VOL 4 | FEATURE
THE VENTURE CAPITALIST
TEXT by PINK ROOSTER
A popular theory among my Black friends who watch the hit television show Shark Tank where a firing squad of famous investors dole out NBC’s coins to “the chosen” of America’s wannabe entrepreneurial class, is that if you walk in Black, you walk out with no deal, no matter how innovative you, or your product is.
In Silicon Valley, they’re pretty upfront about letting you know that investing in “the team” (assumed to mean the leadership and technical ability of the white boys working on any given tech product) is the preferred approach, because should whatever it is be a dud (which, over 98% of them are sure to be), then at least they can put them to work building, scaling, and operating the next big idea. On Shark Tank, America’s favorite “spray and pray” till you drop Friday night extravaganza, the method is no different. They go for what they know; and they pass on the Black.
As a person of color, you can’t stop comparing. In one episode, a Black guy name Michael Elliot—the Hollywood screenwriter behind films like Brown Sugar and Like Mike, turned successful entrepreneur—is turned down on a deal to invest in his super fucking cool, super fucking hipster (complete with a shot of Whiskey) nail salons for men: Hammer & Nails. Within his first seven months in business, he made $150,000 in sales, and it was projected at $2 million in sales for 2016. This is when he made the decision to franchise his business so it could grow even more, which was why he was in the tank, and it was a no.
In another, a sister named Lydia Evans, owner of SWAG Essentials, is passed on when she pitches her popular SWAG Bar—a loofah soap used to exfoliate and eliminate razor bumps (mainly for men of color)—in hopes of landing the deal that would take her business to the next level. But with only $54,000 in sales at the time and little market visibility, the sharks didn’t bite.
There were two young Black women with a colored lipstick line (a wildly successful trend when the episode aired in 2015), and there’s always Black folk with finger-licking-good food products, and then there was even Famous Amos himself, who’d sold millions of his cookies, and eventually the rights to his name under financial pressure and was looking for a comeback by way of $50,000 (“chump change to you guys,” said Amos) and a 20 percent share of his new Cookie Kahuna brand. All the sharks spoke highly of his achievements as an entrepreneur, but then expressed doubts about his latest endeavor, finally sending him packing.
Those same episodes, white girls locked deals for everything from doggie protein bars to folding luggage. Daymond—the Blackest and least likable of the sharks—decides he can part with 50K if Mark is “in” to sweeten the deal with his whiteness for a company called Rock Bands that allows you to wear healing stones around your waist and make a fashion statement. He tells one Black woman to give up on her dreams “while she’s ahead,” but in the next segment drops 50K for a 15% percent stake in a company that makes Christmas tree toppers in the form of a Star of David for interfaith families to fuse their holidays to celebrate together.
It could all just be coincidence—there is nothing factual here. Within the subjectivity of whether or not an investment opportunity fits an investor there is adequate room for doubt, but yeah, No. To use another game show’s vernacular: “Survey says” : the likelihood walking out of the tank “Black and with a deal” is the same as walking into a courtroom anywhere across this country and believing you’re “innocent until proven guilty.”
But it does makes sense—art does imitate life, and the numbers don’t lie: According to a 2010 report by CB Insights, in Silicon Valley 83% of teams getting seed and Series A money are all white, and a mere 1% of seed and Series A funding nationally went to Black founders. According to Digital Undivided’s 2016, “The Real Unicorns of Tech,” venture capital firms lend white men $1.3 million on average (even if their startup fails), compared to $36,000 for Black women. It analyzed more than 60,000 start-ups and found that less than 1 percent—0.2 percent, to be exact—of the tech start-ups funded by venture capitalists between 2012 and 2014 were created by Black women. Why would “the tank” be any different?
Just where does Hollywood’s entertainment machine end and Silicon Valley begin?
