A little-known venture fund is raising $36 million to invest exclusively in black female founders, and the head of the firm is calling it the 'About Damn Time fund'

Rich Fury/GettyArlan Hamilton is the founder of Backstage Capital.
  • Arlan Hamilton’s firm Backstage Capital invests in underrepresented founders such as people of colour, women, and members of the LGBTQ community.
  • The firm just announced a new $US36 million fund that will invest exclusively in black female founders, who earn less than 1% of all venture capital funding.
  • Hamilton said black women can no longer “be expected to accept scraps.”

Backstage Capital, a venture-capital firm that backs underrepresented founders including people of colour, women, and members of the LGBTQ community, revealed over the weekend it’s launching a new $US36 million fund that will invest exclusively in black female founders.

“They’re calling it a ‘diversity fund.’ I’m calling it an IT’S ABOUT DAMN TIME fund,” the firm’s founder and managing partner Arlan Hamilton said in a tweet.

The new fund will award black female entrepreneurs $US1 million at a time, Hamilton announced at the United State of Women 2018 Summit in Los Angeles on Saturday. The goal is to bridge the funding divide between investors and black women in the male-dominated VC landscape.

In 2017, female founders received only 2.2% of the $US85 billion invested by venture capitalists, according to PitchBook data. The prospects are even worse for women of colour: A study by First Round Capital suggested that in 2015, a mere 0.2% of all funding went to companies run by women of colour.

For Hamilton, an early trip to Silicon Valley sparked the idea of starting a fund.

“I noticed it was the land of opportunity, but not for everyone,” Hamilton told TechCrunch’s Megan Rose Dickey in 2017. “It just dawned on me one day: If I can’t get these investors to take some of the founders seriously just because they don’t look like the last person they invested in, then maybe I should just try to put together some money and make those decisions myself.”

After spending years in the music industry, Hamilton relocated to Silicon Valley in 2015 to pursue her dream. She lived off her savings and slept on couches, in motels, and out of cars, while also pitching any investor or tech influencer who would listen. She received her first check from angel investor Susan Kimberlin later that year and got Backstage Capital started.

Based in West Hollywood, Backstage Capital plans to invest the new $US36 million fund into 15 to 20 companies over the next three years, with approximately half of the fund reserved for future financing. Hamilton told Business Insider the first two to three invesments will come in 2018.

“Black women have had to make due with far less for centuries,” Hamilton said.

She added, “We cannot continue to be expected to accept scraps.”

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