Not many LHHS alumni can say they’ve watched Pharrell perform at Coachella with Beyoncé and Jay-Z, but that’s just one of the many adventures that Arlan Hamilton has encountered during her career. Hamilton worked as a tour manager for Norwegian pop punk band goldenboy. She climbed the ladder to work as production coordinator for big names like Jason Derulo, Toni Braxton and Kirk Franklin. While working on tours, she noticed capital investments were only being made to a certain demographic. So Hamilton flew to Silicon Valley to start her venture capital firm, Backstage Capital, dedicated to investing in people of color, women and those who identify as LGBTQ. Hamilton identifies with all three. The company has raised more than $7 million and invested in more than 130 startups.
On touring with goldenboy in her early 20s:
I taught myself how to book tours. I booked them two summer tours in a row. I brought them out here and went on tour. It was one of the most fun times of my life. You’re on the road with these guys, and they’re wacky and playing music. You’re meeting new people every day.
On working as a production coordinator for Kirk Franklin:
I actually worked with Kirk a couple of times. One time we were on tour for Live Nation, and I was the production coordinator for a big gospel tour. Before that, I was his talent wrangler for a TV show called, “Sunday’s Best” for BET. I was assigned to him directly because of my tone. I can calm people down and be measured in situations, and he thought it was professional.
“I read a bunch of books by white men in business, and I didn’t think twice about it, so it’s probably a good idea for white men to read books by black women in business.”
How her career in entertainment led to investment banking:
I was noticing people like Ashton Kutcher, Ellen DeGeneres and Justin Bieber making investments in companies in Silicon Valley. I realized that most of the funding goes to white men. Most of this funding, all of these millions of dollars, are going to very specific people. The diversity is there. Diverse founders of companies are making things, but the funding for it was just, “OK, we’re going to give it to anyone who looks like Mark Zuckerberg.”
On going to Silicon Valley:
It was about trying to raise capital to invest in other people. It was tough. It was a lot of hard work … going to new people, saying, “You are rich. This is something that is probably going to be interesting, and you should pay attention.” Finally, a couple of people started to get it, and then a couple more … and that turned into putting several of them together, and I raised a few million dollars. It’s not an overnight thing at all.
Her new book, “It’s About Damn Time”:
It’s turned out to be part memoir, part self-help and part business. I think it’s for people who feel underestimated. The main audience is people who want to start companies or who are starting companies already. They feel like they are overlooked, so a lot of people who read the book are women of color. I have white men who will read the book, and they’ll say, “I didn’t expect to resonate so much.” I read a bunch of books by white men in business, and I didn’t think twice about it, so it’s probably a good idea for white men to read books by black women in business.
On her “side fund” with Mark Cuban:
Last year, he put a million dollars into it. He said, “Just invest in whatever you want to invest in.” We co-manage. We’ve invested in 12 companies. On our horizon is to continue to work together and think of ways that we can add value to Dallas.
Women who inspire her:
My mom, Mrs. Earline Sims. She lives in Dallas; she brought us up there. I look up to her the most. I also look up to people like Janet Jackson, who I’ve looked up to for most of my life. And all of the women I’ve been able to invest in.
The famous alumni she would work with:
I would love to connect with St. Vincent, Annie. I remember I ran into her in the hallway once. She was sitting on the ground in front of lockers, and I remember she would go to New York every once in a while to do modeling. I think we would have a lot in common.
Message for young women, people of color or LGBTQ:
Even though the world seems absolutely bonkers right now, you just have the world at your feet. You have people who have spent their lives in front of you setting the tone and setting the place for you to have more opportunities, so take advantage of that. Do bold things, do things that are exciting to you, do things that are important to you. Know that you have an entire population who is rooting for you, and it’s no longer in the shadows what our value is, everybody knows what our value is and is learning what our value is. This is the time to live life so full and even though it’s really turbulent times right now, it’s also time where opportunity comes out.