How This Venture Capitalist Is Inspiring Change

By: Keith Wagstaff · May 02, 2024 · Reading Time: 4 minutes

Changing the Game

Arlan Hamilton thinks of herself as a “venture catalyst.” Fast Company gave her that title when she graced the magazine’s cover in 2018 and she gladly adopted it.

As a Black, female, and LGBTQ+ venture capitalist, she wants to catalyze change by investing in underrepresented founders. But she has been the catalyst behind significant change in her own life, too: Back in 2015, she was homeless, living on the floor of the San Francisco Airport. Since then, her firm Backstage Capital has invested in 200 start-ups.

Yes, she wants to make money, she said on SoFi’s YouTube series Richer Lives. But she also wants to lift up entrepreneurs who don’t normally get meetings with Silicon Valley investors.

Hamilton, who released her second book, Your First Million: Why You Don’t Have to Be Born into a Legacy of Wealth to Leave One Behind, earlier this year, talked with SoFi about paving the way for others and how she feels about money.

“It would be really disrespectful for me to find some success and money and then say, ‘Okay, fine. I’m good,’” she told Brian Walsh, SoFi’s Head of Advice and Planning, and Vivian Tu, the financial literacy advocate also known as Your Rich BFF.

Mastering Your Money

“I used to hate money, like truly hate it,” she said, “because it made my mom cry. It made her so stressed … And so there used to be all of this emotion attached to it.”

Hamilton said now she doesn’t feel any emotions related to money, positive or negative. In fact, she feels like if “I lost everything, I’d be OK.”

That has freed her to make decisions based on her values, as opposed to coming from a place of fear.

“I have zero feelings about money because it cannot make me, it cannot break me,” she said. “There’s nothing anyone could give me or take from me financially to make me change my ideals, to make me lose integrity. I get to walk through life in a very specific way. I cannot be bought.”

Paying It Forward and Putting in the Work

Standing up for your values isn’t just about immediate results for Hamilton.

“I call it loosening the pickle jar for somebody else,” she said on taking chances as an underrepresented entrepreneur, like she did when she pitched Shark Tank investor Chris Sacca after his keynote address at a conference.

“You’re making it that much easier for the next person, hopefully,” she said. “When you go in and ask for a raise, or you go in and speak up about something, you may not get that raise, you may not get the result that you’re looking for. But what if you made it that much easier for the next person who might?”

But even so, raising money from VCs isn’t the right move for everyone, Hamilton said, especially if it’s just to feed your ego.

“I think a big part of why some people start companies is simply so they can raise [funds], because they see the headlines, they see the movies” about successful entrepreneurs. Reading stories about unicorn founders can also make people think of venture funding as a “hack.”

They think, “this will be my hack,” she said. “This will be my shortcut. There’s no real shortcut.” In the end, you need to put in the work, Hamilton said.

Looking for more stories like this? Check out On the Money — SoFi’s one-stop-shop for news, trends, and tips!

Check it out

Please understand that this information provided is general in nature and shouldn’t be construed as a recommendation or solicitation of any products offered by SoFi’s affiliates and subsidiaries. In addition, this information is by no means meant to provide investment or financial advice, nor is it intended to serve as the basis for any investment decision or recommendation to buy or sell any asset. Keep in mind that investing involves risk, and past performance of an asset never guarantees future results or returns. It’s important for investors to consider their specific financial needs, goals, and risk profile before making an investment decision.

The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. These links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement. No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this content.

Communication of SoFi Wealth LLC an SEC Registered Investment Advisor

SoFi isn’t recommending and is not affiliated with the brands or companies displayed. Brands displayed neither endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks and service marks referenced are property of their respective owners.

TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender