a team of engineers at Goldman Sachs for six years,” she says.
These days, Fagiri prefers to bootstrap her company.
Crowdfunding is also becoming popular: Republic, a platform
that allows founders to raise money from nonprofessional investors in exchange for equity, reported in May that founders of color
accounted for 25% of the investment dollars generated through
its site, while women accounted for 44%. (Industry-wide, the
percentages are 1% and 2%, respectively.) And facial-recognition
startup Kairos, one of Backstage’s portfolio companies, has raised
millions through an initial coin offering—a type of crowdfunding that relies on cryptocurrencies—this past summer.
Many black female founders turn their backs on venture
funding out of sheer fatigue for “having to defend themselves
as human beings,” says Jean Brownhill, cofounder and CEO of
Sweeten, a matching service for homeowners and contractors.
(Backstage is not a Sweeten investor.) Brownhill recalls meeting
with an investor whose first question was whether her father was
around while she was growing up. “I said something very pleasant
with a smile on my face. But where do you go from there?” Mat-
thews, for her part, cites the unique pressure of raising money as a
black female founder: “Whenever you are
lawsuit against VC powerhouse Kleiner Perkins in 2012. She sees
Hamilton as the real deal, capable of leveraging her network to
identify talent that everyone else has ignored.
Though she is still a small player in a venture landscape
awash with money, Hamilton has proven adept at connecting
entrepreneurs to a robust network of top-tier VCs and executives
from Airbnb, Google, and more. Silicon Valley runs on warm
introductions, and Hamilton, by force of will, is now able to offer them. “Time and time again I’ve seen Arlan tell the world,
don’t count me out. It’s her persistence that I’m most inspired
by,” says Uncharted Power founder and CEO Jessica Matthews,
whose seven-year-old renewable energy startup has raised more
than $7 million, with backing from Backstage.
Hamilton is gaining prominence at a time when black female
founders are increasingly giving up on venture capital entirely.
Reham Fagiri, cofounder and CEO of used-furniture marketplace
AptDeco, is one of the rare black women to have raised more than
$1 million in venture funding. She cashed her first VC check in
2014, before Hamilton arrived on the scene, but has since soured
on the standard startup path, due to her interactions with VCs. “I
always got asked who was running the tech, even though I ran (Continued on page 94)
Hamilton calls her
new $36 million
fund for black
the “It’s about
damn time fund.”