non-binary founders.” 

“There are a lot of challenges, particularly for gender non-conforming founders [in venture capital],” Sanders told The Ticker.

Having been present at the nonprofit’s launch, Sanders said for investors and entrepreneurs alike, LGBT+ VC will be like a “breath of fresh air.” 

They added that they saw LGBT+ VC to be the first organization that is really focused on “building more LGBT+ awareness within the investor community” while simultaneously giving LGBTQ+ founders the “platform to succeed in their search for funding.”

LGBT+ VC will host its VC Summit in New York in June and looks forward to continuing to shift the venture ecosystem one day at a time.