Venture Out is Canada's first conference for LGBTQA+ students interested in careers in tech and entrepreneurship.
We're bringing together LGBTQA+ students, startups, and entrepreneurs at MaRS Discovery District in order to build a national network within the LGBTQA+ tech and entrepreneurship community.
Venture out will provide a unique opportunity for students to connect with entrepreneurs and professionals in Toronto’s dynamic technology sector, providing the next generation of LGBTQA+ leaders with business education, mentorship and job opportunities.
Why does diversity matter in tech & entrepreneurship?
Workforce diversity is imperative, and results in better communication, innovation, collaboration, and improved outcomes overall for organizations. However, many tech startups are struggling to attract and retain a diverse workforce.
- Firms with a diverse set of leaders are 45% more likely to report market share growth and 70% more likely to secure a new market.
- Firms with diverse workforces are more creative, adaptable, and innovative. They also have greater productivity and organizational performance. Empirical research suggests that diverse teams are more likely to “think out of the box” and come up with innovative solutions.
- 37% of LGBT startup founders in the United States did not come out to their investors, and LGBT-founded companies raised 11% less capital than a sample of their non-LGBT peers.
Tech is critical to Canada's economy
In Canada, at least 218,000 tech jobs will be created between now and 2020 - yet there is a lack of qualified talent to fill them. Tech sector employees earned approximately $67,000 a year, compared to the national average of nearly $48,000.
Venture Out aims to educate LGBTQA+ students about the growth of digital jobs, and provide students with the opportunity to connect with today’s leaders.
The one-day conference at MaRS Discovery District on March 27th will bring together engaged LGBTQ+ youth in the spirit of entrepreneurship, and will host over 30 startups and 300+ attendees.
Workshops and panels will take place throughout the day, with speakers including:
- Johnathan Nightingale, Chief Product Officer at Hubba
- Larissa Holmes, VP Customer Development at Wirl
- Eva Wong, COO of Borrowell
- Avery Francis, Director of Talent at Rangle
- Laura Van Wyngaarden , COO at Dilligen
- Dave Simmons, SVP Engineering at Kik
- Mark Jaine, CEO of Intelex & President of AceTech Ontario
Companies will also have the opportunity to recruit top talent at the conference’s career fair.
When I first started volunteering with Start Proud in 2014, the organization was focused on corporate careers. But while helping students connect and explore careers to find their best fit in the corporate world, I was instead launching my own career at a tech startup. Students frequently asked me questions about what it was like to work at a smaller company.
Realizing that the audience was curious, we decided to pilot some entrepreneurship panels at the annual conference in 2011 – and were overwhelmed with the response.
Three years later, I connected with Ben Zifkin of Hubba, to share a vision: Canada's first LGBT conference for careers in tech and startups.
Immediately, Ben offered support from both himself and from Hubba as lead founding sponsor. With the confidence and connections that this lent us, we were ready to launch the Venture Out Conference!
- Albert Lam, President of Start Proud
I never saw myself as a “startup person” – the stories I heard about the tech industry never seemed to reflect me. When I attended an entrepreneurship panel of LGBTQ+ founders at an annual Start Proud conference in 2015, for the first time saw myself in the conversation around launching a career in tech.
It’s amazing to see this project come to fruition because we’re shining a spotlight on LGBTQ+ leaders in Canada’s tech industry, and encouraging other young people to consider careers in technology and entrepreneurship.
It’s an initiative that will help build a community and introduce LGTBQA+ youth to employers who want them to be themselves.
We’ve had an incredible amount of support from the Toronto community, both tech and LGBTQA+, and we’re committed to bringing the two together with Venture Out.
- Jeanette Stock, Chair of Venture Out
When I first started volunteering with Start Proud in 2015, I took on the role of Relationship Manager for our consulting and banking sponsors. Coming from the corporate world, I knew it well, but my career was shifting; I founded a tech company in 2015 and moved solidly into the world of technology sales and customer success.
I progressed at Start Proud to take responsibility for all our fundraising efforts nationally in 2016, and spoke with Albert about the feedback we received from students and companies alike to develop a space for LGBTQ+ inclusion in tech and entrepreneurship. I expanded my fundraising mandate to increase our initial sponsor base and worked with Jeanette to have her join onboard as the Founding Chair of Venture Out.
Now we are over 25 sponsors and I could not be more excited for the outpouring of support from the tech community. It really is a community that wants to have these conversations, and I’ve been in awe of how many people have reached out to be involved.
- Stefan Palios, Vice President - Sponsor Relations
About Start Proud
Venture Out is an initiative of Start Proud. Start Proud is a Canadian registered non-profit that provides resources and opportunities for LGTBQA+ students, young professionals, and pro-LGBTQA+ organizations across Canada.
Formerly known as Out on Bay Street, the non-profit provides members of the LBGTQA+ community with the necessary tools, resources and knowledge needed to transition through school to career. Start Proud works toward empowering institutions to embrace inclusiveness within the workplace and diversity within the workforce.
Get In Touch
For more information and interview requests, please contact:
For general inquiries, please contact the chair:
For sponsorship, please contact: