Disruption, Reinvention, and Reimagining Silicon Valley with Arlan Hamilton
everybody. What's up? Your friend Chase? Welcome to another episode of the Chase Jarvis live show here on Creative Live. We all know this show. This is where I sit down with amazing humans and I do everything. I can't unpack their brains with the goal of helping you of your dreams and career and hobby. And in life. My guest today is an amazing story. She was on food stamps five years ago and has since built a company, a venture investment company with more than 30 employees across four states in two countries and has invested millions in start ups for underrepresented populations. My guest is the one and only Arlen Hamilton. Welcome to the show. Thanks for having me. Thank you. Do you love you? Appreciate it. So I First of all, I saw your your picture on the cover of Fast Company magazine in the fall. That was me and I immediately, you know, went right to the story was so inspired. It seems like both unlikely An amazing turn of events to be being on food stamps to be investing literall...
y millions of dollars in. I think I read more than 100 investments more than 100. All of the investments have underrepresented populations women, people of color and our LGBTQ founders. Right there to that Don't fit that. And they're very early investments. And it was my sandbox. But I give him a chance. Give the white guys a chance. But it's really like it was my kind of sandbox to experiment with it. And one is doing great and ones not doing great. And, yeah, there it's women, people of color, LGBT all things that I identify us. Congratulations. Thank you. In order to find out how someone goes from food stamps to basically trying Teoh disrupt and reinvent and successfully, it sounds like a lot of the silica Silicon Valley paradigm, where something like 90% of the startups are funded by and run by white males. I think in order to understand what's going on today with you, it would be helpful to go back. So can you take me to the world of when Arlen was young and I remember you were born in Mississippi and raised in Dallas? That's right. I was born in Jackson, raised in Dallas, really, really soon after that of a mother early in Sims, single mom and my younger brother, Alfred, who's now a rapper and producer in Dallas who is just doing his thing there. And, um, yeah, I mean, way had a really loving childhood, but we were baroque, had no money, ever. And, um, it was pretty pretty chaotic. Just because you kept moving, had to move a lot but couldn't afford the rent. You know, I'm I don't know if a lot of people who are watching know this, but a lot of times when you're apartments, if you stand apartment like this, you can get kind of Ah, a deal. If you move in, you get like, 1/2 month off Iran or something first month free. So it would kind of go towards those deals. And it was it was kind of eso from a young age. I was watching that happening. I knew what was happening there, and I worked since I was 15 and help pay the bills. You move. Did you move across the country or was no. Is in Dallas the whole time, In fact, um, so close in proximity to each other that I was able to stay in the same school district. Not only school district, but the same school. It was like highlands Elementary like islands junior high and like islands high school. I went from from kindergarten to 12th grade for the most part, you know how many different places I think it was eight or nine. I haven't really figured out the exact number of anything over issue. Everything in her to over two is President Eight or nine. Yeah, it was for us. For me, it was really normal. It seemed very normal. And then it was when I was older that I started to understand that not everybody you ask a few people you like. Wait, you didn't really. And movie didn't move like something people would move like once until bigger players for a smaller place to move once a year. I know that cannot be very. My wife's family moved all over. She was from Alabama to New Jersey, Georgia to Texas. And and I know that was really a hardship. And, you know, those challenges that she had to overcome Can't imagine Inter nine. Yeah. I mean, I am grateful that it wasn't It was in the same school, so I think if I had not gone to the same school the whole time. It would have just really best me out because I was already dealing with all this chaos. I don't I would have been really detached and not able to make friends and thinks it sounds like in chasing the deals and, you know, discounted rent and things like that. It sounds like there was, even though there wasn't a lot of money was there's an entrepreneurial spirit that you got from your mother. Yeah, my mom always. And still to this day, she's 70 this year. To this day, she's, um um so I'm distracted like we're in downtown los, it easily re distractive, unlike she so hearing things. My mom, um, has always been, uh, had ideas. He had these wonderful ideas. In fact, in her fifties, for the first time ever, she wrote a book she had, you know, it was she. She had the story in her head and she had to get it out. And so she had never written even a chapter a blonde post, and she decided to write a full fiction book in her fifties. And so these air and you know, It wasn't just a book. It was when she first showed me a few pages of it, I was terrified How we're gonna tell you if I don't like this thing. And what is this thing? She? What's my role in your what I do? Like, if I don't like you know, your mom? Your family member has a vanity project. What do you do? It is beautiful. It was absolutely beautiful. We showed it to other people. They were like, No, you're right. This is beautiful. It was just something that she always had in her, but none of us ever knew. And so she taught me about being entrepreneur. But even more importantly, about sort of following your voice that you have instant. Yeah, following that against all odds. Well, what's the first step that you feel like you took in your mom's image? Or and our inspiration that puts you on the path of German right now? Because to be, I don't want to say going against because that sound it's an adversarial terms. But in order to try and change something, you gotta you gotta challenge convention. Yes. Was there a particular project your moment early in the time of your childhood that you felt like what you're doing now. I was always odd. I was always an oddball. Even as early as third grade, I would wear six watches with six different time zones because I was fascinated by the fact that people lived other places and had different. There were some people were asleep. It was the night time it was his making watches. On one hand, No 12 hands Now I was a lady. Okay, okay. So too ends really cheap. Gumball machine watches are, uh and I still to this day I would rock shoe probably dropped to Velcro watches for sure. And it was just something that connected me to other people. In a way, I don't know why at this age I felt that I needed to be connected to people in other countries. But it's something that is stayed with me my whole life and definitely got called things and looked at differently. I didn't care. I just knew that it was the right thing for me, and I knew that I wasn't hurting anyone, so I did it on. That's basically how I lived my life like global citizen from third grade. Yeah. Yeah, World Citizen. Yeah. And I also remember hearing something about T shirts. T shirts? Yeah. So, uh, I I sold the world citizen shirt. Um, back in the day and I mean twenties, okay. And I have sold all types of shirts and, uh, as thousands, thousands of Is it a political statement putting your message out in the world? Is it money? Is it both like, what was in every case? He was to earn money because I was always my others. Broca's a child never got out of that. Never had made more than a few $1000 a year. I think the most ever made in one year was when I was 21. I made about $20,000. That's the most I made before I started. I find it blows my mind today, but I like the way it started was I was around 22. 