Blavity’s Creative Society spoke with Investor and Managing Director at Backstage Capital, Arlan Hamilton, about her work and investing in underrepresented founders. Read the interview below and follow her on Twitter here.


Blavity: Will you tell us about your background and how you decided to get into investing?

Arlan Hamilton: In my 20s I wrote a popular LGBT blog called Your Daily Lesbian Moment and was the founder/publisher/editor of an indie print magazine called INTERLUDE that was distributed worldwide. I booked and tour-managed indie bands and singer/songwriters. Later I went on to become a production coordinator and tour manager for pop artists and toured with Toni Braxton, Jason Derulo, Chromeo and many others. At the end of 2012, while I was having a blast on tour, I started noticing people like Troy Carter, Ellen, Guy Oseary, Ashton Kutcher and others were making monthly trips to Silicon Valley to meet with these small five-person teams and making investments. I was so curious about what was driving them all there. I had always felt like an entrepreneur, and people like Richard Branson were my heroes. So even though I didn’t completely understand what was happening, I knew it spoke to me. I completely immersed myself in learning about the startup and investing world. I found that I was good at connecting and helping founders. Since I didn’t have money to angel invest, venture capital seemed like a good way to work with these founders and companies in a more official way while having a bit of skin in the game, and I set out to find a way to do that.

B: In your Medium post, “Dear White Venture Capitalists,” one of the key points you emphasize is VC’s investing in underrepresented minority founders because it makes financial sense as opposed to social responsibility. Why is this especially important?

AH: I definitely think social responsibility is one of the most important things in life, and I personally am extremely socially conscious. Professionally I think it’s important to not pity underrepresented founders because in pitying them you underestimate them. In that post, I was essentially saying that if we can’t get naysayers to get this on a human/emotional level, perhaps they’ll get it on a financial/bottom-line level.

B: Off the back of your post on Medium, what made you decide to launch your own syndicate with AngelList?

AH: The AngelList syndicate was my hack to an MVP. I wasn’t able to get a gig at a VC firm (I tried!), and I really wanted to take action instead of just talking about it over and over. When I saw the response the blog post elicited, it occurred to me that including the crowd would be a good way to help kickstart my venture capital career while also putting a spotlight on awesome founders and startups.

B: You noted that you are a triple threat as an underrepresented minority – black, female and gay. How do you feel those attributes influence your investing methodology?

AH: It’s been proven time and time again that at a high-level you invest in what reminds you of yourself. So if more than 90 percent of VCs are straight, white men, that is who is going to get funded. Obviously that doesn’t accurately represent the country and world we live in. It just seems to me that if the majority of venture has a blind spot to something and I have early access to the majority of that something, there’s great opportunity there. These attributes help me relate to people with similar attributes, and that’s an advantage in venture.

B: Any closing words for underrepresented minority founders? Venture capitalists?

AH: I would say the cliche’ thing — and this is to ALL founders regardless of race, gender, age, orientation or location — don’t give up. I know it can be incredibly tough. Earlier this year I slept on the floor of an airport for three nights in a row because things got so tough. I get it. But you fall down seven times and stand up eight. I’d also say that it’s ok to pivot, to adjust and to adapt. Never be afraid of change and evolution.


And to VCs I’d say that not only are underrepresented founders under-valued, they’re incredibly high-quality, innovative thinkers and doers. Cross Culture Ventures gets it. Kapor Capital gets it. Intel gets it. It’s only a matter of time before the rest of the VC world gets it. I’m excited about my head start. Meet me there?


Find Hamilton via the websites and social media handles below.



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