FAVORITE AUTHOR OF BOOK: Dostoevsky. A SOURCE OF INSPIRATION: Jane Goodall and Pema Chodron. SOMETHING THAT MAKES ME LAUGH: When the raccoons in my backyard try to climb the tree but they are just too fat.
What problem are you solving in the world?
A HISTORY OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP. Joseph Schneier is tired of people claiming they became an entrepreneur after an epiphany. At its core, being an entrepreneur is identifying a problem in the world and solving it. But beyond problem solving, being an entrepreneur is a willingness to step into the void to achieve the solutions, he says. “The answer you have in mind might require a lot out of you, but it is knowing that you have what it takes to come out the other side that makes the difference,” Jo adds.
As a transgender male, Jo learned that being out in business can go either way. He recalls speaking at a conference about breaking boundaries, and revealing that he used to identify as a woman. “Before transitioning, there was dead silence, and then some polite applause. It was not well received. But this same speech received a standing ovation at a different conference after my transition.”
Coming out takes time— and strength. “The world I grew up in was very different; we didn’t even have the language to process what I felt back then,” Jo says. But back then, coming out of the closet wasn’t an option for Jo. “In the community I grew up in, anyone who came out of the closet was either kicked out or dragged through the mud,” he says, adding that people who came out were forced into conversion therapy.
“The strange thing was that when I started transitioning, the depression that I had struggled with for a long time went away,” Jo says, adding that it really allowed him to focus more on what he wanted to do in life. “Being out can help focus your mind."
BEING TRANS IN VENTURE. Being trans in the entrepreneurial space is hard, especially if you’re non-passing, Jo says. His wife, a non-passing trans-woman, faces many challenges that no longer apply to him. He acknowledges that his transitioning journey has led him to the point where some people do not associate him with being transgender.
Jo started his previous company when he was still a woman, and in those days, it had been hard to fundraise as a woman. Over time, however, more venture capital groups were formed to fund ventures led by cisgender and transgender women, and Jo found himself in the odd situation where having transitioned as a transgender man, he still lacked access to a supportive network. “There are not a lot of spaces out there for trans-men and for nonbinary people, and more work needs to be done to help these groups too.”
Giving back has become a key effort for Jo, alongside his Trusty.care venture. Jo mentors younger companies through programs at NYU and Columbia University, and is a board member of various LGBT foundations and organizations. “I’ve been lucky—everything I had hoped to achieve, I have done so. I have a partner, have three kids, and I am able to do things every day that interest me. I want to let others know that they can find their happiness too, and that the fears that hold them back might never come to pass.”