Arlan Hamilton is a remarkable entrepreneur who built a venture capital fund from the ground up, while homeless. She is the Founder and Managing Partner of Backstage Capital, a venture capital firm dedicated to minimizing funding disparities in tech by investing in high-potential founders who are people of color, women, and/or LGBT. Started in 2015, Backstage has now invested over $15M into 175 startups led by underestimated founders and has been featured in Forbes, Fortune, Wall Street Journal, CNN Money, Inc., Entrepreneur, and Quartz.
Arlan made history by making the cover of Fast Company as the first Black woman non-celebrity to do so, and her book “It’s About Damn Time” is out on Penguin Random House’s business imprint Currency. She and Backstage Studio were also the subjects of Season 7 of the popular Gimlet Media podcast, StartUp. Arlan now hosts Your First Million, a weekly podcast featuring in-depth conversations with how the world’s most successful people finessed their first million dollars, customers, or downloads.
Arlan entered the venture investing world from an unconventional path. Before launching Backstage Capital, she authored the groundbreaking blog “Your Daily Lesbian Moment”, which she grew to a monthly readership of 50,000 fans worldwide. She has written for AOL, SuicideGirls, and Curve Magazine, and founded and published the internationally distributed indie magazine Interlude. Arlan was also a live music production professional, having served as a tour coordinator to numerous international artists including Toni Braxton, and Jason Derulo. Most recently she worked with Atlantic Records recording artist Janine.
In 2018, Arlan co-founded, along with Investment Partner Christie Pitts, Backstage Studio, a new venture studio designed to build products, services, and initiatives that serve the mission of eliminating underrepresentation in tech by empowering founders and their teams to succeed. Also in 2018, Backstage Studio announced the launch of four accelerator programs, in Los Angeles, Detroit, Philadelphia, and London, UK. Called the Backstage Accelerator, this three-month program is designed to give founders the support they need to reach their next critical milestone, through mentorship, investment capital, and access to resources and networks. Arlan was recently named on Fortune magazine’s 40 under 40 list, as well as,Vanity Fair magazine’s The 2018 New Establishment List.
In 2019, Arlan and her mother, Mrs. Earline Butler-Sims, announced their new scholarship program, which kicked off with Oxford University’s first-ever undergraduate scholarship for a Black student, as well as a full-ride scholarship for a Psychology student at Mrs. Sims’ alma mater, HBCU Dillard University.
Arlan’s company, Backstage Capital, produced and released ‘jOURney’, a documentary celebrating the five year anniversary of the firm, highlighting the people and companies who made it what it is today and released an impact report highlighting the strides Backstage has made in changing the venture capital scene. They also launched Backstage Crowd, a funding platform giving access to the best diverse deal flow in VC. Backstage ended 2020 having made over 30 investments in underestimated founders.
To cap the year, Arlan’s Academy was launched. Arlan recruited experts from across the tech universe to teach and give insight into what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. Now anyone can learn what was only available to those ‘in-the-know’ in Silicon Valley.
Most Popular Keynotes
- “It’s About Damn Time” – How to Turn Being Underestimated Into Your Greatest Advantage
- Breaking Rules While Breaking Ground
- Being the Change You Want to See
- Garnering Attention in a Crowded Landscape
- Launching Startups with Humanity
- Black Women in Tech
- Ecosystem Innovation
- Bootstrapping a Venture Capital Fund
- Approaching Investors
- Managing a Remote Team