Member Spotlight: Chasing Rainbows

For this deep dive, we spoke to General Partners, Patrick Driscoll and Ben Stokes at Chasing Rainbows.

Tell us about your firm. What makes it different:

Chasing Rainbows is a venture capital fund led by award-winning General Partners Ben Stokes and Patrick Driscoll. We specialize in early-stage investments in companies founded by LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs. Our mission is to facilitate early access to capital for LGBTQ+ founders who have been historically underestimated, with the goal of delivering exceptional returns to investors while fostering a more diverse and inclusive entrepreneurial landscape. For context, LGBTQ+ founders receive less than 0.5% of VC capital, yet significantly outperform their peers in exits, jobs created, and patents filed. 

Chasing Rainbows goes beyond just providing financial support. We offer mentorship, coaching, assistance setting strategic key performance indicators (KPIs), and introductions to valuable customer and investor networks. We are also a nexus of other LGBT ecosystem leaders, bringing together fund managers, corporates, government leaders, family offices, and more to support portfolio companies. At Chasing Rainbows, we strongly believe in the potential and determination of LGBTQ+ founders, who often encounter significant hurdles in securing funding due to systemic biases within the venture capital industry.

What defines your portfolio?

Our portfolio is characterized by LGBTQ+ led teams, and we take great pride in the pipeline we’ve built since the inception of Chasing Rainbows, which has gained significant momentum as we expanded our brand across the ecosystem. We have successfully attracted numerous LGBTQ+ founded companies, and have partnered with several reputable VC funds and ecosystem leaders who have approached us with well-vetted investment opportunities. As a result, our portfolio is exceptionally diverse, representing the full spectrum of the LGBTQ+ community.

In terms of sectors, we’ve observed many founders focusing on climate, fintech, medtech, and edtech, with a growing interest in AI solutions. Our thematic approach of investing in LGBTQ+-founded companies has created a flywheel effect, attracting LGBTQ+ LPs and creating a significant impact across the entire LGBTQ+ community.

Tell us about the current VC landscape in your geography/region.

Over the past decade, the LGBTQ+ founder community has seen remarkable growth. Organizations such as StartOut, Gaingels, Out in Tech, and Lesbians Who Tech have laid the groundwork, empowering founders to build companies without the constant fear of discrimination based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression. Today, we are witnessing the positive outcomes of these initiatives. LGBTQ+ founders can now dedicate their efforts to developing and scaling sustainable world-changing businesses, rather than constantly grappling with the fear of being exposed or marginalized. While challenges persist, the increased visibility of successful queer entrepreneurs inspires new generations of leaders to embark on their entrepreneurial journeys, which we at Chasing Rainbows are proud to be part of.
We find ourselves at a critical juncture where specialized LGBTQ+ venture capital funds like Chasing Rainbows can thrive due to the substantial growth in the pool of investable LGBTQ+ founders. Notably, these founders have demonstrated remarkable performance, boasting 44% more successful exits, generating 36% more job opportunities, and filing 114% more patents compared to their non-LGBTQ+ counterparts (StartOut SPEII 2023).

What are the benefits of being an NVCA member?

 NVCA offers us several valuable advantages. First and foremost is the sense of validation it brings. In the highly competitive VC landscape, associating with a prestigious organization like NVCA lends industry credibility. This recognition becomes especially advantageous when we’re raising new funds and engaging with ambitious founders and fellow investment firms.

Furthermore, we are committed to driving positive change for the marginalized LGBTQ+ community. NVCA holds substantial influence and connections in both Washington, D.C. and the broader venture ecosystem. This provides us with opportunities to connect with influential leaders which may be instrumental in unlocking opportunities that benefit the entire LGBTQ+ community.

Finally, with the backing of a respected VC institution like NVCA, we can advocate for LGBTQ+ data collection practices. This support incentivizes our peers to embrace more inclusive approaches in their diligence processes and portfolio management, promoting greater industry diversity and equity.

What’s ahead for your firm in 2024?  

Our goal is to establish a firm that encourages more LGBTQ+ investors to join the venture capital arena, while simultaneously demonstrating to other investors that startups founded by LGBTQ+ individuals yield higher returns on investment compared to their peers. We aim to swiftly launch our initial fund, paving the way for the creation of Fund II and the expansion of our team, which will help us diversify our platform offerings.

Additionally, we intend to collaborate with various stakeholders in the ecosystem, including fellow venture capital firms, non-profit organizations like StartOut, and government agencies, to enhance data collection practices for the LGBTQ+ community. Our aspiration is to serve as a catalyst for the entire ecosystem, a necessary endeavor as the LGBTQ+ population grows with each new generation. Currently, Gen Z and Alpha are nearing 30% who identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community.

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