23. I'd already gone on, taught myself how to do tour like put together a tour, toured with a punk band from Norway. I'll tell you all about it. And I was I was in Jackson, Mississippi. I was staying staying with family because again, Way had run out of money at some point. And I was like It was it wasn't like this downtrodden, sad kind of thing. It was sort of like I was always happy and always, um, that I was happy, but always like curious. So one day I looked at one of P. Diddy shirts. Hey, just had the word didi on it or puff or whatever it was at that time. Whatever was track and people. Who is it now? I think it's Didi OK, and he was selling these shirts for, like, 60 80 $100. I just had his name on it and I thought, How geniuses it is, still advertising for the next shirt. I thought that was great. So I just add a like for giggles but also curiosity and in sort of experimentation, I connected with with a designer who lived in another state online on a well or something. And I said, Hey, can you just make me assure like a design for my name? And he made this shirt that just said Arlen and I had this quote that, um, my heart was inexhaustible. It's a quote I've lived so much. Someday they will have to forget me forcibly. And it put that quote kind of calligraphy or whatever. And my name was the main thing, and I was just, like, for fun. Let me let me kind of make a little website for this and see if it sells its old. Nobody knew me. Nobody knew me, but first my friends would buy it, and then people outside of would buy it. And I was just like, this is fascinating that I can sell a shirt that just has my name on it. And then I made other designs with my name and people bought it. And so after that, I would, um Well, I was a big fan of the l word, this TV show for for gay women and, uh, what I like to call lesbian adjacent women. Um, and I had this blawg and all of this and I would write about the show is coming back this year. Actually, it ISS reboot. Yes, e can't wait. I can't wait to love it or hate it. Okay, so I started two different shirts from from that idea. One of them was you know how there's Jesus. Jesus is my homeboy. I would do. Shane is my homegirl or homo girl on. I saw thousands of these. They were featured in the DVDs for l word like that. Show themselves loved it and because that people could walk around and it was an ice breaker. And then I had this idea one day to do custom shirts and they said I'd go gay for and you could put you whoever, Nate, whatever name you wanted there. So I had started with I'd go gay for Angelina. Those sold out really fast. And then people could tell me what they wanted, so I would do the popular ones in bulk and the ones that people I would have those take a little bit longer what they be. And so it sold a bunch of these shirts over time. I mean, if I knew anything about, like, business, I probably would be a millionaire already. Stuff, T shirt. You had just off shirts on these ideas that I had one day, I, um, call my mom. I was living in California This time I called her and I said, Mom, I just want you to notice before you see it? Because I just you know, she's from the South was religious, and we'd already she was completely okay with me being gay. But I want to let you know, I have these shirts that say I go gay for and, you know, they're gonna They're selling selling really well. So he just heads up, you're gonna see that's up. So she go. You hear a pause like this, this long pause And she has make me one that says I go gay for Oprah and then that from that one. I was like, You know what? I was like. It's a new day. Yeah, I don't Yeah, it was great. So, uh, I sold a bunch of those, um I saw some other ones I showed sold one that said, um um Oh, what? It was No, I can't remember what it was. All so many of my can sell many of them. Oh, I used before the madness before he broke our heart, I sold honorary Huxtable shirts. Yeah. Yeah, because every black kid I knew of a certain age wanted to be a huckster girl. So honorary Huxtable and those sold And I mean, I was slinging slang in church. There's a big gap, though, between selling T shirts online. Sure, and having a multi $1,000,000 venture fund? Not really. Okay, this is beautiful, because for those folks at home, wherever you are in your journey, we're just hearing from Arlen right now that there's not really that much different from where you are, where you want to be. So tell us absolutely right. I mean, you know, there are years in between. There's a lot of heartache in between. A lot of tears, a lot of discomfort between. But it's the same curiosity. It's the same good intent. It's the same drive and ambition and desire to be connected to people and to make people smile and to make people happy and either brighten their day or their lives. All of it's the same. And, um, yeah, there's a lot that's happened in between. But I feel like all these things I worked on kind of had that common thread. It's where you can only connect abouts looking backwards right this Help me understand this This entrepreneurial adventure. Help me do this. Um So if you can Onley connect the dots looking backwards what were some of the dots? As you look back between T shirt sales and one other qualifier, I have often said that you know when I'm talking to, say, an audience of photographers or creators, like the difference between selling your photograph for $100.10,000 dollars is largely who you're talking to, so you can find a way to talk to the right people. That's right. That you're more likely to be successful not is a largely comes from a privileged point of view, because how can you put yourself in a position where you're able to talk to those people? Exactly. You had to do that way and you went from food stamps to raising a $ million fund. Yeah, So what? What were some of the steps that you took to to have a different audience? The T shirt Teoh fund, a fund eso um, I will answer your question, but I have to say, before I do that, I've talked to people who have been homeless. People have been down and out. People have been or just don't have that much money. They're not like, you know, suffering. I talked to billionaires. Same thing. Same. Um, there's there's a little bit of disconnect of like Okay, how much does it think of gas costs? And that's where thing. But really, they're all looking for a Zopa says They're all looking to be heard like they really are. They're looking for that validation. And, um, any time I've not seen myself somewhere like, for instance, with Venture with Venture funding in the venture world and start up space, I didn't see so agency a black woman who was writing checks, who was out there, who was someone that I could reach out to and say I started this company. Can you help me? Any time I've been in that position? I thought, Well, why don't Who's to say that I can't create my own, build my own either chair for the table or my own table? And so, um, you know many, many steps for it, but a couple of key ones, really a moment into Here's a good example, and it comes from the music world. So I before I got into the This is one of the big dots. Forget into the touring after the T shirts, I was a production coordinator and tour manager from musicians. There was something that I fell in love with doing, and I had worked with. I had taught myself how to book tour for this no region pop band pop punk band called Golden Boy, and it's because I like their songs and I wanted to hear them play live and they didn't have a tour. So I said, If I book you a tour guide here, you every night will you come out to America and tour And they're like, Sure, So I taught myself with the Yellow Pages and with, you know, not with There was no Google anything. I just taught myself how to book this tour, and so I had learned to do that. I did everything I could on those tours. Singer songwriter tours followed, and I realized, I want to now work on these big arena shows. I think that that our house and blew anything bigger than what I was doing because I've I've done that and I feel like I'm qualified to now go to the mixed up. I didn't have any connections had no no one that I knew who could help me get those jobs getting interview, and I certainly didn't know these