Arlan Hamilton, a Lake Highlands High School graduate turned Backstage Capital founder and managing partner, is coming to Dallas on May 12 for Backstage Tour 2020. The multi-city, one-day event series focuses on underrepresented startup founders through programming centered on education, connection, and investment.
With Hamilton’s background in tour management for musical artists, events have also created a beneficial avenue for Backstage Capital’s community building and portfolio support. So taking Backstage Capital on tour, so to speak, was seen as a way to directly collaborate with local tech ecosystem.
“We want to bridge the gap between investment and underestimated founders, and share learnings across ecosystems to accelerate progress,” writes Bryan Landers, general partner at Backstage Capital, in a Medium post.
The event is expected to include workshops for entrepreneurs and investors, an “ask me anything” session with Hamilton, online educational content, and networking. There will also be a panel focused specifically on the Dallas ecosystem.
A pitch competition will take place with five companies where the winner will receive a minimum $25,000 investment with the possibility of a co-investment, partner matching, and other perks. Interested founders can apply for the pitch contest through March 31.
Backstage Capital is partnering with PayPal, Anthem, and Mailchimp to bring the tour to 12 cities nationwide. The tour will also serve as a launch for Hamilton’s first book called “It’s About Damn Time,” which is scheduled for release on May 5. Event ticket purchases will include a hardcover copy of the book.
Jasmin Brand, the president of agency and digital publisher The Start and the Dallas digital lead for content distributor Urban One Inc., has been selected as the tour’s official city lead for Dallas. Brand wrote in a LinkedIn post that she is “unbelievably honored to be a part of this major national initiative for diverse founders.”
“We’re also working on something EPIC for black female founders here in North Texas,” Brand hinted, adding that people should stay tuned for something that will be revealed in a few weeks.
“The leaders of tomorrow”
Hamilton founded Backstage Capital in 2015 as a seed-stage investment fund centered on women, people of color, and LGBTQ founders. When she was pitching her business to investors, she was homeless, but she told the Los Angeles Times that her difficult background has helped her connect with company founders in Backstage’s portfolio. The group is based in Los Angeles and manages accelerator programs in Detroit, Philadelphia, and London.
“Every time I look at a TechCrunch or Axios article that says the ecosystem is flush with capital, with VC capital, there’s a bubble, I’m like where?” Hamilton told the Los Angeles Times. “Because we’re not seeing it.”
Per the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, less than 2 percent of startup investment went to female founders and only 1 percent to black and Latinx founders in 2016. According to Backstage Capital, women, people of color, and LGBTQ founders receive less than 10 percent of all venture capital investments.
“We know that these founders are going to be the leaders of tomorrow. But right now our circumstances are that we are playing catch-up from decades and centuries of being institutionally locked out,” Hamilton told the LA Times. “So we ask ourselves what is in our power to tip the scales a little bit more in our favor.”
Backstage Capital has invested around $7 million in more than 120 companies all led by women, people of color, and/or people who identify as LGBTQ.
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