Arlan Hamilton is the founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital, a venture capital firm that targets women, people of color and the LGBTQ community.
She served as the CEO until March 2019, when she decided to take a step back to focus on “raising capital, ‘amplifying’ the founders Backstage works with, mentoring the Backstage executive team and ‘practicing self care.'”
Arlan founded the investment firm to represent those who were underrepresented in the startup world.
“I really didn’t set out to become an investor, because I just — it just didn’t seem realistic to me at the time, and it wasn’t an interest until I understood that there were people who were not getting access to the same rooms as others,” she told CNBC. “It just didn’t seem right to me that most of the people that I knew who were starting companies were not straight white men …and they were starting cool companies! Some of them were small businesses and some of them could affect the world, but they were not getting seen.”
She also launched the firm while she was homeless, with the goal of funding 100 companies with underrepresented founders in five years, by 2020. Backstage reached that goal by 2018.
Arlan aimed to established a $36 million fund geared towards startups with black female founders. Although that initiative fell through, she’s confident that Backstage will impact more companies.
“I think I will feel successful when we’re affecting and impacting more and more people, people who have graduated from the Backstage school of thought, who are paying it forward and starting their own funds,” Arlan told Forbes. “This is just the beginning.”
In 2020, Arlan released her first book It’s About Damn Time: How to Turn Being Underestimated Into Your Greatest Advantage, which is based on her journey into venture capital, entrepreneurship and Silicon Valley.