bigger musicians. So I set out and I said to myself, I'm going to reach out to production managers and tour managers and like a two month period and I researched everyone I could. And I got pulled information from online and from from old emails and all sorts of things. And I found out not just their names and their email addresses, but a little bit about each one. What their resume waas so that I could understand how I could talk to them. And I wrote 200 of them and I made at least the first paragraph personal, customized. And I basically said, Like, I have never gone on a tour of the size that you all work in. However, I'd like to be able to and and again it was about not seeing myself. I said, I don't see any black women who are tour managers on a on a large scale. I didn't know any a new I should have found one. Honey, Miss Teen Affairs. Thank you, Tina, and she is amazing. But I hadn't I didn't see it, so I said in order for Meteo to be 11 day I'm going to have to be your apprentice. I'm going to have to break into this and I will do a good job because I have every incentive to and I've done this is in that. And, you know, I taught myself to book and taught myself what all these things were. And, um so not 100. I got 20 responses and I got three in person interviews and I got my first gig. That's right. The Ashdod, the fun right 100 leads 20 follows. Absolutely three interview only with one that I could predict was the 100. Because that's what I wanted to do. Yeah, what I could do Was there a when? So that's the funnel for those folks. That's just basically like sales leads. If you want to talk to a lot of people, then you have toe. If you want to convert a certain amount of people going to talk to a lot more So in that world to me, like the emotional intelligence A to understand that that that that was how the world worked and then be to write 100 letters and to be able to articulate a point of view. That's where I see so many creators and entrepreneurs struggle. Yeah. Is that a thing that you teach your aspire to? Is that or is that just part of the That's just that just, ah, getting the door feel like you teach that you asked. Do you believe that? I mean, I think that so I didn't go to college at school. I was just so concerned about my home life and everybody being broke. I didn't feel like it would be great for me to go off to college. So I think what I what I lack in certain knowledge, that's, you know, very specific I can make up for in communication. And I figured that out and I thought, Well, let's just double down on what you're good at. Let's double down on that connection to people in expressing yourself in a way. And I think it's just about figuring out, like some people, terrible readers, but amazing orders. So it is like just figuring out what you're good at and not dwelling on the stuff that you're not and doubling down on what you're good at and making that part of what? You that craft that you home, You know, as much as possible. I'm just noticing your sweatshirt here. Backstage Capital? Yes. And it's all making sense to me now. The T shirt in your history. Yeah. So you're making T shirts in those things. And then backstage the stage, the tour manager, that being a supporting role for entrepreneurs? Yes, all of it. I didn't I just had this. Like why? No, no. Just eso you You got your gig from 100 down toe one? Yeah. Yeah, I went on to, um I mean, I worked at all kinds of jobs before that, so I def. I mean, I worked the night shift the graveyard shift at banks and coding checks, which every time I would hit the, uh, click the button to check in. And I felt like a gunshot. You know, when you when you see when you clock down and I had done that, I worked from size 15 on every kind of data entry job. You can imagine every kind of retail, everything. And so I did get that first gig in That was I mean, I was, um would have been 30 30 When I first got before then I published a music magazine. I sold the mantra shirts. I, um I had a blogger. I did a lot of stuff That was sort of I didn't like where you've trying to find the thing you're passionate about or were alone was passionate about. I didn't do anything. I wasn't passionate about that. I think I just never. I think that's why when I discovered, discovered like I had, I didn't know about the Silicon Valley place. Yeah, when I discovered that when I was 31 ish, I think that's what, like everything else started to make sense. Everything else I had done started to make sense because I had always been this weirdo who was doing these things and had no no safety net and but was always, always making people excited and bringing people together. I had so many couples Fountain, who found each other. My blawg, who got married like I have all sorts of things, but it would never. It was never a great business model, none of it. And when I discovered Silicon Valley, I thought, Oh, you can partner with people who get that part you know, you can be. You can be again. I don't want to call myself a visionary, but you can have those those visionary tendencies and not have to do everything and figure everything out. And so many people knew this before. I just didn't know it. So once I figured that out, that is when all of the things that I had done in the past, from the time I was selling candy in the third grade, to working on major arena tours that I got myself to all of those things, that all of the heartache and between all the terrible times in between, it all made sense because I thought, This is it. This is the answer I can. I can find my team here, my tribe here, and work on one singular, focused mission and put all my energy into having that back. And once I recited, I wanna have a venture backed company. That's when I started doing all this research. Go back into the research just like you did with the band's. Absolutely. I started doing research. I wanted to know what I was getting myself into when I walked into these rooms so I never set out to become a venture capitalist. I just wanted to know how they thought. I wanted to know what they did. I wanted to know everything that they as much as I could, about what they did, so that we would be on par with each other in the room. And for me, it was again and exercising the curiosity that was very excited about when I started doing the research. That was when I realized 00 wow. Thistle is a very, uh, homogeneous world, and only certain people are getting in like your There's only certain people who have that the code word, the password to get in. And I can I can learn about this world and break that for myself and get in and probably raise a few $1,000,000. And I really thought that well, it was sitting on a blue a bit in my apartment. I was like, I probably can figure this out. I can crack this code. But wouldn't it be even more interesting if I cracked the code for a lot more people and we went, we just went for it? And could we could we reshape could we do the thing in the back to the future where they have the two parallel I'm car to now, you to Can we do that? Where? If I hadn't done anything, it was gonna be like this. Could I do this and steered a different way and that when I started thinking through all of those what ifs soon could we use And, um, I imagine what the world could look like in a few years if it if I tried. And if I succeeded, it was worth the risk of not one of the things that I've through the course of this show on my own creative and entrepreneurial journey trying to figure everything out in the same way that you described. But I've learned is that the the types kinds backgrounds of people who are inventive, who are entrepreneurial or are inspirational who are these different attributes. Whatever your list of attributes are, they come from every walk of life, chip. Yet what we see is only a narrow swath. Yeah, and it's, you know, that's one of the reasons that creative life exists honestly is to try and provide access for your very affordably to people who otherwise might might not be able to tap into that was this aid? Is that something that you found in your research and and B If so, Is that a message that you that you tried