Own your differences, so that way no one can ever really use them against you.

A QUALITY ABOUT A PERSON THAT CATCHES MY ATTENTION: Contentiousness. TWO TRUTHS ABOUT ME AND A LIE: I was in a chairlift struck by lightning; I have a bunch of high school records for running; I speak Portuguese. SOMETHING THAT TICKS ME OFF: Lines. Especially unnecessary ones.

Mark Severs

Helping others is a marker of true success

TECHNOLOGY CAN MOVE MOUNTAINS IF YOU WORK HARD ENOUGH. After years of running financial engines and early start-up models, Mark Severs found himself looking for something new, and preferably more impactful. Having helped raise tens of millions of dollars after three years, he realized it just “wasn’t as fun anymore.” He needed something a little more light.

“We had done great things, started new trends, but I asked what else I could do. I was in an incredibly fortunate position and wanted to see what was next.” This drive came from a desire to help people, not just corporations. Mark created Allay Lamp, a patented light designed to uniquely soothe the eyes and brain of those with migraines or light sensitivity.

Since he had a strong network and established success, he was happy to use them for something beneficial to people’s comfort or health. “I didn’t see myself as working harder than anyone else, but I did have more wins sometimes, that’s for sure. That made my leap over into health-driven technology appealing to me, first and foremost.” Mark remembered his own grandmother, who had struggled with light sensitivity for as long as he could remember, and considered that products that address light sensitivity would also appeal to migraine sufferers.

To many, Allay Lamp is life-changing: it allows folks with this affliction return to normal daily behaviors, writing, working, taking phone calls and getting on with their lives. He notes that the Allay Lamp “It wasn’t eliminating the headache, but it was eliminating the ability of the headache symptoms to control lives, which was transformative and really excited me.”

BEING DIFFERENT OFTEN MEANS HAVING TO WORK HARDER. “It’s easy to point out that people often want to invest in you because, in some way, they see some part of themselves within you—they relate to some part of you.” As a white, cisgender male, Mark recognized that he fit the entrepreneurial stereotype, but he sometimes made a small effort to note his sexuality. “Sometimes being a bit different is what makes you interesting in the first place, even if it has nothing to do with your sexuality. If it does have to do with sexuality, then I think it’s important to work harder because it’s not always you that has to overcome, but the people that you are going to depend on too—investors, partners, consumers. And so you need to make it easy for them.”

Mark is an older Millennial, and is fascinated by the way “digital natives” are able to navigate the digital landscape differently. He has addressed his sexuality in the workplace, and he is excited by the future of inclusion. “It’s such a watershed moment in some ways, how much technology has advanced in the last decade—and with it, gays and lesbians. I do ask myself, if you are nonbinary, a person of color, trans, if there isn’t still a massive gap for those individuals.” Mark believes that “people need to be who they are first, and it’s important for those in power to see that and, in my experience, respond positively.”

While Mark implements exciting new healthcare technology to help others, it is not lost on him that as an entrepreneur, he’s also illuminating spaces himself. “If you want to change the world, you have to understand that you have to put yourself out there, so be vulnerable, and yes, you might get hurt now and again. These are the building blocks for success. You just have to keep at it, keep trying, and stay focused.”

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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.