StartOut Founders Over 45: Daniel Bort and HappiTV’s mission to change queer media
By John Kregler, StartOut
Our goal at StartOut is clear — we’re going to do whatever it takes to make sure that LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs thrive in the startup world.
Whether it’s through mentoring and fostering educational opportunities, connecting founders to investors and funding, or simply providing the space to grow and feel supported, we’re there.
And a critical component of that goal is serving the intersectionality within our organization. Whether you identify as BIPOC, Latinx, Native or indigenous, neurodivergent, or any underrepresented group, you have a place with us.
This month, we’ve met with some of our founders over 45 to learn more about their journeys in entrepreneurship. In partnership with AARP, StartOut is proud to offer 12-month scholarships for seasoned entrepreneurs to ensure that everyone, no matter where they are in life, can have the same opportunities to succeed.
One of those recipients is none other than Daniel Bort. Daniel (he/him) is the President of HappiTV, a streaming platform and community built for LGBTQ+ content creators and audiences. With over three decades of working in entertainment, Daniel’s startup is backed with experience, dedication, and undeniable passion.
Daniel, could you walk us through how you got to be where you are today?
I’m originally from Venezuela but I moved to New York City in 1997 for school. At that point, I was broke and needed a job so I applied for a small ad position at a company called LGNY (Lesbian and Gay New York). Getting that role was so critical in my long-term career because it was the first time I was working authentically as a gay man. From that point on, I never wanted to sacrifice who I was in my work.
I worked for a long time in multiple areas of the entertainment industry — everywhere from development and production to writing and casting. Around 18 years ago, I got into international distribution and started to find my passion for foreign films and TV shows. I’ve spent the last 20 years in Los Angeles learning and growing professionally and it’s something I plan on continuing to do.
What motivated you to start HappiTV, and what’s your overall goal with the company?
I think I always knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur one day. During the pandemic when work had slowed down, I found myself getting bored and having the time to invest in myself. On top of it, I knew that there was a gap in the media market serving the LGBTQ+ audience. That’s when a friend of mine encouraged me to start my own channel.
In July of 2021, we launched HappiTV to bring together LGBTQ+ content in a singular space. We host films, TV series, shorts, and any and all content that appeals to our audience. Our biggest goal is to create a platform that puts power in the hands of queer content creators. We strive to offer a place where everyone feels like they belong.
What challenges have you faced since launching?
Every founder knows how hard it is to get started. The costs of production, marketing, and sourcing can be overwhelming without investor support. We’ve been successful in entering, but sometimes investors don’t believe in the power of the LGBTQ+ marketplace. So we want to prove them wrong.
On top of that, queer content is still not easy to find. There are many LGBTQ+ movies out there, but we need more content creators. And with our platform, we’re hoping to bring more of them into the spotlight.
What does it mean to be a founder at 50?
With my age comes over 33 years of industry experience. The startup world is not just for younger folks and that’s what I’m hoping to make people see. People like me bring years of trials and errors, wins and losses, and long-standing connections. It wasn’t until joining StartOut that I realized how powerful and humbling it was to be a founder at 50. I’m embarking on a new venture like everyone else is and I treat everything like a learning experience. I’m proud of who I am and what I’ve done and that keeps me going.
How’d you first hear about StartOut, and what compelled you to join our community?
I first learned about StartOut when the organization launched in 2009. At that time I was still making movies and didn’t necessarily see a fit with the work I was doing. But then when I decided to launch HappiTV, I instantly remembered StartOut and reached out for support. Since then, I’ve been part of the mentorship program, attended events, and have plans to apply for the Growth Lab. It’s truly been one of the most rewarding experiences as a founder.
What’s next for you and HappiTV?
We’re about to launch a crowdfunding campaign which will be huge. We’re also in talks with many brands about sponsorship options. Later this year, we’re launching our flagship show called ‘We Are the Mekahels’ which we’re incredibly excited about.
Most importantly, I’m looking forward to changing the way we interact with queer media. When we as a community come together and recognize the power of our dollars, we’re an unstoppable force.