Welcome to Backstage London
Andy Ayim is the Managing Director of Backstage London. This is the first in a series of stories introducing the Backstage Accelerator team in London.
Last year, through some chance, frustration, and a stroke of genius, I had arrived at an inflection point in my writing. I began to share stories about what I was learning in tech with a tone of voice that came from the streets I was raised in. It was sometimes assertive, always authentic, and very unapologetic. I wanted aspiring founders to have access to the information I was gaining and I simplified this information so it was easy to digest.
I wrote a series of blog posts on women, People of Colour, and/or LGBTQ investors, including Kirsten Green, Founder of Forerunner Ventures, and Nasir (Nas) Jones, Founder of Queensbridge Venture Capital. One of the emerging investors that kept appearing in my articles was Arlan Hamilton, Founder of Backstage Capital.
Mid-2017, I reached out on email to Arlan to interview her for a podcast pilot I was planning called Technicity (s/o Deborah Okenla). She accepted, and on Wednesday, August 2, 2017, sitting in my living room, I interviewed Arlan Hamilton via Zoom for the podcast. Towards the tail end of the chat, I shared something with Arlan.
“It would be great to get you to London. I could get you plugged into the startup ecosystem here.”
This was my first experience speaking to Arlan, and little did I know, within a year I would be working at her company, Backstage Capital.
ArlanWasHere in London
It was confirmed on February 15, 2018, Arlan was coming to London.
The event was so popular it sold out. Diversity VC (thanks Francesca (Check) Warner) managed to secure a bigger venue for us after tickets sold out at Cooley LLP, and the event sold out again. This was a public event and the primary goal was to allow investors, founders, and the public to learn first-hand about Arlan’s story and ask their most pressing questions.
There were two additional private events that day. One with YSYS, whereby five founders received feedback on their pitches. The other was at ustwo Adventure, which included meetings with diverse founders from the local community. The second is where Arlan met Anisah Osman Britton, Founder of 23 Code Street. It was also my first encounter with Anisah, and I enjoyed her refreshing honesty as she spoke about what needs to change in the London startup scene. She was eloquent and funny in equal parts, and I could relate to a lot of the home truths she shared.
“We need those with money to give a way to meet more undervalued founders — not just the Oxbridge graduates or the ex-Googlers and ex-McKinseys of this world.” — Anisah Osman Britton
By May, Arlan was back in London again, like a genie to grant Anisah’s wish. Two or three pivotal things happened on this trip. Firstly, Arlan held office hours for the 10th cohort of Entrepreneur First, a London-based Accelerator programme. I was then part of the cohort battling between not wanting to waste the opportunity to start a company, and listening to my inner voice telling me that my true calling was to create wealth for underrepresented founders. Arlan’s office hours moved the dial for me.
Secondly, Arlan hosted Office Hours at 23 Code Street, Anisah’s coding school for women and non-binary people. Behind the scenes, it was the same night Andy Davis, an ex-founder and startup go-to-guy, met Anisah and a new companion, Lady Grey, Anisah’s dog. 🐕 Andy Davis was someone I had the pleasure of meeting initially when I was invited into a startup community he manages, 10×10, where we gather on a quarterly basis and share lessons learned in a safe space. Many of the Black founders I met this year can share a story about how Andy has helped them or leveraged his network to make introductions for them.
“Legacy for me is seeing the culture win, at scale. I do it for the culture!” — Andy Davis
— Rowan Adams (@rowancba) May 25, 2018
Unexpected Call to Lead
Arlan’s last trip to London this year came in June, whereby Arlan sat with angel and VC investors to discuss the investment landscape in the UK, among other things. During the meeting, Arlan said something to my surprise.
“He doesn’t know it yet, but Andy Ayim will be the Managing Director for Backstage Capital London.”
With a smile across the faces of all in attendance, I knew inside it felt right. This was a purpose-aligned role for me, and I was excited by the talent I knew I would pull in to form a dream team.
One podcast and three visits later, Andy Davis, Anisah Osman Britton, and I have come together to form the Backstage London team. Over the next few weeks, we will publish blog posts to introduce each member of the team and share why we are so excited about this opportunity to move the culture forward for underestimated founders across the UK and Europe.