Homeless to Hero: Arlan Hamilton, Founder and Managing Partner, Backstage Capital

Arlan Hamilton refused to succumb to her circumstances. Hamilton, 38, founded Backstage Capital, a seed-stage investment fund, when she noticed the lack of representation within the African American community, Women, and the LGBTQ in regards to investors. Hamilton, who is black and part of the LGBTQ community, founded Backstage Capital in 2015, the fund has invested $5 million in more than 100 start-ups headed by underrepresented founders. The firm, which is based in Los Angeles and manages accelerator programs in Detroit, Philadelphia, and London, has more than 30 employees!

Carving Her Own Path

Hamilton took a leap of faith by reaching out to her favorite band and made an offer to arrange a tour for them, this small inquiry led her to managing and coordinating worldwide tours with celebs ranging from Toni Braxton, Kirk Franklin, Jason Derulo and many more.

In 2010, Hamilton took notice of many celebrities investing in start-ups. At this time in Hamilton’s career, she always wanted to start her business in investing. After doing months of learning and research, she noticed that black founders were not only unrepresented but not respected and overlooked, even when highly qualified. Hamilton saw this as an opportunity to start her company by giving back to those who are overlooked, she knew the risk but also knew the reward would be priceless.

By Any Means

Hamilton utilized her skills and connections of tour booking to begin to teach herself how to curate a venture capital, well, without the capital. She didn’t have the education from a degree or come from a wealthy family of VC’S. She began to pitch to investors, all while homeless.

She shares insight on experiences and humble beginnings: 

“I was going toe-to-toe with people who had an unlimited amount of money, who could wine and dine their limited partners with lavish events and big productions,” Hamilton said. “It was me and my backpack, going to conferences and meeting people, sleeping in cars — doing whatever I could to meet with them face to face because I had to play ball.”

Hamilton had to fight tooth and nail inorder to achieve her dreams. It took grit, finesse and prayer.

“I would go home and my home would be the airport or a hotel or someone’s couch, or an Airbnb that I scraped together the money for. And that is just not the story here with people starting funds,” Hamilton said. “I don’t recommend that you do that. But I feel like I was carving my way into a separate category, so I had to do it. There was no other way to break ground.”

The grit it took to build her fund from scratch is one way Hamilton, who now serves as managing partner at the firm, connects with and supports founders of different companies. . Hamilton notes that 80% of founders supported by Backstage Capital self-funded — their businesses.

Going The Distance

“I talked to founders before I raised a penny because I needed to understand the needs of the founders. Those are your customers, and they’re your most important piece to the puzzle,” Hamilton said. “You’re going to find all kinds of landmines, all kinds of people sticking their foot out, all kinds of challenges as you raise. So you need to be 100% committed with 100% conviction in what you’re doing.”

That commitment will help you swat away distractions, and keep your mission at the forefront.

“I have to keep doing this until we’re no longer underestimated or underrepresented. Hamilton concludes: That’s the clear end goal.”

 

Want to hear more? Join us on Friday, July 24th at noon EST for “Ask A Boss” featuring Arlan Hamilton. Register today!

 

Morgan Rahman

Morgan Rahman is a Senior at Virginia State University set to graduate May 2020. While attending VSU, Morgan majored in Mass Communications with a concentration in Public Relations and a Minor in Business Management. Throughout her studies, communications was where she found her passion in branding, creating online content, and serving her campus community by leading the communications board on several organizations. As well as studying Mass Communications, she found a way to connect her studies and help surrounding communities by joining an organization called SLOT: The Student Liaison Outreach Team. SLOT allowed for Morgan to do community service, mentor young girls, and exercise her creativity by creating flyers for events and event planning. After obtaining her bachelor’s degree, she plans to continue her education and obtain her Masters.

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