to bring into these rooms or if it's not? What was your point of view? No, absolutely. It was the foundation of why I started backstage, Why I decided to go that route rather than the sort of Duke Island route you have of What can I get from this? It was that, you know, very innocently. I started reaching out to founders, and I mean all kinds of founders, black women and white men. Everything else on I would just reach out to someone who had a cool company that I liked are quite cool website. If you would have gotten, you would have gotten an email with my blood type and all kinds of my life story, and it's probably better off, all right. But I would reach out very innocently early in this process and just say, Hey, can I Can I talk to you? Can I learn from you? Can I help you with something? I'll do something for free. And that way I can learn a little bit cause I'm doing this sort of immersion teaching myself bit here. And it was in talking to these founders. And again, this is 2012 ish where right now I think most people hear about diversity, inclusion every day of their lives. They're almost like, Come on, do we need another diversity inclusion speech? Right? They've even shorthanded. It's the pain. I know. Yes, there's going to be but in. But in 2012 when I was starting this conversation, we weren't people. We're not talking about it. In fact, I was told by people in Silicon Valley who had emailed some of them, wrote back and said, We don't talk about it like we being the royal we don't talk about. And the founders who I was talking to, they were all working on their own things, so they didn't know what the other was going through. So, uh, you know, I have reached out to, for instance, patri on Jack Contact eyes. You shout to him the first hour, he was the one that I didn't get reached out things kidding, Okay, A threat Todo Jack. So I think in the first hour that they were they were lying because I knew. Yeah, I said as soon as I saw that site and the site was very different than today. But I saw the potential and I reached out to him and I said, I want to help you. I wanna help you here. And I also think I can help you get some money gets raised, And, um, at first they said, No, we're good. And then, like two days later, they wrote back and said, actually, we might want to start raising it. So what do you got? You know, But who can you connect us to? Start connected him to a lot of people, and that's a whole other story itself. But Jack wouldn't have known that Rebecca, a black woman in Detroit who was working on her company, he wouldn't have known that she was not even getting any, you know, not even getting in the door. Not even getting out a response to an email. She wouldn't have understood that it wasn't supposed to be that hard. And so like talking to all types of people, I was ableto have this sort of bird's eye view. And that is when I did going back to your question. I did understand. Wow, so many people are working on amazing things. There's not like it's like all the white guys are working on legitimate things and all the black guys were not. Everybody was working on some awesome stuff. It's just that by and large, not everybody, not all the time, but by and large, if you were a black founder that I met in 12 4013 no matter what you were working on, you were doing it with 1/10 or less of the resource is for whatever reasons, you combine. And I knew some of the reasons and some of the reasons I was curious about and to me, as a black gay woman that was disheartening on many levels, and it was it pulled at my heartstrings. But more than that, I said, Whoa, the investor who figures this out first and gets and becomes the number, the call that you make if you are found. It was not a white guy. The way that life like works the way that trends work the way that I've seen this happen in the way that they can do so much with so little they're gonna win. This is a There's a meta play going on here. You are really realizing that if you can be that person, did you put yourself in that role immediately? Or was it like through this role needs to exist that the role needed to exist And I started telling everybody I could. I went to these major funds through email through phone calls. I would set up meetings with them and I would say, OK, they're gonna love this. How can they deny this? I say, Look, and I was obvious. I mean, I was in Texas. I didn't know anything about salaries. I don't know anything about carrying. I mean, I taught myself about Carrie, but I didn't really know what I was asking for something. We're getting me at a discount, so I would call him up, and I would say, Look, I'm seeing is something that I'm not saying that you all are noticing. That's 2012 13. I think in the next five years this whole diversity thing is gonna be a big deal. I can find you the companies and bring them to you. And I can vet them and bring you the best. And I'll just give me a desk or something and I'll and I'll do that. And, you know, didn't have any idea that there were There were scout programs for white guys. Didn't know that that was happening. Um, if can you imagine if someone had the foresight to to put me in a scout program in 2012? Imagine what could have happened for their fun, But I died. Rascal. I'm glad they did it. Um, I said, you know, this is what I have to offer. Um, you know, whether it's part time full time. I wasn't asking for much. I was offering the world and flat out No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. It was a medley of nose and they were just not interested in people wrote back. And they were just like, yes, that we don't look at race around here. It's just not something that we think is a problem. And they were like saying that I was in the wrong for bringing it up. It was just not okay. And then I'm talking about gender to like like there's white women out here who are building things and they don't get any money. And I'm telling you, they're brilliant and they're going to win without you. So why not? So I would. So I did that. Then I wrote about it. There's nobody was listening to me one on one. So then I, like, took it to the to the masses, which was like five people. And then that turned into that turns of thousands. And what I did This block post called dear White Venture capitalists in the summer of 2015. After dear white people, Dear White teeth. So awesome. Yes. So it was right around that time and in parentheses. I put your almost too late, like if you know, And that was from the Drake, The Drake mixtape. The both had happened around the same time. So I did that. And who puts those two things? The guy that's in cry, right? So it I wrote this and I wrote it in a way you could still read it online. It's on medium Ah, Lot of people read the title and they think. Oh, my God. I can't believe you're saying this. Actually, if you read it, if you actually read it, I am being, um, collaborative. I'm not blaming anybody. I'm saying look missing out here because you're afraid You think it's like charity. You don't. You know, sometimes you may speak up and you get yelled at. Let me tell you how toe get in here. So it all in, don't you? We want to be the first to win with us. And I got a lot of I mean, they went It went crazy that I wrote that while I was sleeping at the airport. It was awake at the time, but I was I I wrote that then and like the next morning, it was just on dumb. Still, though, nobody was checking for me when it came to, like actual, Like paying me for my thoughts in my time and my understanding vision, the in my vision. So then I said, you know, I had already decided I'm going to start to raise his fun. Had no no traction on it, Not not at all. Then the block post came out. A few other things happen Where I would go in and somebody like a millionaire investor that I saw, like maybe Chris Soccer, for instance. He's a billionaire now, but he was a millionaire. Time good dude. Yeah. So he was one of those people that when I wrote early on they would respond and not be stupid. Very few, but he was one of the people. Brad Feld was another. When you reach when you reach out, he took me strike. I wrote him