I was already volunteering with the two folks who would become co-founders with me (Venture Out had 3 co-founders – myself, Jeanette, and Albert). Albert had already hosted a tech / entrepreneurship panel at another conference called Out On Bay Street (OOBS) where we all volunteered. I was leading sponsorship for OOBS, and many tech companies wanted to get involved but they didn’t like the “Bay Street” reference (Bay Street is Canada’s Wall Street). Jeanette was running social media / marketing for OOBS.
We got together to try a standalone event about LGBTQ+ entrepreneurship during Pride 2016 in Toronto, which I took the reins on planning. It was a hit. People really wanted this kind of community in Canada (there were already many organizations like this in the United States such Start Out, Out in Tech, Lesbians Who Tech, and Out 4 Undergrad Tech).
From the success of the standalone event, the three of us decided to launch a whole conference. Albert helped secure the venue and logistics, I took on sponsorship, and Jeanette took on content. We eventually brought on around 10 more volunteer team members and we were off to the races. Our first summit was in March 2017 and was sold out at over 400 attendees.
I continued on the Venture Out team in a formal capacity until 2018, and then for another year more passively. I’ve now largely stepped down from Venture Out – the new team is brilliant and I am 100% confident they are the right folks to move the organization forward. Now I just get to brag about the awesome work they’ve done.