"I want to help people who were dealt a bad hand and allow them to participate in the safety net of our democracy."

My favorite quote is: "Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted" - Albert Einstein The life hack I swear by is: Marry someone much smarter and more organized than you

Emilie Poteat

Reweaving America's social safety net

A PERSONAL MISSION. With her enterprise, Advocate, Emilie Poteat wants to ensure that others don't have to endure similar struggles she faced during her childhood. After her experience of growing up in the Blackstone Valley and Woonsocket, “a city industry forgot, where many of the residents are on a government benefit, and one in three children live in poverty,” she’s now helping connect Americans to the government’s social safety net and benefits they are entitled to but struggle to access.

"As a person who has seen the impact of being on the economic outskirts through my early years, I know the individualized impact it has when you're unable to navigate a complex system and the difficulty that comes from a fear of attempting to navigate it on your own. I'm trying to ensure others don't go through the same experience I did because it's unnecessary."

If there's one word that encapsulates Emilie's career so far, it would be 'determination'. At 17 and committed to overcoming her circumstances, she was the first in her family to go to college, securing her place after a particularly fraught admissions process. After being waitlisted at the only state school she could apply to, she decided to fight for her place by protesting outside the school wearing a sandwich board. "It taught me to be fearless and that if you have an idea you think might work, you should make it happen."

Unsure what path to take after school, Emilie honed in on economic sociology for her Ph.D., "which was essentially me trying to sort through what I saw as I grew up in Rhode Island.” After, she landed a job at Goldman Sachs investing in FinTech companies – her first exposure to venture capitalism – and later at the investment management firm Bridgewater.

DARING TO BE FEARLESS. Advocate marks Emilie's first startup, having previously led a successful turnaround of a business focused on insurance benefits administration. The experience ultimately gave her the confidence to pursue Advocate. "Solving that problem was the most exhilarating 18 months of my life. I realized that even if Advocate only halfway works, we will still be helping hundreds of thousands of people and have a meaningful business. And if I succeed, we will change the American social safety net landscape."

Emilie credits her wife and stepdad for instilling a solid work ethic and sense of order in a sometimes turbulent upbringing. "He made me have good life habits like waking up and thinking, what's on my to-do list today? What are the easy things I can check off versus the most important things? That sounds ridiculous to say now, but it was a very grounding thing to learn behaviorally early on. I don't know where his ability to do that came from, but I know it imprinted on me in a transformational way for my life."

Currently building the Advocate platform, Emilie continues to be grounded by her family and is determined to achieve her company's mission. "The emotional impact of this problem is something I don't think I'll ever escape. Ultimately, I want to reduce human suffering; I will bring all of my skills and power to untangle this administrative hairball to help people who were dealt a bad hand and allow them to participate in the safety net of our democracy. That's what Advocate is about."

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Presented with Pride Here is the first collection of one hundred incredible and inspiring LGBTQIA+ venture-backed entrepreneurs featured in this year's Gaingels 100.