The tech industry is volatile and Backstage Capital founder and Managing Partner Arlan Hamilton is experiencing that firsthand. Last May, Hamilton announced the launch of a $36 million fund to invest in as many women of color as possible. But the $36 million fund, which would mark Backstage’s second fund, has yet to close, as Axios reported this morning.
“We had a couple of anchors fall through which meant we had to start nearly from scratch on the raise, and any fund raise that isn’t a16z or Sequoia is a long process:),” Hamilton told TechCrunch in a Twitter direct message. “So we are still at it, talking to LPs, doing our thing…conquering the world while adapting.”
At one point, Backstage was in talks with The Alliance, previously run by Carlos Ghosn, two weeks before his arrest. They were discussing a $5 million operations deal, Hamilton previously told Axios.
In some tweets this morning, Hamilton pointed out that since the firm’s inception in 2015, it’s invested in more than 100 companies. In 2018 alone, Backstage Capital portfolio companies raised more than $50 million in additional funding and launched an accelerator to four cities.
Backstage Capital closed its first $5 million fund at the end of 2016, which included everything from a mobile app that takes pictures and turns them into nail art (NailSnaps) to a woman working on a drone that can stop bullets mid-air (Astral AR). Backstage Capital’s limited partners include Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield, Pathbrite former CEO and founder Heather Hiles and Box CEO Aaron Levie. That fund, Hamilton previously told TechCrunch, took about 16 months to close. She expected this fund to close in about a tenth of that time.
Currently, Hamilton is focused on the accelerator, Backstage Studio, but also made clear that she has not stopped fundraising for the $36 million fund. Hamilton did, however, confirm that Backstage had to lay off a couple of people and has “never had enough capital to reach our aspirations,” she said in a direct message to Dan Primack of Axios.
“We pay the bills with investment money into Backstage Studio and revenue from corporate sponsorships,” Hamilton said. “We raised $2mil the past 14 months and generated $1mil in rev. We grew a ton in 2018 and shipped even more. We did with $3mil what it would have taken others 2-3x that amount we believe.”