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The First-Ever Meet-Up of Gay Designtrepreneurs

Stop trying to make "designtrepreneur" happen.

Gay Designpreneurs/Josh Silverman

A Venn diagram of identities converged for the first time (officially, at least) in tech-centric San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood last night: Gay/designer/entrepreneurs.


“For entrepreneurs, design is really important. And for design, entrepreneurs are really important,” said the event’s organizer, Josh Silverman. “And gays, we’re just everywhere.”

The evening, sponsored by queer entrepreneur organization StartOut, centered around a panel who spoke about how their professional and personal identities converged — usually to great success.

Nick Hodulik said his design firm grew to 55 employees and was bought by GoPro, in large part because he could marry his boyfriend (“and find that stability for risk-taking”). Aaron Zinman, founder of big-data startup Empirical, said being gay was a common denominator that brought him together with other entrepreneurs that he wouldn’t have otherwise met. “It’s the most basic network,” he said, “the common denominator.”

Afterward, the 50 or so attendees mingled over dolmas and hummus. Many said they felt that the experience of coming out matched up with their experiences of being entrepreneurs (risking it all for great reward) and designers (questioning the way something had always looked).

“Being gay is a strategic advantage. You’re forced to see the world differently. You’re forced to be independent, to be resilient early in life, to accept being different,” said former Flickr VP and longtime Internet executive Brett Wayn. “You learn to say, the world doesn’t have to be the way everyone says it does. Which is what designers and entrepreneurs do.”

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