And who’s gonna invest in the dude who looks like the dude who’s been cast over and over again as the dealer selling drugs on the streets corners of Any-Ghettotown, USA? Even though, in reality, he’s just a struggling Black actor with a degree from Yale Drama, who lives with his boyfriend in North Hollywood and has a really dope idea for a new facial-recognition software because he did a few years in a graduate program at Stanford?
For ARLAN HAMILTON, one of the country’s (maybe world’s) few Black gay female VCs, “Silicon Valley” is on the edge of a revolution. In a physical sense, as I pull up to her Backstage Capital office in WeHo for our interview, we’re in Hollywood, but when asked what “the Valley” means to her as a Black lesbian, she explains that despite all the bullshit, she finds it fascinating: “I’m talking about a state of being mostly. It’s just the tech world, and for me, that was where the awe was. Silicon Valley is awe… I didn’t know what venture capital was 4 years ago, but I just started seeing.”
Barely weeks away from her deadline to raise a fund, there’s a certainly a level of stress in the room. “We haven’t raised it all, and we need to do it quicker than we’re doing it,” she says—and being an entrepreneur myself, I know that these stresses become normalized; they are part of the deal. But seeing and hearing the buzz words and the jargon (the “seed rounds” and the “angels”), and how truly excited Arlan is to be making a difference—let’s just say it’s infectious what can happen out here. “I started seeing Troy Carter and Ashton Kutcher (both Shark Tank alum), and was like, ‘Why are these guys going out there and investing $50,000 in a team of 2 or 3 people for some app with a silly name. Why is Ellen going to this place in San Francisco called Silicon Valley?’ I just thought about chips,” she says with a laugh. “I also noticed that many of the artists and music executives I admired were investing their music money in tech.”
Arlan is the founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital, “a seed investment fund that backs high-potential, underrepresented startup founders.” It counts tech veteran Susan Kimberlin, who made a name for herself at Salesforce and PayPal, as well as Valley rockstars Marc Andreessen and Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield as investors. With those types of names behind you—in any way, big or small—the Internet is sure to take notice, and much has been written in the press about Arlan’s rather phenomenal story.
An Inc. August 2016 headline reads, “How This Woman Went From Homelessness to Running a Multimillion-Dollar Venture Fund,”; another one on Forbes.com speaks to her “pioneering” efforts and praises her for diversifying the playing field. For Arlan, all this has a purpose. “The attention, the press, is really just serving a purpose, and that’s enabling a group portfolio of 50 or so companies —eventually, to have a chance.”
Arlan is generous with the time she’s taken out of her hectic day to teach a quick class to Tenth readers on the world of venture capital. It is immediately clear that she possesses the best possible attribute for an interview of any depth: openhearted intelligence. She brims with a quiet charisma; she doesn’t hesitate to cut an otherwise serious moment with a joke; today she’s dressed like a slacker—jeans and a tee; full disclosure: so am I. She’s family.
Immediately, we’re off to the races to find out how a girl was once enjoying a career as a production coordinator and road manager for acts like CeeLo Green and Kirk Franklin, with no tech background, winds up conjuring circumstances from homelessness to get to the Valley.
During this down period, when most of us would have been plotting our next lease, or our first lavish meal with girlfriends once that bounce-back check clears, Arlan, “sitting on the floor in a room that didn’t have a bed without so much as a penny,” had her sights set on something else: her first investment in an artificial intelligence B2B startup out of Miami named Kairos which does facial and voice recognition, and its founder Brian Brackeen, or in her words, her “teacher’s pet.”
“I saw a video that Brain did in the summer of 2013. He hadn’t raised any outside funding, or he hadn’t raised much, and I said, ‘Man, that guy is going to do something. As soon as I get funds I’m going to invest in him.’ He was technically the second investment I ever made, but he was actually the first on my list. The important part is what they do and how amazing their founder is and his ability to build a team… That’s huge. It takes a leader, it takes vision, it takes the understanding of what works, on top of being a technical genius.”
