A Black woman who identifies as queer, Hamilton was experiencing homelessness when she launched Backstage Capital, a VC firm focused on what it calls “underestimated founders.” Now Los Angeles based, Hamilton is in Philly this week as part of promoting her new book “Your First Million.”
One of the book’s main messages is that successful entrepreneurs can come from anywhere.
“Especially with the internet, especially with working with people remotely, it’s a whole new world and geography should not stop you.” Hamilton told Technical.ly.
Hosted with Harriet’s Bookshop founder Jeannine A. Cook, Hamilton’s book tour stop intends to look different than your typical business book release. That’s in line with Hamilton’s personal mission and investment thesis: If few VC dollars go toward companies founded by women, Black and Hispanic people, and LGBTQ founders, then that’s a business opportunity.
Since Backstage’s founding in 2015, the firm has gained company in that bet.
In recent years, other new VC funds founded by Black general partners have gained acclaim, notably Brian Brackeen’s Lightship Capital, McKeever Conwell’s Rarebreed Ventures and Nasir Qadree’s Zeal Capital, among others. All are targeting their investments in founders that either look different, or live far from the Silicon Valley-New York-Boston trio that dominate venture financing.
Across two funds, Backstage has raised more than $20 million and invested in over 200 startups, according to the company, all founded by people who identify as women, people of color and/or LGBTQ. That’s not the norm: Fewer than 3.5% of founders seeking VC funding are Black, according to a Columbia Business School study last year, and women-founded startups received just 2.1% of all venture capital invested in 2022, per business data firm PitchBook.
The pandemic has had a boom of entrepreneurship led by women, especially Black women. But whether these will grow enough to affect the wealth disparities is still unclear. Hamilton’s book aims to contribute something to that.
Subtitled “Why You Don’t Have to Be Born into a Legacy of Wealth to Leave One Behind,” it expounds on and offers practical advice toward Hamilton’s new goal to create 1,000 Black millionaires via entrepreneurship, according to Black Enterprise magazine.
With 27 chapters over 240 pages, “Your First Million” is rooted in the idea that underrepresented people accumulating wealth through ownership is the best path to a more inclusive world.
“It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme,” Hamilton writes in the introduction, but about achieving “control: power and leverage combined.” The book is both for people starting out, she said, and those already well down the path of being an investor or entrepreneur.
“That was really important to me, that this was not just an inspirational book, but a tactical one that you could apply right away and get started on your journey or continue your journey,” Hamilton told Technical.ly. “Sometimes it’s the people who seem the most successful who need the most help — because there are very few people who have achieved what they have.”
An in-person conference to tie it all together
Hamilton lands in Philadelphia Thursday to promote the book, speaking to a sold-out crowd at the Art Alliance. The Rittenhouse Square location fits more people than Harriett’s Bookshop, Cook noted on social media, thanking the University of the Arts for donating the space.
Hamilton hasn’t yet been to Cook’s Fishtown bookstore, which is dedicated to celebrating women authors, artists and activists, but said she heard about it a few years back from good friend Maria Bello, the Hollywood actress, who hails from Philly suburb Montgomery County.
“I have spoken with Jeannine a couple of times just to offer some advice and the bookstore looks amazing,” Hamilton said. “It was kind of a no-brainer to do my Philadelphia stop in conjunction with them.”
The 43-year-old author/entrepreneur is also making stops in Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Chicago, San Diego, San Juan and other locations, with Boston and Miami soon to join the list and more potentially pending. As a mostly self-funded tour, Hamilton noted, the schedule has been driven by where she already has connections or can justify travel costs by stacking multiple meetings or appearances in one visit.
That’s one reason she’s so hype about Your First Million Live, she said, “so that no matter where my book tour ended up being, everyone could convene at the same place.”
Set for April 9 to 12 in Los Angeles, the conference is packed with high-profile speakers, and closes out with a TLC concert at the Peacock Theater, the venue known for hosting the Emmys. Pricing is structured to be accessible, Hamilton said, with layaway plans available at all tiers. Three-day passes range from $400 to $6,500 at early-bird rates.
The biggest surprise for Hamilton so far in publishing “Your First Million” has been how well her 300 volunteer early-edition readers responded, and what that’s done for her mental wellbeing.
“That feedback has honestly been way, way, way more intense and transformational in spirit than I thought it would be,” Hamilton said. “I can’t wait for it to be released, so thousands and thousands of people can tell me what they think.”
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