In this episode of Tech Inclusion podcast, you’ll learn about Arlan Hamilton, the incredible force behind Backstage Capital.
27:How Arlan Hamilton Started Backstage Capital With No Background in Finance
: Welcome to the Tech Inclusion Podcast.I am your host Juliette Roy. At Tech Inclusion, we bring you the voices of leaders and change makers who drive diversity and inclusion innovation in the tech ecosystem and beyond. Tech inclusion is a leading conference focusing on solutions to bring diversity and inclusion to take taking history. You can learn more at www.techinclusion.co Do you want to help us build a more inclusive world? Follow the podcast on iTunes and share it with your friends. We’re excited to continue our journey with you as we start this new season.
: Today it is my pleasure to welcome Arlan Hamilton into the show. Arlan is a managing director of Backstage Capital, a seed investment firm with a focus on underserved funders. Arlan is part of a new generation of capitalist activism. The one who decides to drive progress and social change for all. The road is often hard and tedious for change makers and it has been no exception for Arlan. In 2015 with almost no experience in raising capitals, Arlan created a seed fund to focus on traditionally underfunded companies. Arlan is truly one of a kind. I talked to her about Backstage Capital what she looks for in founders she backs and her love for turning her experience into content.I am here with Arlan from backstage capital. Thank you all so much to being with us today. Can you introduce yourself?
: I am the founder and managing partner of Backstage capital. We are a boutique investment fund in Los Angeles and Oakland and Detroit that invests exclusively in under-estimated, under-represented founders. So women of color, women across the board, and LGBTQ
: How did you start? How did you become your on VC?
: Yeah it was a lot of work. We officially started about two years ago and for two years prior to that I knocked on a lot of doors to see if we could make this possible. As an outsider to Silicon Valley but I knew that there needed to be more capital that went to the people of color in general and women and LGBTQ founders so I wanted to do something about it. And over time I was able to convince people like Marc Andreessen, Stewart Butterfield, Ellen Pao Bradfield etc. to invest in me. And to give me a chance to make that happen.
: Well congratulations. That’s amazing. Do you want to talk about some of the companies you’ve been backing up.
: Sure. So we’ve invested in 55 companies in the past two years so that’s a breakneck pace. But we’ve also seen more than 2000.
So this is only representing less than 3 percent of what we’ve seen which goes to show how much amazing innovation and talent there is in those groups and those categories of people. And yeah I mean there’s a few I’m wearing a Tresse noire shirt S T R E S S E N OI R E dot com there out of Philadelphia and New York and they are an On-Demand Natural Hair Beauty app. That brings beauticians to your door on-Demand there in New York and Philadelphia and they are just amazing group and they are expanding and it’s exciting to see them flourish. We also have a company called Bandwagon that’s out of North Carolina where they help Charlotte sports fans find the best seats at any game. And you know there’s a lot of data and AI that goes into that and it’s exciting to watch that we have a company that does mind flown drones. And they’re building out that technology like creating an entirely new different class of drones and 52 others.
: You are listening to that taking podcasts. I’m Juliette Roy or guest today is Arlan Hamilton managing partner, Backstage Capital.
: So I was talking the other people who are actually working in VC firm and they’re also sharing that some part of the job that they really enjoy about coaching like coaching entrepreneurs and helping them to go to the next level. Is that something that you do as well for your founders and entrepreneurs.
: We have a team of seven seven or eight actually and we try to serve our founders as much as possible so we look at ways that we can initiate introductions and help connecting to more investors and then we also look at what are they asking us and how can we best serve them and not get in their way. And so in some cases absolutely. You know maybe 30 percent of our portfolio. We talked on a weekly basis where we’re helping them, mentoring them in a way and doing what we can in our specialties and in other cases I think it’s more about just an inbound question. So we try to do that. I don’t know if I look at it as coaching but we try to do instead is just sharing our journey sharing our information being collaborative sharing what we’re learning so that it’s available for the portfolio.
: So you say you look at 2000 companies which is like astronomic number. And so what are you looking for when you look for all these different companies what kind of you process to evaluate. I guess you know if a company is a good fit for you.
: Yeah I’m looking for someone who gives me goosebumps basically someone who like people who are. Just tackling something whether it’s life changing or day making that is just such that they can’t stand not to do themselves. And so that’s going to be across the board. There’s a generalist so we see things from all over the place. As I explained with the examples I gave that’s a pretty large range so we’re looking mostly at the founders. Do they have that grit do they have that skill. Are they able to take it to the next level. And I like to say that. I look at things personally like life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So life isn’t going to change someone’s life. It’s like categories. Is life changing or life saving. Liberty is it instead something that gives you a lot of freedom whether that be like financial tools or things that make people their own boss or things that give people more freedom to fly like Airfordable is in our portfolio and they do layaway for flights. To me that’s freedom and that’s in the Liberty section. And then the pursuit of happiness something that just makes your day better. You know something that like Nail Snaps which lets you take pictures of something on your mobile and in a week you have them that same picture as nails you can pull onto your nails. You know it may not save a life but it’s really making someone’s day. So those three categories I think across the board. So
: You are investor is the investor but you also podcast her do you want to talk a little bit about your podcasts.
: Our podcast One is called The Bootstrapped VC and that I host that with my friend and teammate Brian Landers and that’s a fully produced show. Sometimes I have bonus episodes and we just try again to share our knowledge and share our experience mostly and we have a lot of fun on it too. So it’s very relatable. And then we have a podcast that Brian hosts that we acquired from Brian called Mission and Values and it does a deep dive into the culture and the purpose behind companies and our portfolio. And it also gives you a peek. If you’re someone looking for a job and startups different cultures to look for
: Great. So what would you recommend to people out there who might want to support you in your journey and in supporting all these entrapreneurs out there to kind of change the landscape.
: I would say the best way someone can support backstage in our founders even if they’re not investors would be to listen to our content and watch our content because we make it for everyone and we’re excited to make it. And we put a lot of love and effort into that. So listen to our podcast download leave reviews. We have a new web series as well so that’s another way that they can follow along but also support us. Our website is backstage Capital dot com and if you go to backstage Capital dot com slash green room on the color green room. That’s where you’ll see of our media content.
: Well thank you so much. Enjoy the conference. Thank you so much appreciate it if you enjoy your podcast visit Techinclusion.co to listen to leaders and entrepreneurs making a difference in building a more inclusive world. Join the movement by leaving a review on iTunes and share this podcast with your community. The more we can share our stories, the stronger is our impact. If you want to send us ideas of people to interview you can reach me at Juliet at changecatalyst.co And if you want to discover all their changemakers stories you need to be here a change podcast Www.beyourchange.co/podcast the change. Thank you for listening.
Companies mentioned in this episode,
- Nail Snaps
- Tresse Noire
- Band Wagon
- Marc Andreessen
- Stewart Butterfield
- Ellen Pao
- Listen to Backstage Capital content here
- Listen to Arlan Hamilton on Bootstrapped VC podcast