Black Founder Feature: Franck Marchis
By John Kregler, StartOut
Franck Marchis (he/him) considers himself a scientist-turned-entrepreneur. The three-year StartOut veteran came to our community with the goal of creating a product so accessible that anyone could be connected with their love for astronomy. He had the background and vision, and all he needed was the support to dive in.
In 2017 Franck co-found Unistellar, whose primary product — the eVscope — provides a smart, digital telescope solution that gives people instant access to the planets and stars. Ever since he was a child, Franck had a passion he knew he would want to share with the world.
At the beginning of his startup, Franck recognized that he needed specific business skills and connections that the scientific community couldn’t provide him. As a gay man of color, he sought out the help of a specific support circle that could provide him the community and know-how without facing biases because of his identity.
“As a scientist, there are very few people like me in the community,” Franck said. “The situation is getting better, but for so long we had moments of pure prejudice and no reference point to turn to. The world of entrepreneurship is better with a preference for young and diverse audiences, but we still face issues there as well. There are comments that suggest we need to justify who we are before we explain what we’re doing, especially in pitching situations. People often ask me about my accent before they ask about what I’m doing with Unistellar.”
What drew Franck into the StartOut world was the open sense of community and the focus on commonalities rather than differences. To Franck, the ability to connect without having to expand on his identity opened the door for more brainstorming and support opportunities.
He also believes that organizations like StartOut create a voice for the LGBTQ+ community that can serve as a spokesperson for the needs of all underrepresented founders and entrepreneurs. He’s seen firsthand how StartOut has been able to shed light on the unique challenges facing LGBTQ+ founders, and how the organization has helped change the minds and viewpoints of non-LGBTQ+ and non-BIPOC investors.
“I truly believe that the press is interested in hearing our stories because we all come from different backgrounds,” he said. “One of the greatest strengths that StartOut has is our national appeal. Our founders, mentors, investors, and staff are spread out across the country and this allows us to connect with people in so many different situations.”
Similarly, Unistellar operates with a worldwide ambition, selling their telescopes in the USA and Canada, and more recently in Australia, New Zealand and countries in Asia, South America, and Africa.
As a former recipient of the StartOut Black Founder Empowerment Initiative scholarship, Franck’s been able to make great progress towards his goal of uniting the world through outer space all while providing a key perspective for our community.
“We want to make astronomy accessible to everybody. And by putting in the work now and investing in a diverse and unique staff — especially those who are often overlooked or left out of the conversation — we’ll be able to fully connect with the world.”