Across Europe, initiatives, campaigns and movements have been pushing forward a common agenda – achieving inclusivity. From greater inclusion in the boardroom to parliament buildings, all sectors in both the private and public spheres are slowly starting to reflect the beautifully diverse makeup of this continent. It’s still going slowly, but there has been some notable progress in recent years.
Europe’s startup community is no different. The ecosystem has been making efforts to diversify and promote underrepresented sectors of the population in space. Further, startups are often leading the change in more progressive ways of thinking and in developing tech solutions that can harness and nurture a more inclusive Europe.
One group that has historically been underrepresented, underserved, and overlooked is the LGBTQ+ community. From healthcare provision to travel safety, people identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ have systemically struggled to have their voices heard and the result is that people are not, in many cases, receiving the health care they need and deserve, face discrimination while aiming to enjoy everyday products and experiences, and in economic points-of-view, are not receiving the funding to effect change.
Within Europe’s startup space, there are a number of innovators who are changing the status quo and raising the LGBTQ+ voice. Making a genuine change in the world, we wanted to highlight some fast-growing, purpose-driven startups that are showing up and serving the LGBTQ+ community every day.
Founded by Sarah Massey (based in Amsterdam) and Riley Lamey in 2020, freeq is a safe tech platform serving the LGBTQ+ communities. Aiming to empower the community to enjoy a life of liberation, the platform hosts virtual events that give the chance to meet people and make connections. It was launched in the early days of the pandemic to offer LGBTQ+, sex-positive, and body-positive people a safe, fun, online events space to connect with each other – tackling the social isolation many people felt during this time. A key part of what makes freeQ special is its focus on safety online. It enables online vent producers to host safe events and then co-market them to the target audience. It’s built on a principle of collaboration, in the importance of connection. Additionally hosting LGBTQ+ cultural events on the platform, it gives audiences opportunities to connect and express themselves safely online.
UK-based Jecca Blac was founded by Jessica Blackler (a young entrepreneur who we think has an exciting future) to fill a gap in the cosmetics industry and make it more inclusive. The startup is developing genderless cosmetics – making the beauty sector more inclusive. After participation in the L’Oreal accelerator program, Jecca Blac has been soaring. The company has now sold more than 1.6 million products and was this year chosen by Zalando as a partner to collaborate with for Transgender Visibility Day. Cosmetics and the beauty industry have an inclusivity problem – that’s been recognized for some time now. There are few brands addressing the lack of inclusivity towards the LGBTQ+ community and bringing out products that are specifically genderless and inclusive by default, so this startup is a refreshing addition to the sector. Given the popularity and fast-paced growth, it’s clear how valuable this startup is – not only is it bringing cosmetics to the masses, but it’s making people feel seen, heard and valued.
Based out of London, LVNDR is a digital healthtech platform that is working to improve sexual wellbeing for LGBTQ+ individuals and modernises existing healthcare options. Founded in 2020, the startup is bringing a much-needed tool to a community that is far underserved in the sexual wellbeing space. Sexual wellbeing, in general, is underserved, and there generally isn’t enough openness and transparency – for the LGBTQ+ community, there is enhanced marginalisation and exclusion. LVNDR is addressing this and using a tech-first purpose-driven approach. LVNDR facilitates access to remote care and empowers users to take control of their health, giving them access to tailored services and features. In 2021, the growing team picked up €1.7 million as part of its vision to reduce social inequalities in healthcare services – starting with sexual health and gender identity care.
Founded in 2016, GenderGP is offering online, globally accessible gender-affirming healthcare and wellbeing services. In healthcare, there are many gaps. However, the lack of attention to the LGBTQ+ community has been costing lives due to discrimination. GenderGP believes that every transgender and non-binary person on the planet should have access to an on-demand healthcare ecosystem free from discrimination or prejudice. The startup has built an on-demand healthcare ecosystem for the global transgender and non-binary community. This will allow these communities to start when they’re ready, be more in control of their gender journey from the start, and no one can act as the gatekeepers of their gender identity. The company is remote-first with offices in London and Hong Kong.
Founded in 2015 in Sassari, Sardinia, Babaiola is a travel community for the LGBTQ+ community, empowering users to able to plan their next gay-friendly holidays and interact with other LGBTQ+ travellers within Europe. Users are able to find gay-friendly hotels, flights, a gay city guide, and events for the LGBTQ+ community. They can also interact with travellers via real-time chat and exchange advice and/or find travel buddies. Babaiola’s algorithm monitors and collects information every day from over 200 websites dedicated to the community. It aims to know in real-time all the relevant trends and events, aggregating all information in a single platform. The amount of data collected allows Babaiola to create a city profile that is a close match to the wishes of the user.