London, England is hosting a two-day virtual trade meeting with a group of North American LGBTQ+ founders and entrepreneurs to explore business oportunities in the British capital.
Hosted by London & Partners, London’s international trade and investment agency, the LGBTQIA+ North American trade mission brings 14 LGBTQ+ led tech companies from U.S. and Canada to meet (virtually) with London-based corporatations and startups.
London has long been considered one of the world's mostly LGBTQ+ welcoming destinations, with numerous gayborhoods (most notably Soho) and a vibrant bar, restaurant, and party scene. The city is hoping to soon welcome back international visitors, and is moving ahead with plans for its Summer 2021 Pride celebration.
Through a series of online networking events. the trade meeting hopes to spark more cross-border collaborations and nuture an inclusive transatlantic community of queer leaders. Sessions will cover scaling inclusive companies in London and connecting with the city's LGBTQ+ market.
LGBTQ+ activist Amy Lamé, London’s first-ever nightlife czar, will lead a fireside chat introducing the city's unique queer culture and revealing how inclusion is essential to London’s growth.
“London prides itself on being one of the most diverse cities in the world,” Lamé says in a written statement. She adds, it is “home to a large LGBTQ+ community who make a major contribution to our economy and culture. But with inequality still a daily reality for many, it is more important than ever to tackle challenges head on. The Mayor and I are committed to working with the LGBTQ+ community to ensure our resilient city is inclusive for all, especially as we build back from the devastating effects of the pandemic. I am looking forward to meeting our North American friends to help them discover what our city has to offer LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs.”
According to research from The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce in the US, LGBTQ+ owned businesses contribute an estimated $1.7 trillion to the US economyy annually. Canada is home to over 28,000 LGBTQ+ owned businesses according to The Canadian Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
However, the 2021 StartOut Pride Economic Impact Index suggest there remains significant unrealised potential for LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs to create jobs and innovation. Indeed, it calculates that over two million jobs could have been created in the US in the last 20 years had queer entrepreneurs received equal access to resources.
“I’m excited to lead this virtual trade mission for LGBTQIA+ founded companies from North America, to help them discover all that London has to offer their businesses,” notes Stephen Feline, director for North America at London & Partners, in a statement to the press. “London is an open and diverse city, with a culture that embraces difference and is home to a supportive and inclusive tech ecosystem. But more needs to be done. While incredible talent and innovation are everywhere, it is still unrealised amongst some of the most underrepresented groups including the LGBTQIA+ community. This significant mission is an important way to unlock this unrealised potential and forge lasting transatlantic business links between like-minded diverse founders.”
Home to the largest LGBTQ+ population in the UK, London has made efforts to become more inclusive and welcoming to the queer community, including launching a new police unit to tackle online hate crime, protecting LGBTQ+ venues, and encouraging gender-neutral toilets.
The trade effort will also help the North American founders gain access to venture capital funding. Currently its estimated that only 1 percent of VC funding goes to queer founders, but there are venture capitalists trying to bridge that funding gap, including UK’s Ada Ventures, a fund dedicated to investing in overlooked markets.
Companies joining the virtual trade mission include Washington-based cybersecurity firm Dragonfli Group, which was named 2020 Supplier of the Year by Disability:IN’s Inclusion Awards. The company's CEO, Glenn Ballard, “This virtual trade mission is a fantastic way for North American LGBTQIA+ led businesses like Dragonfli to connect with like-minded leaders across the pond and discover what London has to offer fast-growing companies.”
The queer trade mission was developed by London & Partners’ LGBTQ+ employee network and is part of a wider commitment to helping foster companies from a range backgrounds to promote greater diversity and inclusion in London’s economic ecosystem.