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What. A. Weekend. I’m still not sure I can grasp this award.

It wasn’t that long ago (around 2011) that I attended my first startup meetup. The people were great. Talented leaders were totally approachable. And I didn’t have the confidence to connect with them. I know I didn’t take risks and put myself out there like I should have. At the time, we had few LGBT people in startups. It was a struggle to go and fit in. And this was not because the community wasn’t welcoming – I was nervous about the perception that a room full of successful people may not look at me as an equal because I am gay. And now today, social events and meetups like Verge (one of our first rounds of registrations) have made a point to welcome the LGBT community and express in helping to grow LGBT entrepreneurs.

TechPoint‘s Mira Awards have always been something I thought would be out of reach. To be honest, after semi-leaving the startup scene – I had put that path on hold. But when 2015 came around and #RFRA reared its head, I watched as a city and state banded together to push back on legislation that did not represent us. We watched as people from all political backgrounds, industries, faiths, and ages come together to create a bigger voice. One of the biggest was the tech community. To this day, as I speak with our metropolitan areas – everyone always asks how we did it. How did we stop this perception and start a real conversation about diversity, and how we all need to consider ways to be more inclusive. In the front of my mind was the worry about how this situation would affect LGBT youth and youth in general.

I didn’t create Open For Service to go after politicians, nor people of faith. I wanted people to know that they are welcome here. They can go and shop and live here without fear of being turned away for who they are. I hope that if someone is walking down the street and may not be feeling good about who they are – they’ll see a sticker and perhaps feel a little bit better about being themselves.

Since #RFRA, I’ve been lucky to have coffee, travel, drink beer, hang out, and connect with this city’s leaders. We have so many inspirational people here – and I’m so grateful to get to meet them.

So this is the second year for the Community Champion of the Year Award. It is an honor to be considered by my peers for this award, but it’s an even bigger honor to follow someone whom I’ve admired immensely – Denver Hutt. You are very much missed and I hope I’ve made you proud.

Thanks to the amazing support from the tech community, (SalesforceSigstrLessonlySticksnleavesVergeOne Click, and more) we’ve been able to do so much with so little resources. And we couldn’t have done it without you.

And thank you to everyone who continues to be an Open For Service Champion and supporter of diversity in tech – Jillian Walker, Kristen Cooper, Ryan Larcom, Mike Langellier, Marc Benioff, Joshua Hall, and Matt Hunckler to name a few).

I love this city. I love this industry. If anything comes out of this award – I hope its that more people from the LGBT community consider tech as a career, and stay or come to Indianapolis to do it. I can tell you from personal experience that you’ll be valued for you and the work you do. From coding schools like The Iron Yard – Indianapolis, to entrepreneur mentorship from The Startup Ladies – you are welcome to join us.

To my friends in tech – make sure to promote and support engagement within your communities. Donate a license to a non-profit, arrange volunteer opportunities – whatever. We need your help and we’re glad you step up as much as possible.

Thank you to all of my friends, and family (especially my guy Jeff). I know I’m not around much, or slow to respond to texts – and I’ve missed out on a lot of big things in your lives. I appreciate you continuing to be a friend and hope to see you soon.

My heart is full today and I know I have some enormous shoes to fill. Saturday was incredible, and I look forward to the continued growth of our organization and partnership with Indiana and our tech community.

Have a great week! And we can always use help!

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