September 13, 2021

Backstage Capital Reaches its 6th Year – We look at Arlan Hamilton’s Impact

Arlan Hamilton has paved the way for hundreds of underrepresented founders for just over half a decade. Her firm, Backstage Capital, one of the first Venture Capital companies to invest solely in start-ups led by minorities, now celebrates its 6th year.

With 180 deals already – the firm has invested in a range of startups since its launch on September 15, 2015 – from online beauty retailers to satellite internet companies.

Outside of Backstage Capital, Arlan has committed personal capital to more than 20 emerging fund managers.

And since the tech legend started Backstage Capital, a dozen other VC firms dedicated to championing the inventions of Black and minority founders have launched.

Her Journey and Impact

Coming into the world of venture capital without any prior investing experience, and when building her firm while being homeless, Arlan’s journey isn’t your typical VC origin story. The 40-year-old once admitted in an interview with The Verge that she discovered what a venture capitalist was just 10 years ago.

“I never thought I would become a venture capitalist. I don’t think I knew what one was 10 years ago, but around then is when I started learning more and more about the tech ecosystem and about investors really through people like Ellen DeGeneres, Justin Bieber, Ashton Kutcher and Troy Carter, who were these celebrities or their management, making these small investments in a place called Silicon Valley about a decade ago.”

Arlan Hamilton in The Verge 2021

While building Backstage Capital – the 40-year-old spent the day toe-to-toe with people with unlimited amounts of money and her evenings sleeping in different cars to get by. She once told the Los Angeles Times that it took “finesse” to make it work during that time in her life.

“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.”

Arlan Hamilton in the Los Angeles Times 2019

Here are some of the companies that Arlan has supported.

Less than 10% of all venture capital deals go to Women, People of Color, and LGBT founders. While other VCs may have seen this as a pipeline problem – Backstage Capital has seen it as the “biggest opportunity in investment.”

Backstage Capital invested in Dollaride, a start-up providing innovative transportation technology to marginalized communities. The Dollaride product connects people living in transit deserts to informal transit networks called “dollar vans.”

In NYC, this network includes 500+ drivers serving 120K daily passengers primarily in the outer boroughs, according to Backstage Capital.

“Arlan is a trailblazer and inspiration to underestimated founders. What she and the Backstage team are doing has had ripple effects throughout the startup community, as now there are more diverse founders and fund managers participating in the venture space. Backstage has been an excellent investor and supporter of Dollaride, by getting me in front of investors and providing resources, intros, and community to accelerate my startup’s development.”

CEO of Dollaride, Su Sanni, in conversation with POCIT News
Founders Chris Coles and Su Sanni via Backstage Capital

The VC firm also invested in Promise, a company focused on building technology to reduce recidivism, minimize costs, and promote public safety. They enable optimal performance in criminal justice agencies through tools that support case manager efficiency, make measuring outcomes easy, and empower clients to meet their court-ordered obligations.

“Arlan is incredible because she has worked to make sure her success is a shared success. Every Backstage victory is a victory for all of us.” 

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO, Promise 
Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins via Backstage Capital

Backstage Capital has invested in dozens of other start-ups including Fleeting – a commercial fleet management and services company and Kiira Health – a telehealth platform for collegiate women, focused on addressing women’s health inequities, among others.

How is the anniversary being celebrated?

Arlan revealed earlier this month that a “wonderful Black-owned, couple-owned, indie film co crafted a 48-min documentary” in the middle of the pandemic about her rise to success, and it’s set to release on the Backstage Capital anniversary date – September 15.

Abbianca Makoni

Abbianca Makoni is a content executive and writer at POCIT! She has years of experience reporting on critical issues affecting diverse communities around the globe.

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