recently. He's now invested in our fund and yeah, and he's Enso's Chris and his wife, Crystal. And I restart to Brad recently, like in the last few months. And I just said, You know, thanks for taking me seriously, because more than money or a job, I wanted to be taken secret seriously, so I just kind of recommend that for anyone who's in a position of power, is to is to not write people off so easily just because you're safe, not anyone. Not everybody's. That's safe. But things like Chris soccer seeing me for the 30 in a row, saying the same thing and not being a tourist, then you special attention. Yeah, I started contention. I mean I definitely, um, found my way at one of his conference like one of his speaking engagements. Found my way a hack to ghost, like, block his view for 15 minutes. So he had to listen to me, and then he invested, but, um, you know, it was things like that. And finally, on September 2015 a woman named Susan Kimberlin who was an angel investor in San Francisco. I used to work. It sells for us and PayPal. Um, she, you know, she had no me for about three months of that point. She's like, You know what? Let me give you a shot here, let me see what you could do. So she put that first amount of, like, kind of get you going money. And that's only that's all I needed to know that I could pull it off. And you know what? I watched that it to things, and maybe this will work for other people. It's totally like way. No, but this is totally like, you know, wearing the right sweater. When your sports team wins, it could work and could not. But two things I did one is I read outliers by Malcolm Gladwell the same year that happened, and I understood myself. I recognize myself in such a big way. When I read that and they gave me a lot of confidence gave me white way confidence. Call it that I don't know. We're working with that. Does that work? White boy confidence, white man confident just listening and taking notes. You knew your second is that almost every single year I watch the secret of my success with with Michael J. Fox and I I mean, since I was a kid, I watched this and I knew I knew with all of my heart that I'm spoiler. I'm not gonna spoil it for you. But I knew that the end scene was going to happen in late in my life. It was You gotta watch if you don't know I'm talking about. It's on an Amazon prime. It's on this. And so I watched that like the night or two nights before Susan said yes, and I'd watch it on purpose because I was waiting for her answer. And I was just like and you have to understand that it had been sleeping on the floor. I had been wondering if I was gonna eat for days, all of these things have been happening. But I said I got to get myself psyched up. I gotta like, it's amazing The power of the minds Mind sell share. Can we dive into that? This first picture? Because I think when, um when I have had the good fortune of talking to people who are in a hard place but have a vision, I tend to see that mindset. The folks that are in the same position as someone else. They seem to me to be radically different if their mindset is about all the other. The constraints being reasonably equal, right? The mindset of that person to me Is this like, yes. Like it's a catapult. That's a complete game changer. How, when you're in your case on food stamps or to use your words sleeping on the floor? Yeah. Waas. How did you keep What was the mindset? Was this something? It was in your parents? Is this something that you taught yourself? Is it like So where did you get it? Where'd you get it from? Or did you build it yourself? And to what did you actually do We've heard two things. One. You read books and watched movies. Yeah. What? What else? Give us a little more insight there. Um, yeah, I could give you plenty. Some would have to say for the book, but I was talking about that for a second. Just Yeah, she was just just signed a book Deal. I did Two days. Penguin. Random House in the last seven days. Congratulations has just a few few days ago. Give us the first shot. When the books dropping, we want I wanna help you spread. That is going to be perfect for audience. That'd be great. I can't wait. I mean, I'm excited. I'm writing it now and I'm just, like, super stoked about it. But I'm just kidding. Mostly about So I did very specific. So you ask a couple questions. One is like, Where did it come from? Um, I definitely think watching my mom go through so much, and she has She has gone through so much before. I was born after, um, watching her. Just do this with with this with a certain humor. First of all, a certain lightness to it once when we needed and kind of keeping us from the from the fray of it and then watching how strong she was and how, um, she, you know, when we were broke and she knew her kids and it eat, she didn't have a problem working all day at a corporate job and then working overnight at 7 11 It was just what you had to do to make it work. And to me, if she's willing to do that and she went through that, I can certainly be uncomfortable myself, and that's part of it. It was just like comfort with being complement with Absolutely second is that I don't think that I don't think that that's used by my head, right, you're going up the second is that I don't think that there's anyone who, uh, I don't think I think everybody's equal. I think that we're all equal. We all deserve spot here is all like we were all given this, I don't know. Everybody has a different opinion of how we got here and why we're here. But my opinion is that whatever that answer is, we're here and we all those we all have an equal piece of it. We all have an equal piece of the land and the oxygen and the, uh, the potential. And so, um, when I I know that in my core I can talk to anyone and I can I can listen anyone the way. So one of the things that I did, um, like during that time, it's just a lot of like talking to, like in my head, like just it's, um just a wheel that I have a speaking of wheel. There's this video that Will Smith has that he didn't have it on you to somebody made it of all his inspirational things, I'd listen to things like that, like I like watching things. Having access to Internet was such a wonderful privilege during this time because I did have a laptop with me and I did have Internet, um, in different places and so watching people who inspired me, I mean, I consider that part of strategy. You have to surround yourself if you you say you have to surround yourself with people who are positive and you don't have those people physically with you. Surround yourself with Oprah, have opening your ear, talking to your on video. We watch episodes of this show. Go back and just watch different episodes and And just build yourself up. Um, until you have other people who can. So I wish is my own trainer. At that time, I was my own. You got to do this. You do this and it really helped. I talk to founders about this a lot. It really two things. One is to know your intention to know why you're doing something. It's a huge deal to know why it changes everything. When you realize I don't really know why I'm doing this. Why? I'm working so hard for this thing. Why I'm wanting this so much. Let me go back to the core of what it is. That's huge. But the second part is, um is, uh whoa. I lost my thought for a second. Okay? Yeah, just, um, reasons. Why, Yeah. What's your why and and what's your body control? Your mindset? Yeah, I've lost it on my goodness from 38. Doesn't happen. That doesn't happen. It's in. Can't happen this soon. No use to me all the time. Unfortunately, I'm seated next to see Oh, you're a guest because you lived an amazing life and I could just mostly sit back and listen for Yeah, yeah, yeah, but I'm really just focused on the mindset like you're doing a good job hacking the mindset. And how you got that. Yes. Do these exercises to help. We would memory did them early, you know, Um, but it is really about the concept that yeah, having having mentors, that if they're not in your physical life online, I think that's huge. It's it's everything. Um, there's so many times that I've gotten myself out of out of a really dark place by listening