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Founders’ Leadership Series with Arlan Hamilton of Backstage Capital
In 2015, Arlan Hamilton was on food stamps and sleeping on the floor of the San Francisco airport with nothing but an old laptop and a dream of breaking into the venture capital business. She couldn’t understand why people starting companies all looked the same (white and male), and she wanted the chance to invest in the ideas and people who didn’t conform to this image of how a founder is supposed to look. Hamilton had no contacts or network in Silicon Valley, no background in finance—not even a college degree. What she did have was fierce determination and the will to succeed.
As much as we wish it weren’t so, we still live in a world where being underrepresented often means being underestimated. But as someone who makes her living investing in high-potential founders who also happen to be female, LGBTQ, or people of color, Hamilton understands that being undervalued simply means that a big upside exists. Because even if you have to work twice as hard to get to the starting line, she says, once you are on a level playing field, you will sprint ahead.
Despite what society would have you believe, Hamilton argues, a privileged background, an influential network, and a fancy college degree are not prerequisites for success. In this candid conversation with Jeff Thomas, Senior Vice President at Nasdaq, she will share the hard-won wisdom she’s picked up on her remarkable journey from food-stamp recipient to venture capitalist. Along the way, she hopes to inspire all to defy other people’s expectations and to become the role models we’ve been looking for.
The Founders’ Leadership Series is a movement by leaders for leaders that gets to the heart of the drive, ambition, and skills needed to overcome challenges and fuel a personal journey to success.