That was four years ago, and while solving the problem of how to get to Silicon Valley (once she did arrive in San Francisco for Y Combinator’s Female Founders Conference in 2015 she says, “It wasn’t, ‘Oh, my god, this is Disneyland.’ It was like, ‘This feels right. I feel confident here. I feel like I belong.,’”), Arlan feverishly took up an information hunt, not just to learn, but to imagine herself as part of that community, because once you’ve been bitten by an insect drone and watched a few seasons of Shark Tank, there’s nowhere to hide, and it should be noted, there’s an unprecedented amount of information to be gained on the web—I do spend enough time getting stoned on on my couch to know. It’s downright shocking how some of the most amazing video interviews with tech entrepreneurs get so few views on YouTube. Guess everyone is too busy gulping ignorance by the gigabyte on Facebook to system update themselves.
“I watched hundreds of hours of video, listened to podcasts, read books, read blogs… I just did that anytime I had any time off. It was like going to school—homeschooling,” says Arlan as she recalls of her tech learning curve. “The more I learned about it, the more I realized that I felt a kinship with people who wanted to start something on their own, and, not necessarily work for themselves, but start something for themselves and create teams.”
Thank THE ORACLE I found Arlan, because what a horrible waste—all these Black dreams and technological innovations on ice due to “reliability issues.” There’s a lot to admire about a girl who recognizes the scent of a winner, not it’s color, and has made her life’s work trying to create more opportunities for them. She points me to a freshly painted purple wall where a grid of small framed photographs of her first 8 founders hangs, and lest I assume the merits of the group are based on color and gender only, or even first, she shares, “It wasn’t like I woke up one day and said, ‘Oh, let me go and do something for charity.’ There’s not one product up there that requires you to be a certain type of person to use it, but if you look the founders themselves, they don’t fit the pattern that perhaps a white VC who has only seen Stanford and MIT grads walk into their office fit, so those guys look to them like, ‘Oh, their pedigree is off… They’re not polished enough…How are they going to run a team…blah, blah, blah.’”
On her wall are the “Headliners.” Along with Kairos, there’s TresseNoire, an on-demand, at-home beauty booking app designed for women of color. There’s Ceek VR, a leading developer of virtual reality experiences for education, entertainment, and brands. BANDWAGON according to their website, “uses qualitative data to assign seat characteristics so that fans not only know where their seats are but also, what the in-stadium environment will be like,” and startup CareAcademy teaches evidence-based online classes to help caregivers provide excellent care at home in an $84 billion industry. There’s also a company called DIBS which has some sort of crazy algorithm that addresses inventory management and problems that result from the one-price-fits-all approach traditionally taken in the health & wellness space, and of course, there are plans for more. “I don’t say this often, but my true goal is to invest in 100 startups with underrepresented founders in the next 2 or 3 years,” says Arlan.
Prior to our meeting, the image I had of a VC was vaguely of a middle-aged white man who’d made tons of money in the early days of the Internet (thus, more to burn), having lots of coffee and cocktails with white kids filled with grand ideas and overinflated egos. He looked like that Owen Wilson guy, or Matthew Mcconaughey—super cute, but aged. In real life he looks like Ben Horowitz or Peter Thiel— capsized Hollywood dreamboats with shiny bottoms (look em up ;), but at Arlan’s Backstage Capital, there is no need to imagine. An average day looks something like people texting “Where’s my money?” and founders and finance, and founders and driving up revenue, and founders and achieving independence, and constantly making phone calls and answering emails and showing up at tech conferences and posting the right shit on Medium to stay relevant. So we’re clear, it looks like a Black woman on a mission—think Shonda, think Ava, think Bozoma.
