For Women’s History Month, I am immensely grateful to the women whose past contributions are still beneficial, and I would like to introduce you to Arlan Hamilton. Hamilton is the founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital, my mentor and godmother, although, it is highly unlikely she is aware of the latter. Backstage Capital is a seed investment fund dedicated to investing in startups by underrepresented founders; specifically women, people of color and LGBTQ. Black women receive less than 1 percent of venture capital funding but are among the fastest growing businesses. According to the 2019 State of Women-Owned Business Report, black women represent 42% of new companies per day.
Since Backstage Capital’s inception in 2015, they’ve invested more than $7 million dollars into 130 companies. Hamilton taught herself to pitch investors and started the venture capital fund while homeless. She was influenced by several factors, including celebrities’ investments in startups as well as ventures who’ve used funds unethically, most notably, Mike Rothenberg of Rothenberg Ventures’ using funds for personal use.
Only a few years ago, Hamilton set out to create a $36 million fund for Black women founders entitled “It’s About Damn Time.” Because she was unable to meet her goal, she suspended the fund and elected to adopt the accelerator model instead. Accelerators support startups through mentorship, education and financing on a cohort basis. Hamilton cofounded the Backstage Studio and launched accelerator programs in four cities: Detroit, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Pa. and London. Her work and popularity have resulted in the growth of venture capital funds dedicated to investing in minority-owned startups.
Hamilton is everywhere, so you don’t have to wait until the next Women’s History Month to become more familiar with her. Listen to her podcast “Your First Million” where she teaches you how to make your first million dollars, downloads or customers. Pre-order her book “It’s About Damn Time: How to Turn Being Underestimated into Your Greatest Advantage.” Attend her Tour 2020, “a virtual, multi-city event series bringing knowledge, investment and access to underrepresented founders and the ecosystems that help them grow.” Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @arlanwashere.