Arlan Hamilton And Supporters Clap Back Against Critics

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Written by Dana Sanchez
Arlan Hamilton
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – SEPTEMBER 05: Black & Brown Founders Founder and CEO Aniyia Williams (L) and Backstage Capital Founder and Managing Partner Arlan Hamilton speak onstage during Day 1 of TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018 at Moscone Center on September 5, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch) *** Local Caption *** Arlan Hamilton; Aniyia Williams

Arlan Hamilton’s rags-to-riches story has inspired many people and helped make her one of the most recognizable names and faces in venture capital — a field notoriously dominated by white men.

Hamilton dreamed up her trailblazing venture capital fund, Backstage Capital, while she was homeless and living in a car. Her goal? To invest in companies led by underrepresented founders.

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In 2018, Hamilton raised $50 million. Backstage has more than 100 companies in its portfolio — all have at least one founder who is a woman, person of color, or LGBTQ. Hamilton also launched a fund in 2018 to invest $36 million in Black female founders.

“They’re calling it a ‘diversity fund,’” Hamilton tweeted. “I’m calling it an IT’S ABOUT DAMN TIME fund.” Hamilton also announced she was launching a new startup accelerator for underrepresented founders with Microsoft and MailChimp as launch partners.


Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 03: Arlan Hamilton Jamarlin talks to Arlan Hamilton about Backstage Capital, the venture capital fund she dreamed up while she was homeless, and how she made it a reality.

When Axios reported last week that the $36-million fund had “fallen through”, it triggered a debate on how venture capital works and a groundswell of support for Hamilton and her efforts to diversify venture capital.

“Hamilton was unable to raise a new $36 million fund called Backstage Capital that she touted last summer. Instead, Backstage has transitioned entirely to an accelerator model (Backstage Studio) and cut costs (read: layoffs) in the process, ” Axios reported.

Hamilton responded to the story, tweeting in part, “Thanks so much to everyone who has reached out to show support. I’m ok! … I don’t think I agree with the ‘falls through’ description, as we are a work in progress.”

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Hamilton has been hoping to shake up Silicon Valley since 2012, when she left a career in the music business, had $12 to her name and was sharing an apartment with her mother.

“Most of what I do is not about personal gain or personal wealth. It’s about setting examples so that it can be replicated by others over and over again so that in just a few years, the word ‘underrepresented’ won’t include Black people,” Hamilton said at Black Tech Week Miami in 2018.

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Hamilton is a rarity in venture capital. She’s Black, gay, a woman, and based in Los Angeles. She doesn’t think you have to be in Silicon Valley to be a successful venture capitalist.

One Hamilton supporter said the Axios story struck a tone that was gleeful and focused on her shortcomings. Another called it a “hit piece”.

One critic questioned why Hamilton thought she deserved to raise $36 million. Her supporters took care of that.

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Hamilton announced last week on Twitter that she has asked Backstage Capital general partner Christie Pitts to take over as CEO of Backstage Studio, the operations arm of Backstage Capital that focuses on incubating new companies, according to Forbes. Hamilton told Forbes she’s stepping back to focus on four things: raising capital, “amplifying” the founders Backstage works with, mentoring the Backstage executive team and “practicing self care.”