“I actually see Backstage as an enabler—straight up!” says Arlan when talk of her business’s core purpose is brought up. “In some cases I’m the first dollar in, and sometimes I’m the very last because they’ve been killing it and they just want me at the table. Every once in awhile, it’ll hit me like ‘Marc Andreessen is an investor on my fund.’ A year ago, I wouldn’t have been able to even wave his way, you know? So the investors that we have are really exciting, but we’ve only just begun. I don’t think anyone’s prepared for what we have in store,” she says, suggesting the world best get ready for her Black, queer tech takeover.
We are. The $10 million dollar raise she’s under right now is dwarfed by far better-known funds like Andreessen Horowitz or Benchmark Capital (which have raised $5.8 billion and $1.5 billion respectively), but the impact of Backstage’s operations on our community are huge. Capital changes everything. “There’s a lot that we can do once we reach certain milestones in fundraising… it’s still lean, and it’s still small, but hopefully our impact will cause a ripple effect,” offers Arlan.
Yes, a ripple effect in the tsunami of venture capital. Even the world’s largest corporations are taking a page from the tech-industry playbook and incubating their own new ventures from scratch, and almost 50% of the top 30 companies are actively engaged in venture investing as well.
Once the big girls are involved, it’s a wrap. They can provide the cash, office space, resources, mentorship, and even vendor access to accelerate a start-ups’ growth. The question is: given the global frenzy of venture capital, shouldn’t we too be in this game? Sure, Arlan’s forays into the startup world may not compete with venture operations such as Google Ventures and the legion of veterans along Silicon Valley’s Sand Hill Road, but she’s challenging our cultural norms of investing, at scale—and proving that we can, indeed, step up to the plate as well.
“We have a new entrepreneur-in-residence, a Black female, Kelli Newman Mason, and she’s ‘Forbes 30 under 30’ here in LA,” says Arlan. “She used to be a lawyer, worked on the Instagram/Facebook deal, left all that and started her own company, which she’s incubating out of Backstage. I’ve been chasing her for about a year because I just think she’s brilliant, and really awesome, and generous with her connections. I think that we can help her make her company something. Sometimes you need to be around to see some of the deals and meet with people; it kind of plugs you in quicker.”
We need more of these in a world overrun by girls who are loyal to lofty, bookish ideals, and street protests, and Internet activism, with little attention to the fundamental crisis of the future. Self-forgetfulness is the reigning temptation of the technological era, so running tomorrow’s “better world” on a computer using software and apps we’ve had no hand in creating is absurd. Arlan knows this and is doing simple addition, not complicated algorithmic math: Add us into the startups along with access to equity capital financing in pursuit of big gains, and BOOM, our significant potential has been unlocked.
But morality—if there is such a thing—aside, it speaks to what you already know: when shit gets real; they tend to their own first. “If I have a good thing to hand our in private life, I give it to a friend—why shouldn’t I do the same in public life?” wrote George Washington Plunkitt, who rose from impoverished beginnings to become ward boss of the Fifteenth Assembly District in New York, a key player in the infamous political machine Tammany Hall, and a millionaire. Plunkitt challenged conventional ideas about corruption in explaining the difference between “honest and dishonest graft,” and there are certainly lessons in his use of power to advance his own personal interests and “taking care” of his political constituents in almost religious way that can be understood as, on one level—the level of stomach pangs and hunger headaches—as the way that a people get ahead.
Acceleration, incubation, capitalization, all terms that were soon to keep me up at night with dreams of “making the world better,” but our world, and instead of counting sheep or popping xannies, I’d be counting unicorns—Black ones, to the sweetly sung promises of Silicon Valley, thanks to this encounter with an equally rare Black gay investment supernova.
Nearly four years ago, the woman sitting across from me considered herself a failure. For 8 years, Arlan ran an independent music magazine called INTERLUDE which she says, “died out just as the world was crumbling financially in 2008.” She’d luckily managed to bounce back with a career in music, but in August 2014, Hamilton wrote an email to all her colleagues and told them she was putting her career on pause.
