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A Beacon for Diversity in VC

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Arlan Hamilton’s Backstage Capital: Championing Underrepresented Start-up Founders

In a world where venture capital often overlooks the marginalized, Arlan Hamilton’s Backstage Capital has emerged as a beacon of change. The venture capital firm, founded by the 38-year-old black LGBTQ entrepreneur in 2015, is on a mission to rectify the glaring funding disparities faced by underrepresented start-up founders. These include women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community. So far, the Los Angeles-based firm has invested $5 million in over 100 start-ups and initiated accelerator programs in multiple cities.

Hamilton’s Journey from Music Tours to Venture Capital

Prior to stepping into the venture capital space, Hamilton managed tours for notable musicians. It was during this phase that she noticed the trend of celebrities investing in start-ups. Despite lacking a college degree and wealthy connections, and even experiencing homelessness, she was inspired to establish Backstage Capital. Her journey was marred by challenges, mirroring those faced by the start-up founders she now supports. Many of these founders have bootstrapped their businesses, and Hamilton offers what she terms as an “augmented privilege” to help level the playing field.

Addressing the Funding Imbalance

Statistics reveal a stark reality: a minuscule fraction of start-up financing is allotted to female and black/Latinx founders. Hamilton, however, is determined to change this narrative. Through initiatives like the Backstage Accelerator, she provides funding, mentorship, and resources to underrepresented entrepreneurs. The objective is to foster a more inclusive and competitive start-up ecosystem. Hamilton’s efforts are part of a broader mission: to ensure that these founders are no longer underestimated or underrepresented in the venture capital industry.

The Fearless Fund and the Legal Battle

The article also sheds light on the ongoing legal battle faced by the Fearless Fund, a small venture capital firm instrumental in providing funding to underrepresented start-up founders. Led by anti-affirmative action activist Edward Blum, the case against Fearless Fund serves as a bellwether for similar diversity programs. The outcome of this case could have far-reaching implications on venture capital diversity and inclusion. Sophia Danner Okotie, a Nigerian-inspired clothing line founder, expresses concern about the future funding from the program being jeopardized due to the lawsuit.

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