On February 21st 2021 Touré throws it back to May 16th 2018 when he hosted Arlan Hamilton, a brilliant, resilient and downright amazing young African American woman who despite living in hardship, had a million-dollar idea, chased it every day besides being homeless and finally changed her life and that of many others around her.
Touré gets Arlan to talk about her journey from being homeless, literally sleeping on the floors of airports to becoming a great Venture Capitalist (VC), on his podcast, the Touré Show.
This episode is as educative and as inspiring as it gets because Arlan Hamilton is a unique success. This is her story about becoming a Venture Capitalist. First and foremost, one might ask, who is a venture capitalist, a VC? Venture Capitalism is a trade that is not very commonly known or understood by many.
That is because, it is mostly a preserve of the privileged, rich business people or people coming from wealthy backgrounds. This is so because, it is a business endeavor which involves approaching rich people and asking them to contribute some of their wealth toward investing in upcoming startups, more so those related to the natural sciences or tech companies.
Having an established network that would provide access to the sources of these finances is therefore crucial, right? Right. Arlan Hamilton, exists to prove that despite lacking finances, status or even the crucial connections required in this trade and in any other, one can still achieve their goals because having the idea, GRIT and vision are all you need.
Arlan Hamilton tells Touré about what being a venture capitalist means and entails. As a VC, Arlan has made it her mission, to invest the finances she receives from donors and investors into startups established by what she calls ” underestimated founders”.
Arlan works to uplift startups owned by people who face discrimination by the larger society owing to unfair bias due to their race i.e. color, or their sex, i.e. women or their sexual orientation i.e. by virtue of them identifying as LGBTQI+. Arlan has chosen this as her select group of entrepreneurs to invest in not as a charity move but because she sees it as a viable business niche since this group is side lined when it comes to investment from the larger public. In fact, only 10% of investment generally goes into startups owned by people of color, women and the LGBTQI+ community.
The podcast gets very interesting when Arlan delves into details of how she got to make it. Despite being homeless, which meant, sleeping on friends’ couches for up to three weeks, sleeping on airport floors,
then in hostels with limited sanitation facilities and then barely affording to pay for the hotel room she shared with her 60-year-old mom despite both of them working all day every day to survive the night, Arlan woke up each day with her idea of venture capitalism to invest in underestimated founders.
She did not have an undergraduate diploma or degree or an MBA but she pushed her ideas onto wealthy business people in hotel lobbies and indulged them in her business idea.
She would start by showing them what she had done so far, which included sharing a list of the investors she had approached so far, some of who were friends of the business people she was pitching to,
” they would see the names of their friends,”, she would then engage them in discussing the facts of the matter such as the fact that only 10% of investment went to the groups she worked with and would ask the investors if they found it fair and would edge them to see how much of a business opportunity it was considering that it is an area that is sidelined in investments.
With time, she managed to raise funds and by 2021 she has managed to support a total of 64 startups owned by underestimated founders.
Perhaps the biggest magical trait, however, that propelled Arlan to become a successful VC is her ability to in her own words “mine white privilege” or to steal white privilege. Hamilton explains this to mean that she is a big believer in equality of people and therefore,
f ” white male, straight men are able to walk in a room each day and ask for what they want, then I can do the same.” She believes in “not making myself smaller (as a woman of color) for others to feel comfortable because that’s how they are used to feeling.” So she applies the same approach white privilege bestows on white people and goes to get what she wants.
Arlan is an icon of boldness, resilience and brilliance and she looks for the same traits in owners of businesses who pitch to her for investment. In her words, she is more drawn by entrepreneurs who are “hungry and not thirsty” in the sense that she pattern-matches by GRIT, and is drawn to people who can “withstand obstacles while keeping their center of gravity.” People who are able to do much with little, and those people with innovative ideas that come from a need to address their pain points or solve a problem. She says, “Can’t find it? Create it.” She highly prizes intention, innovation, GRIT, and a good personality. She is a great advocate of equality and thus she endeavors to bring up underestimated founders to a level which they can fairly compete with privileged ones.
Touré closes she show with a striking parting shot in the following words: “The way to combat so many of the societal problems facing black people today is to address the wealth gap. If we are able to get more money into more black hands, we can grow to a more equitable society. We can have more political power to help us get there, more than improving education and ending mass incarceration, the wealth gap is what we need to close to get a more equitable society. If there is more money in the black community, they don’t have to like us, but they’ll be forced to respect us.”