“Once I found Silicon Valley, I realized that I hadn’t been a failure when I couldn’t get the magazine to work. I’d actually been an entrepreneur—I’d done something. It was really therapeutic to find the startup world,” she says. “But that’s when I really started seeing the disparities in the funding, and it didn’t make any sense to me; this is the land of opportunity, but only for some. That’s when I switched over to, ‘If I’m going to do this, I’m going to raise a fund where I have the greatest opportunity for success.’ There are companies that are amazing; their founders are undervalued and they’re scrappy—but no one’s paying attention to them.”
It’s amazing what Arlan’s level of determination has done; obsessed with phone calls and emails, always working on raising a fund, always using military-grade tactics to wrestle coins out of potential investors, she has left behind what she had been and is on a journey to what she is becoming. “Every week, people come to me and say, “I want to get into venture, how do I do it?” I’m happy to talk to them and I tell them the good, the bad, and the ugly, because why not?”
She speaks candidly about approaching VC firms early on in the game while on a job hunt: “I was blissfully unaware of a lot of things I’d be running into. I reached out to a lot of funds thinking they were going to want me because I’m a Black gay woman—it helps them, but not so much.”
How hard was it to keep faith, I ask? Arlan takes justifiable pride in having circumvented the path that no doubt would have shaped her to its own requirements. “I’m happy to be doing it this way,” she says. “I do have LPs to answer to in some ways, but an LP is a limited partner for a reason—they’re limited. So when they sign a contract, there are things they can tell me, and things they can’t tell me to do. Ultimately, I have founders to answer to, and I have LP’s to answer to, but everyone who’s signed up understands my philosophy to begin with. It’s been very freeing and I can’t imagine working at another fund now.”
Most of the information Arlan has learned and her journey is documented on Medium—the platform that begins where WordPress and Tumblr left off, and home to the world’s blab-tastic tech and startup-related bloggers these days. In her posts, Arlan demonstrates a guru’s grasp of the rules. She knows that if you’re going to help anyone, if you’re to be of any use, you have to go there, and that’s a highly risky undertaking, so you’d better play it brilliantly.
In a post she initially wrote back in 2015 as an exercise at 500 Startups’ two-week seminar for new investors in Palo Alto, “Dear White Venture Capitalists: If you’re reading this, it’s (almost!) too late,” she lays it out:
DEAR WHITE VENTURE CAPITALISTS: DO NOT PITY BLACK FOUNDERS! Do the same thing you do with White and Asian founders and invest in them because you want to make money. Do not think of this as a social mission. Take the words “help,” “support,” “charity,” and “social impact” out of your thinking on this.
It’s about financial returns…
Your goal is to make money as a VC or accelerator who is investing other people’s money because you have a fiduciary duty to do everything in your power to bring your LPs returns. Therefore, if you haven’t hired a team of people who are of color, female, and/or LGBT to actively turn over every stone, to scope out every nook and cranny, to pop out of every bush, to find every qualified underrepresented founder in this country, you’re going to miss out on a LOT OF MONEY when the rest of the investment world gets it.
The case for investing in diverse founders and diverse markets is more about doing everything you possibly can to not miss unicorns and decacorns and polyamorous butterflies (I just coined that, thank you) in underserved, untapped places. Plain and simple. It’s not about “helping” founders, it’s about fueling an untapped ecosystem so that you may be lucky enough to reap the rewards in years to come. You should be calling underrepresented founders and BEGGING them to allow you to invest in their company at the slightest sign of traction. Because of the blind spot investors have for this group of people right now, there’s an enormous opportunity to invest at undervalued prices. It won’t always be this way. Adjust your thinking NOW. Adapt NOW.
You should know, this post worked the Internet into a frenzy. I ask if it has been hard to judge the industry’s response? Was going in worth it? Arlan responds, “I’m really so laser-focused on completing the raise of my funds, and getting into the deals that I have crafted, that it’s really difficult for me to see what other people see when they say, ‘Oh, you’ve done so well. You’ve done so many cool things.’ Even if I’m stressed and frustrated about something, the fact that I can look at that group of people there (she points to the wall of founders) and say, ‘I remember a few months ago when they couldn’t make X, Y, and Z happen because they didn’t have the funding, but because of all this stress, they will be able to.”
