Arlan Hamilton’s ‘IT’S ABOUT DAMN TIME Fund’ Wants $36M To Invest In Black Female Founders

Written by Ann Brown

When it comes to diversity, the venture capital industry is pretty dismal. It remains dominated by men. Women represent only 9 percent of VCs, according to Forbes. So, when it comes to dishing out investment capital, men are the main recipients. In 2017, only 15 percent of VC money went to female founders. And when you break that down to how much went to female founders of color, it is not even in the single digits–just 0.2 percent.

But Arlan Hamilton and her firm, Backstage Capital, are determined to change all of this. She has launched what’s she’s calling the “It’s About Damn Time” fund to invest $36 million in Black female founders. The goal is to spread out $1 million at a time.

“They’re calling it a ‘diversity fund,’” tweeted Hamilton, the firm’s founder and managing partner. “I’m calling it an IT’S ABOUT DAMN TIME fund.”

According to the company’s website, Backstage Capital is a venture fund that invests in underrepresented founders–women, people of color and LGBT founders.

Backstage has “invested in 80 companies, all of which have at least one founder who is a woman, person of color, or LGBTQ,” Quartz reported. “Backstage’s portfolio spans various industries and companies based across the nation, from tech-enhanced fashion and jewelry to virtual augmented reality, distributed energy management, and pleasure education.” In general, Backstage manages over $5 million.

“Though Hamilton is still raising money for the fund, she plans to invest in two to three companies by the close of 2018. Each company will receive $1 million in funding, but Hamilton tells me half of the fund will be set aside to help support its founders in subsequent funding rounds. As such, the fund will back a total of 15-20 companies,” Fast Company reported.

As Recode reported, “My big idea is that investing money, time, resources, access, belief–all of that–into Black people, Latinx people, all people of color, and women in the U.S. is not something that should be looked at as doing us a favor,” she told Quartz. “It is doing you a favor if you are a white male, because we are the future.”

“Investing in us–people of color, LGBT people, and women–is good business, good sense,” Hamilton added. “And you are foolish if you think otherwise.”

It’s been a long road for Hamilton to fulfill her goal. She first envisioned shaking up Silicon Valley back in 2012. And at the time, she had just left a career in the music business, had $12 to her name and was sharing an apartment with her mother.

By 2015, Hamilton found herself broke, homeless, and sleeping on the floor of the San Francisco International Airport. But she held onto her dream to change the face of Silicon Valley. During the day she would pitch to try to start a capital fund. She didn’t give up, despite not having a college degree, no formal investment training, or even any industry connections.

Now, she is a popular speaker, has her own podcast–and she’s making Silicon Valley take notice.

Black Women In Venture Capital Arlan Hamilton
Backstage Capital Founder, Arlan Hamilton. Image: Anita Sanikop