B is for Boss: Venture Capitalist Arlan Hamilton


Venture Capitalist Arlan Hamilton didn’t see anyone in the industry who looked like her—so she decided to become what was missing.

“If I didn’t do it then who would?” she said. “It’s my duty and my honor to spearhead and break through and disrupt.”

Hamilton is a Black, gay woman, and said she started from “less than nothing.” She had bouts of homelessness and used to sleep at the San Francisco airport. She started created her venture capital fund in 2014 and said it took a full year to get others to start investing.

“So that was 365 days of knocking on doors, and getting feedback of yes this is a good cause, a good mission, but necessarily an interesting investment proposition,” she said. “And so it was a lot of educating people—so just tenacity and showing up and having patience.”

Today, she helms the extremely successful enterprise Backstage Capital, a boutique venture fund that invests in startup companies led by women, people of color, and other marginalized communities. According to Hamilton they invest exclusively in companies whose founders have been underestimated. She says the biggest hope she has for the fund is that it’s “unnecessary in 10 years” and that the need for leveling the playing field for people of color, women and LGBTQ+ individuals becomes a distant memory.