When asked about her position in the space as one of the “only ones” in the Valley, she responds: “I feel like I’m definitely supported. I don’t feel like I’m walking against the wind here and no one wants this to happen.” When asked about inspirations, she doesn’t forget the names of the women—Kesha Cash of Impact America (a fund based in New Orleans that focuses on “impact investing”) and Monique Woodward who is the first Black venture partner at 500 Startups—who have “been doing it, doing a magnificent job of it, and often with very little fanfare.”
A venture capitalist’s job is to invest in risky projects, so as far as all startups are risky propositions, there’s a level of evaluation (come to find out minimal due diligence) that requires a special skill as well. VCs invest where their background and instincts convince them that the anticipated return will far exceed their evaluation of the risk. It’s not a science; it’s what the gay kids call a feelliinngg. In Arlan’s case, as a Black, gay female VC, she may have one thing that a room full of Silicon Valley white boys do not: empathy.
It’s a rare and valuable thing. It is obvious that women do it better. “Sexism is real,” says Hamilton, not surprisingly, and suggests that she can “just relate” to women of all races. It’s why on Shark Tank, Barbara Corcoran will make an emotional investment in a woman who reminds her of a scrapppier, fiercer, younger version of herself, even if the idea she’s bidding on isn’t the million dollar one. She sees potential; she sees herself—and that is enough. Seems fair enough, instinctual even, until you remember the reality: less than 2% of the people making the investment look like you.
Arlan shares a story: “My Tinsel founder gave birth to her child at home because she couldn’t make it to the hospital… pulled that baby out herself with her husband there, and then a couple of weeks later said, ‘Let me get back to work.’ She grew up with a mother who said, ‘I don’t know what you think you’re getting for free, but you’d better get your butt up and go back to work.’ To be able to relate to that and recognize it, that’s the big thing. To be able to recognize something that others may not recognize.”
“The LGBT thing is a whole new step because as you know, some Black people aren’t cool with gay people. I could be having a wonderful conversation with a Black founder and think it’s kismet like, ‘Oh, let me sign that check,’ and then they’ll use the word ‘tranny’ or something and it’s just…” Whack. Insensitive, discriminatory, biased Black folk—the worst kind.
I run an independent magazine. Even before I was kicked out of my Brooklyn loft, things weren’t going that well. I’d become a journalist and tracked down stories of the Black LGBTQ experience from the backwoods of Portland to the lowcountry of South Carolina, but somehow couldn’t uncover the evidence that my new “job” wasn’t really a “job.” I cope reasonably well with the daily stress of running a magazine. It’s the begging for money that I find particularly degrading. It’s the fact that I can’t afford to supply my product to the shops at a cheap enough price per unit to make it work; advertising leads—though not impossible—don’t really work with any level of consistency when you’re Black and gay. It’s the fact that there aren’t more than two people in my “rolodex” that I know who might have access to capital that bothers me most. What keeps me up at night is that I have dreams that I fear will never be fulfilled; I want terribly to have a staff of Black queer media killers on payroll pushing content that will change the way the world sees our stories and feels our power. I wanna be like Vice; I wanna be like Mic, not Mike.
I just don’t know how to get there. I wish I could call my mom.
As if to anticipate my needs, Arlan looks across the table and asks, “More coffee?” Thank THE ORACLE it’s real moment of clarity. I’ll just say it: women make a more human, inclusive nation. Women lack the male ego which constantly nags: “don’t grow up, behave like a child, tire of every single shiny object, buy another, waste it, whine, break it, then blame.” The more honest I am about the situation, the more help I get with introductions, interviews, advice, and support.
