21 March 2023 |

Meet VC Disruptor Arlan Hamilton


Less than 10% of all venture capital deals go to Women, Black, LatinX, and LGBTQ+ founders.

To address systemic barriers, Square recently announced it has partnered with Social Change Fund United and entrepreneurs Dwyane Wade, Rosario Dawson, and Ayesha Curry to launch Forward, an accelerator program offering funding, mentorship, and coaching for Black and Latino entrepreneurs. 

While this is a major problem that fintech giants like Square are stepping in to solve, one woman has reimagined it as the biggest opportunity in investment. πŸ’°

Her name is Arlan Hamilton, and this is her story. πŸ‘‘

Arlan felt like an outsider from a young age.

As a brilliant and self-aware child, she struggled to connect with her peers, constantly wondering if the way people appeared on the outside matched how they felt inside. 

(She could never be anything less than πŸ’―)

By the 1st grade, Arlan held office hours for her classmates to discuss.

She endured bullying and being ostracized by others her age early on, but she coped because she knew herself, even as a child and teenager, and that hunger for understanding would serve her.

Her voracious appetite for learning became her bestie, and she set out in the direction of her greatest curiosities.

Never one for the traditional route, Arlan didn’t attend college and worked in the music industry when she first caught wind of the tech and finance space.

Arlan says, “I didn’t know what venture capital was in 2010,” but she fell in love with the startup ecosystem because she had always felt like an entrepreneurβ€”she just never had a word for it.

The beauty of how fintech can inspire belonging right there plain and simple. πŸ’—

Arlan initially went to Silicon Valley with dreams of starting a tech company.

But when she started looking at the statistics for success, especially for a Black LGBTQ+ woman, she realized there are better ways to solve the bigger problem than starting a tech company. πŸ€”πŸ’­

The problem? Equity and representation.

So, instead of starting her own company and raising money for it, she decided to go to the root. 🌱

If there wasn’t money for people who looked like her, then her next move was to get her people that bag. πŸ’°πŸ’—

Arlan is an avid learner, an autodidact in the truest sense. 

Her hunger to understand drove her to success despite having yet to have any connections in the industry and not having any previous knowledge about tech, startups, or VC.

So, she taught herself how to raise money for an investment fund to change the startling demographics she discovered when she embarked on her VC journey.

Arlan dove in with both feet, making calls, listening to interviews, sending emails, and reading all the books. β˜ŽοΈπŸ“šπŸ“§

In 2015, after getting her first check, Arlan founded Backstage Capital, an investment fund focused on advancing companies led by underestimated founders.

The fund has now invested around $20 million in 200 companies led by “The very best founders who identify as women, People of Color, or LGBTQ. I personally identify as all three,” says Arlan. 

And it is currently raising another $30 million fund. LFG. πŸ€‘πŸ“ˆ

Beyond her incredible achievements with Backstage, Arlan is also:

β€’ The author of “It’s About Damn Time”

β€’ A beloved speaker

β€’ The host of “Your First Million”

β€’ The founder of HireRunner

And last but not least, a symbol of hope for all women in the financial industry.πŸ•ŠοΈ

Though Arlan has had success & persevered, she admits that raising capital from institutional/corporate investors remains a struggle for Backstage.

She says Backstage is not charity, “It is a for-profit investment fund, which is intended to make me β€” and others β€” very wealthy.”

She says, “I started Backstage Capital…because I wanted to create a blueprint that could be followed. 

I wanted to prove it could be done, that plenty of incredible, innovative, smart, underestimated founders were struggling to get a foot in the door.” πŸ‘£πŸšͺ

Arlan loves being that “first yes” for these founders because it’s evidence that she became the person she was looking for.

In her words, “I want to share my journey, not because I think I’m exceptional, but because, like so many people, I have been exceptionally underestimated.”

Her story is a true symbol of why fintech is femme. 

With women like Arlan Hamilton ‘in the room where it happens,’ we can truly change the world and the wealth complexion for good. πŸ’—πŸ₯°