to people talk inspirational way or listening to some good music there. There's, ah, their songs that have saved literally saved my life literally in the moment. Saved my life. When when you are in those moments in those dark times and you turn to those things do you have Is there any other practice? Do you journal? Do you write me the things now? So just about a mind not thin. But now I do the last three years. So, like post the check. The first check started doing different things. One of them is I keep a draft of my email. I'm I have a journal, but I don't really easy. More for notes, A to do list, things like that. Um but I do draft so two things that I do one is that I really just keep up with what? I have to do it in this email draft. So no matter where I am, I can pull it up and do that for. The second thing is that I write my own headline headlines Plural, and I've been doing that for about two years. What's an example? So two years ago, I would have wouldn't have had I would have had, like, one or two pieces of you know, this article or that article. They would have been great since then. People say, hi, how are you everywhere. Do you have a marketing team? I do not have a marketing team. Have no PR team. That's all inbound, and I really believe that it's because I started writing my own headlines and I'm not going to do in the secret kind of person or whatever, but I just feel like, um, like, for instance, you know, there never perfect, never whatever. But I will say I had one going for a while Backstage Capital invest in 100 companies by 20 and I put the data is like 2020 you know, because I said in 2015 I'm going to invest in 100 companies said out loud. But in and 17 I wrote this headline to myself. I'm the only one who can see it. It's in my drafts and it says Quote. And I capitalized it as if it was gonna be a headline Backstage Capital invested 100 companies, and the date was whatever in 2020 of a random date. And you're ahead of schedule, definitely, and ended up investing my 100 company in May 2018. And I really believe that I had a lot to do with that. And I think you know other example. Another example would be like, um, um, a partner that I want t join us or investor that we want to become onboard out put their name in this headline like Blah Blah joins backstage capital as as an LP or just different things that like, what would you want to happen? Write your own headlines. What? What should it look like in a year. What does it look like in six months and five years and just a a turn on on any kind of visual ization of vision board and all that. But for me, it was very specific, and it was very helpful because not only was it like aspirational, but it was, like, part of the intention. What am I trying to do with this movement in this mission? I'm trying to make headlines like this happen now, months and years later, you have cover fast company. I'm I just A couple of weeks ago I was the pull quote at the top of U S A today front page. Yeah, like it all sorts of stuff. That was what I said, that, um, if there's anyone, we should double down on its black women. Yeah, and it was a piece about it was a wonderful piece about black women in Silicon Valley and a lot a lot of people who are who are doing great and working on this. I'm gonna try and some risk. So because there is a powerful I think this is the tactical stuff that it's easy to say. Oh, man, I was out of my luck. And now I'm on the cover of Fast Company. But it's just like, What do you wake up and do every day? That's what most of the people who watch and listen they want to know. And so there's, um first of all you were in the community or researching things you are passionate about. You ask yourself the question like the why Why don't want to do this? Um, part of your answer was that you were You thought that instead if you could help other people do this, we're basically, you know, amplifying your own journey. But what about if we 10 x that our next it writing headlines is huge. That's key. Um de right. Can I go 11 layer deeper? Do you read the headlines as if they've already happened? No. I write the headline for when I want them That happen. OK, so I put a date on them. I put a date on them and I and it changes. And this is yours. This is your private thoughts and your think so you can move things around. Something didn't happen or something happened faster than you thought. And or this can change, and it's so helpful to toe look at them. And if you can kind of keep old things, they're just sit down so you can just see it and just keep changing and adapting. Like I have learned how to adapt midsentence because I get so still, so many know so many negative things air thrown at me. You have to learn to adapt. And writing these headlines is just your way of keeping track of what you thought was possible a few months ago. What's important to you today? Is there a frequency that you review these? Is it every day? No. Well, no, Probably isn't the writing a week a weekly basis? I'll owe a notice. It don't look at it. I'll add to it. It's not every day. Um, I know that you know, on every day for me is and and researching, I still to this day spend as much time as I can and I There's a lot. I have 304 100 inbound messages a day have 35 or so people working at backstage. There's a lot of going on, but I make sure that I'm always learning and, um because the moment you stopped learning like it is over, it's over. There's always gonna be someone who is hungrier than you. As I was going to someone who is better than you. If you're not keeping up with things if you complacent, like being mediocre and complacent are like one of two of my biggest fears, it's just being can we talk about a couple other fears? Uh huh. Sure. What else you got? I mean, like, the normal ones of, um I don't think I'm afraid of death. I'm afraid of pain. That sort of like, I think I'm afraid of that. I'm mostly afraid of, um, people that care about just having some sort of I have this true. True. It's an irrational fear, but I also feel like some of my paranoia works. It tends to happen like it's more like visions rather than being paranoid. I have this, um, thing where I feel like if I become really successful, someone else, something will happen to somebody. I feel like there's his balance in life that I'm not 100% allowed to be just completely okay, because for 35 years, carry always had this chaos. So, for instance, the day that I the day that I was able to announce fast company being on the cover, and it was a huge, huge day. My mom's sister Ah, her oldest sister, went into her last few hours of living and her husband was paralyzed. And I'm laughing not because it's funny, but because one of my greatest fears actually happened. And it was just like, Are you serious? I don't know. Or some there, somewhere out there. Yeah. And you know, I'm just like that's weird. Um, but you know, it's good stiffly paranoia because things happen all the time. Bad things happen all the time. Good things happen all the time. There are things called coincidences on dumb, but I'm just afraid like I think everyone's afraid of their loved ones. Of course, that's that. That's, you know, the nature of the question is, it's It's easy for people who are listening or watching to sit in here and here you talk about this is amazing, Arc. And yeah, you're terrified. Terrified of that. I'm also afraid of people on my team not having health insurance because something that I did like I'm always making sure that they like I'm always fundraising, and it's not because I like in fundraising is just that I'm terrified that are great. Health coverage goes away. Um, I'm not afraid of losing just money in general like, I hope you. Oi, My relationship with money is very okay. I don't I like it for what it is. It's a tool I like for what it can do, what it can do for to make things better. I I like the challenge of earning it and making money work for me. I think that's great. After 35 years being able to now flip that and hopefully the next 35 years, I can build wealth and that's the goal. I want to be incredibly successful when it comes to Capitol, because