It’s not illegitimate to point out the lesbians are better at money than gay men either—argue with yourself if you’d like to on that one.
As our interview wraps, I ask Arlan about the next few growth phases of the company, because one thing is clear: this is just the beginning. “I’d love to, just in general, have little offices in 5 or 10 cities around the country, she says.” WeWork is good for that because they are in so many places that our founders are in, like Chicago and Portland and Detroit.”
“A lot of funds will stick to Silicon Valley because it’s where innovation starts in tech, so it makes sense to them. Someone compared it to wanting to be an actor and not wanting to live in Hollywood. It makes sense in one way, but there’s so much innovation and intelligence all over—the one thing they’re lacking is that access. Some VCs’ philosophy is: You have to be in Silicon Valley. That’s not mine.”
As a sense of maturity in the Valley sets in for Hamilton, it’s painfully evident she is confident that the numbers on a financial spreadsheet don’t provide all the information required to make a business decision.
After Trump’s election this past fall, she passed on a $500K investment because the entity was in cahoots with Miss Peter Thiel—the prominent yet infamous gay tech investor who publicly supported Trump’s presidential campaign to the tune of $1.25 million and continues to work tirelessly to bring the Valley to the newly gilded doorstep at 1600 Pennsylvania. She tweeted about it of course, and even accompanied the post with a meme of some awkward interaction between between a Black guy and a white girl captioned, “That’s cool, I get it,” signaling that her spirits are high and humor not lost.
But why would they be? Her LP Susan Kimberly published a heartfelt, flattering Medium post about Arlan’s ever-growing influence, aka the “Arlan Network Effect”:
“She has an incredible pipeline of opportunities to work with amazing founders. These are founders, companies, and entire businesses that are often going unnoticed by the finance community… Arlan saw the potential gains for her fund that other investors may have missed because they didn’t cast a wide enough net. In addition to the compelling opportunity for gains, I wrote that first check because I wanted to do more than just talk about diversity, and I wanted to do it in a way that produced solid products, services, and businesses (that’s the 15 years in product development and operations in my background coming out). In every founder and business that Backstage Capital invests in, there is another example for the whole industry and aspiring entrepreneurs to look to. There’s another potential leader or mentor to join our ranks and grow the finance and entrepreneurship community.”
Shares Hamilton, “I’m hoping that that’s the case and we can build on that. It’s called Backstage Capital for a reason—I want to be in the back, helping, I don’t want to be in the spotlight. I can get the spotlights setup overhead, and then I can just sneak on back and leave them for the founders. That’s why we’re doing all this. This is why we’re doing the press, and why we’re making a ribbon line, and shouting to the rooftops [about] what we’re doing because there are some amazing companies that are just being overlooked simply because they don’t fit a pattern. So I’m doing my own pattern matching.”
At Backstage, Arlan is the kind of front woman who may be a little shy on stage, but gives and loses herself in the performance—and let’s be honest, that’s where it counts. I left Backstage Capital’s office feeling subdued and kinda’ confused, but more in love with “the Valley” than I’d ever been, and with the new desire to watch old reruns of Shark Tank and keep my newly borrowed cool. Because even if Daymond—the Blackest and least likable Shark—ain’t got nothing for us, ARLAN HAMILTON says: YOU GET A BILLION DOLLARS! All you gotta do is aim real high. I’ll let Arlan tell you the rest (from an October 2016 Medium post):
“If you’re a founder of a company that you think I should be looking at, send a presentation deck to the address below. You may not hear from me for a while or at all since I’m getting dozens of messages per day these days…but I promise to look at everything and reach out anytime something piques my interest. If I don’t respond, do NOT take that personally or to mean that your company isn’t on point. It can be any number of reasons that the company isn’t right for me at the time, and I’m just one opinion of millions. Keep kicking ass and prove me wrong. Make me wish I had responded. That’s what I’m doing right now with all the people who said ‘no’ to me or ignored my ideas;)”