Venture capitalist Arlan Hamilton knows a thing or two about defying the odds.
Once broke, homeless and sleeping on the floor of San Francisco’s airport, Hamilton became the first, black queer woman to start her own venture capital firm, Backstage Capital, a fund that invests in underrepresented founders who are women, people of color and LGBTQ. It’s a journey, she details in her new book, “It’s About Damn Time: How To Turn Being Underestimated into Your Greatest Advantage.”
“I was out there in many ways, raising capital, or trying to raise capital for this fund that didn’t exist, and this thesis that I had that the resilient people who were underrepresented and underestimated had resiliency off the charts, that would translate well to ROI [return on investment] in many other ways,” Hamilton said in a Boss Files interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow.
“The toughest part of it was that we were completely blindsided by it. I was already thinking about so many obstacles and mountains to climb for myself and for the founders that I was representing,” Hamilton said. “It did feel like the footing was just knocked from under us.”
While many businesses and startups have been hit hard by the pandemic, the venture capital industry has had more mixed results, she said.
“It’s more resilient than many may think,” Hamilton said. “There are a lot of funds who, for one reason or another, were able to raise[money] right before this happened.”
According to data by PitchBook and the National Venture Capital Association, 62 venture capital funds raised a total of $21 billion in the United States during the first quarter of 2020. This compares to a total of $51 billion raised for the full year of 2019, signaling that VC firms are in a stronger position to weather the impending economic downturn. And those figures don’t include unspent capital. VCs in the United States started the year with roughly $120 million in available but unspent money to invest in startups, according to NVCA.
Read (and watch the video) the rest of the CNN story here.