I think that that's, uh, it's a representation of something. But I am not afraid of like, oh, being poor, You slept on the floor. Yeah, yeah, I've lived through that. I don't want it to happen, but I'm not afraid of it. I'm not like there's no there's nobody. That's why I'm so out spoken, and that's why I'm so comfortable with myself. It's because what you gonna threaten me with? Most people try to threaten me in some way of my livelihood. Like, you know, I like string cheese and Diet Coke, but for you in a wine glass before you, I'm I like it after you. Like I will be okay. I'll be broke again. I'll still have that poster of my fast company cover, though. Keep me warm at night. That's right. You said something earlier in our conversation, which was It was, uh so, uh, an instruction for lack of a better word for people in power recommendation. I think it's how you put it. Every recommendation for people in power. Can you make some other recommendations? Because a lot of people listening to the show. Yeah. And I think whether you're in a position of power, not we can all learn from your perspective. So what are some other should czar oughts or considerations that you you would invoke? I think if you're in power, if you have privilege, all of that, I really think that not just, you know, you probably hear share your privilege. I reiterate that I'll say that Share your privilege. Nothing wrong with it. But let's look at that a little bit. Um, first of all, realize that you have privilege in what privileges? Privileged to me is not a bad word. Entitlement is a bad word. So realized that almost every human being has some privilege and that for me, my privileges that I could walk I'm not in a wheelchair. I have my mental faculties when I can remember things, you know, I I have tall. Um I have that privilege now. Ah, lot of things. I I don't have a privilege, and I have to kind of look it out someone else's privilege. But I don't I think that sometimes a Florence white men, because they're I mean right now they're getting yelled at a lot and I do some of the yelling. I think sometimes they just gonna close off, and they're like, It's not my fault I was born in this body like back off. It's not my fault. My dad and my mom has money, and I you want me to be broke. You know, I've heard of shot down with people and talk about it. It's not so much in blaming or being upset that you have it. It's more like that's great that you have it. We need more of that. We need. We need as much privilege as we can get and share that, you know, share with people. And one example that I give for people who maybe privately concerned about sharing their privilege. And sometimes this is a deep fear that some people have that if they shared, it goes away or it's diminished. Or something to. That effect is if. Imagine that you are at a standing room only concert at your favorite place to see shows, and it's standing room only and you can still hear people. It's that kind of small kind of place, and there's someone who is shorter than you or, if you're really, really sure, someone in a wheelchair and it's behind you and they say, friendly. When it starts, Hey, can you move to the side so I can see the stage now? And that split second? Most people I would say, Sure, most people wouldn't just stand there and be an ass. Most people would say sharers. Of course, when that happens, you get to see the stage and enjoy the show. That person gets to see the stage and enjoy the show, and you are still the same height. You have not lost any inches on your height. Everything is cool. That's to me. Was sharing privilege is and could be. And so I would say, dissected a little bit and think of it that way. And you know, it makes it'll make it'll brighten someone's day or their life to do that. Um, yeah, that's part of it. So powerful, great, beautiful, not get there. Thank you for sharing it, um, thing to I was reminded of as you were talking about your journey just a moment ago. Is are there things that you see in the next near future that are coming like a freight train, that people don't? Because you talked about the diversity inclusion movement 2012 long before there's a tag and a on idea and had a namesake. They're clearly, you know, with you being the avid researcher and in the role of the jury in right now and being able to help other people. What are some things that you see that the rest of us are not well, it's on the same track. It's not that I've gone out to look at something else. It's actually on the same track. It's where we are in this story. I think people may think OK, well, I re I have added the 10 black ladies that I was given the list off to my Twitter feed. I am now woke. Everything's taken care of. There's that girl over there who writes checks to black people were good. I think what I see is in the next two years now, I've been saying this for two years. Now we're getting closer and closer to it. 2000 19 2020. There are going to be because of many different types of forces. There are going to be outsized exits for underrepresented, underestimated founders. It's gonna happen. You kind of almost, you know, again, too late to get in on those. But it's gonna happen. And when that happens, just like most fads, a lot of venture and other types of money is gonna be piled on and thrown into it and willy nilly. And so I say to founders who are under represented, get your buckets out, catch the rain, but hold on to it cause it's exact same time that the market is about to go crazy. So hold on to this money. Don't think that you have made it. It's a heyday. Let's do a team retreat in the Bahamas. Really focus and understand that it's a fickle beast and it will go away. And you're gonna need that money in 2021 in 2022 when it's gone away. And it's even mawr of a reason to be so incredibly focused on revenue and sustainability early on and not need us. Don't need venture capitalists. I'm begging you. Do not need us. Do not seek us out. Do not seek them out. Um, have them come to you and give them every reason to. I also think that if you're an investor or someone who has worked at a company who can use an M and A or who can make moves or be a customer for these founders, now is the time to get in with those founders and with those companies, because what's going to happen is two years from now, the people who are calling you up and say, Would you please take the meeting when you please take the meeting. I have something. A lot of them are are going to turn their backs on you. In two years, you're gonna have the same CMO job and they're going to have They're going to be in their heyday, and they're going to turn their backs to you when you're asking them at the conference as you just saw them. And this is very personal because it happens to be all the time. They're gonna turn, they're back and say you want you want with me could care less about me. Then why now? So you don't have to. You're not expected to, like, learn everything and have this inauthentic relationship with different cultures. But just like anything that you do, uh, people get excited about Bitcoin. People get excited about Blockchain about ai, uh, autonomous vehicles. What do they do? These really intelligent investors, they research the heck out of it. They talk to as many people as they can. They learn who the players are, do the same thing when it comes to divers, founders because pretty soon the word diverse is gonna go away, and it's gonna be you're not gonna think Oh, what happened to the divers found going to think about? Oh, can that guy give me a job because he just sold his company? Because this is just, you know, I predicted, and then I made it happen. But I predicted I would invest in 100 companies by 2020 and people laughed and laughed me out. The room laughed in my face. It has now happened. I predicted that in 22,012. I predicted that in the next five years, people, everybody would be talking about diversity. It has happened. So when I tell you that people who are underestimated today are going to be have you running, running certain things in two years and and by the way ass trick Atlanta is going to blow the F up