For investors, the basic rules of the game don't change because of sexual preference. LGBTQ+ investors are not fundamentally different than other investors, and in fact, many may choose not to disclose their orientation. However, because of the lack of equality throughout the world—including possible legal issues like disinheritance—investments need to account for that.
Moreover, LGBTQ+ people have taken an economic hit during the past couple of years because the coronavirus has not only disproportionately harmed their health more severely but also their finances. A 2021 Kaiser Family Foundation report, for instance, revealed that LGBT people lost jobs more frequently during the pandemic, which is not to mention the financial strain from greater health impacts.
Nonetheless, the nonprofit Human Rights Campaign has commented that it noted the most "considerable progress" in corporate equality as companies have moved to embrace inclusion. The nonprofit's 2022 Corporate Equality Index, for example, says that 91% of Fortune 500 companies now have gender identity protections, and 842 companies scored perfectly on their metrics.
- LGBTQ+ people have made inroads into the corporate world, with metrics like the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index reporting a marked improvement for equality in the workplace over the past couple of years.
- There have been prominent—and sometimes controversial—LGBTQ+ investors who have shaped our world.
- Some investors have chosen to build up systematic support structures for LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs and LGBTQ+-supportive ventures.
Lorenzo Thione, Venture Capitalist
Lorenzo Thione is the managing director at Gaingels, a New York-based investment group.
Founded in 2014 by David Beatty and Paul Grossinger, Gaingels has become one of the largest LGBTQ+-focused private investment syndicates in the world. It has more than 200 members and a portfolio with more than 800 companies, according to information on its website. It has invested more than $500 million.
Outside of his work with Gaingels, Thione has co-founded several businesses, including Powerset, a startup that was building a natural language search engine. The company was bought by Microsoft in 2008 for $100 million.
Thione is also a producer who was involved with Allegiance, a Broadway musical based on George Takei's childhood experiences as a Japanese-American interned by the American government during World War II.
Megan Smith, Advisor and CTO for the U.S.
Advisor, business executive, and former CTO of the United States Megan Smith is known as a prominent "tech evangelist."
During the Obama administration, Smith served as the third-ever chief technology officer of the United States, a position that helps the federal government mold policies that involve tech or data.
Smith has held prominent positions at top companies, including vice president at Google where she led the acquisition of Google Earth and Maps, and where she was involved with the company's Women Techmakers diversity initiative, among other projects.
Smith currently works as the CEO of shift7, which scales inclusive ventures. She's also an advisor to the Malala Fund, which she co-founded, as well as to the L.A. Olympics 2028, MIT Media Lab, Vital Voices, and Think of Us.
Peter Thiel, Billionaire Financier
Perhaps the most infamous member of this list, Peter Thiel is one of the most recognizable venture capitalists and financiers alive.
A Stanford Law grad who clerked for appeals court justice Judge James Edmondson, Thiel would make his name by transitioning to business. Thiel founded PayPal, among other ventures, and he was an early investor in Facebook, serving on its board until recently. He’s also the founder of Palantir.
Though he was credited as the first gay person to speak at a Republican National Convention—he said on stage at the 2016 convention, “I am proud to be gay”—reporting has claimed that he was actually the second. Thiel's address at the convention was controversial, in part because the Republican Party was widely viewed as anti-LGBTQ+ due to its conservatism on same-sex marriages and trans bathroom issues. These days, Thiel continues to inspire more headlines for his right-wing politics than he does for his investing, and he's known in the press as a complicated and somewhat inscrutable figure.
Justin Nelson, Chamber of Commerce
With Chance Mitchell, Justin Nelson co-founded the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, which describes itself as the biggest "LGBT economic advocacy and business development organization" in America.
The chamber's advocacy led to the inclusion of LGBT suppliers in Massachusetts state contracting in 2015. Since then, state contracting has opened up to LGBT suppliers in almost 30 states and municipalities across the country, the chamber notes.
Nelson has been instrumental in the creation of other organizations such as the National Business Inclusion Consortium, an umbrella organization for national organizations pursuing diversity and inclusion in business.
A notable political advisor, Nelson was appointed to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Federal Advisory Council on Underserved Communities in 2021.
Martine Rothblatt, Founder
Reportedly the best-compensated female CEO in America and dubbed one of the 100 Greatest Living Business Minds by Forbes in 2017, Martine Rothblatt has founded notable companies.
Rothblatt has made several notable achievements across several industries. In 1990, Rothblatt founded Sirius Satellite Radio. She would leave the company after its IPO, founding United Therapeutics Company, a biotechnology company, in 1996.
In 1994, Rothblatt came out as transgender.
How Many LGBTQ+-Owned Companies Are There?
It's hard to give exact figures. But there are roughly 1.4 million LGBT business owners in the United States, according to the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, a business development and advocacy organization. The organization has certified at least 909 of those businesses.
How Much Do LGBTQ+ People Contribute to the U.S. Economy
LGBT businesses contribute about $1.7 trillion to the U.S. economy, according to reports from the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce.
What's an LGBTQ+-Owned Business?
An LGBTQ+-owned business usually refers to a business that's majority-owned (51% or more) by an LGBTQ+ person. The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce also certifies businesses.
The Bottom Line
Even though there are still barriers, nonprofits like the Human Rights Campaign, mentioned above, say there's been progress in getting some protections in U.S. workplaces. For the most part, though, the investors on this list became notable without such protections.