By John Kregler, StartOut
Patrick Driscoll’s (He/Him) background is diverse and dynamic. After graduate school, Patrick joined the Peace Corps and volunteered his time in Senegal where he fell in love with empowering local entrepreneurs and training staff about the importance of diversity and inclusion. Volunteering in a country where homosexuality is illegal, he was motivated by the ability to change minds and provide safe-spaces for LGBTQ+ people.
From there, Patrick continued to work with entrepreneurs and investors throughout the United States, Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, and Southeast Asia with 500 Startups. He trained more than 100 emerging venture capitalists all over the globe in best practices, deal sourcing, and founder friendly practices. He’s also worked with the US Small Business Administration where he got a glance at public sector programs to empower entrepreneurship. As Patrick will say himself, his experiences in life have provided a diverse perspective that helps him support other founders and startups.
Today, Patrick serves as the Venture Lead for BMNT where he sourced and now manages a portfolio of 19 companies with $1 million investments in each. As our VC and Fundraising Programming Board chair, Patrick oversees one of the largest, and most diverse chapters of StartOut.
When did you join the StartOut Programming Board/journey with StartOut?
I joined back in 2019 after living in Mexico City for a bit of time. In my previous position with 500 Startups, part of my role was spotlighting the LGBTQ+ community so once I found out about StartOut, I knew I wanted to reach out to Andres and see how I could help. I also previously emceed the StartOut Demo Day in 2019 after a mutual friend on the board asked me to. From there, I joined the Los Angeles chapter in January of 2020 serving as the first chair. I fell in love with the mission and the people so it felt natural to get involved in more.
Early last year, we held an in-person event in partnership with Out in Tech where we got to meet and network with people face-to-face in LA and people absolutely loved it. We couldn’t wait until the next event but unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to shift our priorities. We had to pivot so quickly and deal with so many intricacies in response to the worldwide pandemic, and I’ll admit we were hesitant to see how effective online events would be. But once we crossed that hurdle and began providing new opportunities digitally, we started to pick up again.
We got to experiment with new digital campaigns like Sandra Sick’s Instagram Live series and opened up our events to anyone who could join us online. For once, we weren’t limited by our physical locations so that was really cool to see take shape.
How do you think your team as a whole reacted to the challenges of the pandemic?
Honestly, I want to brag about the 2020 Los Angeles chapter for a bit. We were able to achieve so many great things even with the hardships of the pandemic. We hosted the most events, had incredible sign-up and viewing numbers, and still got to promote new resources for founders. I honestly believe our team went above and beyond expectations in a virtual setting.
What are you most excited for with the future of the StartOut Programming Board?
This year we want to really focus on investor education. I come from an investor background and I understand the kinds of questions many founders have when it comes to getting these investors involved in their startups. And on the other side, we really want to target these big investors so that they feel motivated to support the LGBTQ+ community more. These are big questions that I want to help find answers to this year. How do you capture that communication for the queer community? How can we increase quality and deal flow to have people sign up for the investor portfolio? How can we teach founders to engage with these big funds who could support them?
I think that right now there’s a really good focus on diversifying portfolios and companies are taking Diversity and Inclusion initiatives seriously, but it hasn’t always been that way. It’s important that we don’t get complacent and that we keep fighting and working towards full equity in the VC space.
How has your experience been with the other members of the board?
When I first moved back to the states, my venture network was quite international. I had connections in the US, but my network exploded substantially once I got involved with the Board at StartOut. These other members are really such amazing people and leaders in the business space. I’ve been able to nurture and grow long lasting relationships that have substantially improved how I feel about the national ecosystem. When I first got to LA, I didn’t know anyone and the Board was there for me.
We have such a great diverse community of strong leaders who are smart and innovative, and understand what a difference something like StartOut can have. We’re a community even outside the professional space — we hang out and get together on Zoom. It’s not just a professional network, but rather we’re an all-inclusive community.