on the next two years is a prediction. Oh, my, it is absolutely. Quote me. Quote me is already blown up. It's already been doing its thing, but it is about to be real real. Let's get pulling that one more time. So, like not just Atlanta, we talked about the decentralization you went to Silicon Valley. Met with these classic investors share have also raised money from you of those same investors and creative life has, uh, now post there a lot of our executive team. Yet everybody I know is talking about Austin, Texas. Salt Lake City in Raleigh, Atlanta. Scene that I've been to those five places all in the last three months. There you go on. And I could tell you there, Right? So is it Is it a massive decentralization, or is it literally Atlanta? And is it literally Denver? I think it land is gonna be a bright, bright, bright star on the map. I definitely think it's going to be a decentralization across the board, and the way I look at it is just like you live and I don't I'm not really good on the sports stuff, so I may be wrong, but you know, football and handball. I don't know what, just like people love their local teams. And it doesn't matter what city you're in. You have this team that you love, right? I think that's what's going to be like for tech hubs across the country. I think it's gonna be like they're gonna be these heroes that come out and and because it's across the country they're gonna look a little bit different. They're gonna be You're gonna stay like white man, have nothing to worry about. You are going to be in charge until the day data. It's going to happen years. You have so much power, there's not. There's decades and centuries have to go by before you're able to see the state you're gonna be you're gonna be able to see the stage just fine. But they're going to be there, gonna emerge these other leaders and they're going to represent different cities and cut them states. It's gonna be really, really beautiful and wonderful. And I would also recommend if you are still some reason sitting in Silicon Valley with your feet on your desk, you still have gotten the memo. Let me give it to you. Just like these college and professional teams send out scouts to, you know, sit on the sidelines of high school games in Des Moines. This is what you need to be doing. You don't need to wait for someone to walk into your office. You need to be a hop skip and jump on that southwest flight. Get yourself Ah, wing exit. You know you lot of leg room. They don't have a lounge, but you'll be fine. You'll be just fine, um, and and get out there and meet people in different states. And and, um, it's the people have figured that out. I mean, even the like, traditional investors who have figured that out there, they're going to win, too, just like Steve Case talks about. It's not just black and Brown founders and women. It's like going into cities that people could have cared less about in the tech world, and and there, there on. So that's why Atlanta, to me, is so interesting about Philly Philadelphia. We just launched an accelerator and we're in four cities. One of them is Philadelphia. The 1st 1 that we chose. What's Philadelphia? I'm hearing a lot of Yeah, Philadelphia will actually like a really strong reinvention going on. It's amazing and and there's a lot going on. It's, um, it's on. It's it's it's It's comical to think that some investors think that they're doing someone a big favor by going to visit. I'll go see you. You can have me in your city, uh, knows people are working on amazing things and you're lucky if you get to participate. I mean, I'm just, like, so passionate about that, because it's just right in their faces. Your passion comes through, so but you use it a great thing. I want to put a pin in that which is give a lot of advice to people who need to hear it on the founder or sorry on the venture side and people who are Let's flip the script now and for those people because you also gave some advice like, Hey, if you can make your business work without venture capital Great. Don't Don't, don't. I don't feel like you gotta come seek us. But what other advice would you have for the population? The creators of the entrepreneurs were listening regardless of socioeconomic status, race, gender orientation. Do you have some prescriptive advice? I mean, just be you, like, don't lose yourself in all of this. Um, they're all sorts of interesting models coming out now for finance fight for capital. So if you're over there selling your soul to the devil because you want some of this venture money in a minute, you're gonna be you're gonna be, like, obsolete. Like that venture's gonna be obsolete the minute and you would have sold your soul to get a little bit of money that you could get for much cheaper and for much more, with much more dignity somewhere else, I promise you, people are working on that Kickstarter crowdfunding and just people who are just fed up with traditional models and people who also you talk about Salt Lake City. There's, you know, there's Bryce in Salt Lake City who is working on these different model, just different model. You have the, um, zebra Khan. You have people working on that Philadelphia in Portland on you have all sorts of people talking about debt financing and and revenue shares. And again, you have this resurgence I just sat with been CEO of Male Champ. And he has $600 million in revenue 2018 and had not taken a dime of venture. And we were the first backstage was the first VC to step foot in their pants and, like having interviewing employees use you can cover. Yeah, they stay. May they did a whole just like this whole disclaimer before he went on there, like another view sees give. But you had to me if I were starting a company which I started to backstage Capital Baxter studio. Um, if I were starting a company from scratch today and someone like me existed in the world and I was somewhere else, and we had all these people that exist right now, we have all these awesome investors that exists there, playing in the same sandbox. I would do everything I possibly could to keep as much equity as I possibly humanly could. Um, before he ever, ever, ever thought about going to get someone else's money is I've raised money and I invest money. I know what I'm talking about. It is a, ah, hard cycle to get out of, and I call a venture capitalist, reluctant drug dealers. We know that since we do that first, check your in and so you have power beyond your wildest strengths. Right now, I am jealous of people who have just started a company because they have 100% of their company. I'm jealous of angel investors because they're not beholden to help ease. If you the thing that makes you feel like you're that you have a lesser footing and lesser positioning is what is enviable about your situation. If you own 100% of what you're working on, hold on to that for dear life. Don't look back. Amazing advice I can think of. No better Wait. And And the interview have got a little long. I wanted to say thank you so much for being on the show. Huge fan. Thank you. It's been inspiring to hear from you. We'll do everything we can to shine the light on backstage. And this is such a cool thing that you've built. Thank you. Backsies capital dot com. Check out all of our founders. Yeah, that was the show that was Headliners closes there. There some just basically the yeah. 100 companies. Or so that you've been business. Yeah, they're listed there. There's also another micro site called backsies capital dot com slash the number 100. Just 100. And that gives you all of our pass against a great great snapshot of what we've done. You can also follow me. Oh, what's the best transfer? You instagram and Twitter? Arlen was here a r l a in was here and I'm a mom. There are a lot of yelling at people we didn't get into that. I've seen you. It's just inspirational that you can, uh, you can hold your space so well and be a leader of voice to look up. Come on, hang out with this. It'll be it'll be fun. Thank you so much for being the show. Appreciate it. Thank you. Signing off from the episode, we enjoy that. Look forward to being with you again tomorrow, but, you know