HackOut Makes Safe Space for Budding LGBTQ Entrepreneurs
Tech queers converge on Austin for the four-day event
By Alex Puente,
12:00PM, Tue. Apr. 9, 2019
Returning for 2019 on Thursday, April 11, is HackOut, Austin’s only LGBTQ Startup Weekend. Created by Dan Driscoll, the four-day event provides a safe space for queers in tech to blossom as future LGBTQ entrepreneurs.
Driscoll, a senior product manager, tells Qmmunity that HackOut originated after one of Driscoll’s transgender friends expressed not feeling safe vocalizing their ideas at a hackathon. “People are finding out they aren’t the only LGBTQIA person interested in what they’re interested in,” says Driscoll. “I want people to know that they have friends with resources and connections.”
Since the inaugural weekend in 2014, HackOut has risen to an international scale. People from all over the world travel to Austin to be apart of this queer tech event that starts with participants pitching proposals. Then, over the course of the weekend, teams work on creating the leading pitches before presenting their work to a panel of judges. According to Driscoll, organizers have raised money to provide travel scholarships for folks who wouldn’t otherwise have the funds to attend. Over the years, attendees – young and old – of all races, sexual orientations, and gender identities have come together to collaborate. “We do not discriminate … the only people we don’t welcome are jerks,” Driscoll jokes.
Building community is an essential part of the weekend. Even as challenges arise, participants are encouraged to have fun and meet new people. To facilitate community building, organizers have planned several social events including paddle boarding on Lady Bird Lake to kick off the event and bar crawls for when the sun goes down and the work stops, giving participants a break from their projects and the opportunity to let loose.
But it’s not all fun and games. As HackOut draws to a close participants present their final project to a panel of judges made up of tech leaders and top-level investors. While a wide range of ideas are shared at the hackathon, the most common – unsurprisingly – are specific to the LGBTQ community. Member of the 2019 HackOut leadership team Desmond Thomas hopes the event encourages qmmunity members to start their own businesses, which he says will help pave the way for more queer creators in the future. “I truly believe that becoming an entrepreneur is the only way we can create safe work environments and consumer spaces for the LGBTQIA community.” He also called HackOut a “launching pad” noting that alumni have found jobs through the event while others have gone on to be chief technology officers at up and coming startups.
And HackOut continues to grow, aside from finding jobs within the tech industry, Driscoll and Thomas are proud to confirm many participants have returned over the years. It’s a positive trend that they hope continues at this year’s Startup Weekend. As Driscoll sums up: “If a few people’s lives go in a more positive direction due to this event, it’s more worth it every year.”
Startup Weekend's HackOut 2019 takes place Thursday, April 11 through Sunday, April 14, at Robert B. Rowling Hall at UT's McCombs School of Business (300 W. MLK Jr. Blvd.).