VC Arlan Hamilton had no VC experience but has now backed 100 companies

If you want to know how the venture biz has changed in recent years, look no further than Arlan Hamilton.

Hamilton is founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital in Los Angeles. Her firm’s website says she built the venture fund from the ground up, while homeless and living off food stamps.

Backstage Capital itself backs founders who are of color, women, and/or LGBT.

Hamilton says she started the firm from scratch in 2015, and Backstage has now invested nearly $5 million in more than 80 startup companies.

In vestments include The Riveter, a female-focused co-working space from Seattle but is looking to expand nationwide. The company raised a $15 million Series A round in December led by Alpha Edison, but including Backstage Capital and others.

Another portfolio company is Paladin, a New York-based provider of legal services to help with pro bono campaigns. The company raised a seed round from Backstage Capital, Chaac Ventures and others.

In May 2018, Backstage Capital said it was raising a $36 million seed fund dedicated exclusively to companies founded by black women. Hamilton expects the fund to invest $1 million in 15 to 20 companies over the next three years.

As she tweeted in May from @ArlanWasHere when the fund was announced: “They’re calling it a ‘diversity fund.’ I’m calling it an IT’S ABOUT DAMN TIME fund.”

Hamilton says her career path started after high school when she went into the music industry and was working for tour managers.

In 2012, she says she noticed people like Ashton Kutcher and Troy Carter and Ellen DeGeneres who were investing in Silicon Valley tech.

She “got the bug.” She quit her day job in music and started to learn all she could about venture capital.

In November, CNBC reported about Hamilton, who said she taught herself about investing, practicing concepts on a whiteboard in her bedroom, reading blogs and books and watching investments videos on YouTube.

She said obsessively read such books as “Venture Deals” by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson.

“They became sort of my professors at this four-year college that I created for myself,” she says.