In the world of start-up, women, LGBTQ and black aren’t just under-represented – they’re underestimated. In fact, these groups have been systematically underestimated in one way or another in just about every field. In the book “It’s About Damn Time”, Arlan Hamilton, the founder of Backstage Capital, shares her journey from homeless to millionaire investor not because she thinks she’s exceptional because like many people, she has been exceptionally underestimated.

 

Get (In)formation.

Every time Arlan read a book, listened to a podcast and went through another twenty handwritten index cards, every time she learnt about the key players, she was building her intellectual capital and her chest of information. Over time, people started reaching to her for her wealth of knowledge. Today people gave her thousands of dollars to get information and save themselves months of research time..

 

All you need is one ‘yes’.

It’s normal to be frustrated and demoralized at the beginning of a career, a startup or a new venture. You want to seize the opportunity as it presents but all you seem to get are ‘no’s. When Arlan was looking for investors in Backstage Capital, she was rejected countless times before she ever got her first ‘yes’. It didn’t matter to her how many people ignored her as long as she won one person, one yes that ultimately turned her life around.

 

Never underestimate the underestimated.

Underestimated people have untapped potential and ideas that are rarely heard because no one pays attention. Respect them. Acknowledge them. Amplify the voice of those without a microphone. If you have the power of a voice that can be heard, use that voice to name-drop underestimated people whom you admire.

 

Write your own headlines.

Before Arlan ever hit the headlines, she had written a draft email that said, “Backstage Capital Invests in 100 Companies!”. That was the future Arlan wanted for her company, that was the headline she wanted to see written about them. Writing your own headline helps you keep you on track with your goals. And it’s a way of getting closer to making your own headlines.

 

Optimize relationships.

When you have no resources, relationships are your only currency. Some people are gifted in relating to people and genuinely create a connection with them. Others are good at bridging people together. If you learn to do both, the world will be your oyster.

 

Be curious about people.

More than anything, Arlan had learned that when she let her curiosity run wild, she sees people who many look and sound completely different from one another actually have more in common than meets the eye. There are threads that connect us all and only by being insatiably curious about people can we discover them.

 

Give way for the handicapped.

Using your privilege to help others doesn’t take anything away from you. If you see the world through abundance mentality, you’ll realize that the world will never run out of things for everyone to enjoy life. You can do it and once you’ve made it there, don’t forget to let someone shorter stand in front of you.

 

Agree to disagree.

People are not all carbon copies of one another. We’re not a box to tick and we’re interested in and perfectly capable of speaking topics other than diversity.

 

The best music comes for the worst breakups.

When Arlan was at her rock bottom, she wanted revenge for the way she had been treated by her girlfriend. But she decided not to waste her energy and time on anger and bitterness. Instead she channeled it into something productive. She used the energy the anger gives her to reinvent her life. The next time you feel as though everything is falling apart, as though you have nothing left to give, get creative.

 

Forgiveness is the gift you give to yourself.

You can’t let everyone throw you around. Know your value and don’t let everyone bring you down to their level. But you also need to understand that real power comes from controlling how much you let the anger and resentment overwhelm you and how effectively you let go of them.

 

Level the playing field.

Arlan was the heaviest person in her group. She had the most weight to carry up the hill and she had the worst lung capacity. She could barely breathe and all she wanted to do was roll her way back down the hill and take a nap wherever she landed. But when she made it to the top, something interesting happened. They were on the level field. They were able to walk at the same pace. She felt better, walked faster and breathed easier.

Arlan felt it took forever to get to the top but once she was there, she excelled. What she aims to do with Backstage capital is bring underestimated founders on that level playing field. She wants to give tickets to everyone so they can see enjoy the view from the top of the mountain. Even if they don’t succeed in the end, Arlan believes they deserve a chance to try.

 

Don’t deny your voice.

Your voice is a gift you and only you can offer to the world. Arlan feels inspired every time she hears an underestimated person stands up and speaks out. In the era of podcasts, blogs and social media, everyone has an equal opportunity to voice their thoughts. It’s about being informative, relatable and inspirational. If your content is one of these three things, it’s a winner.

 

Ditch the costume.

Someone right now is looking for you. If you are authentic as yourself, you are that person. But if you put on a costume or pretend to be someone else, they’re going to walk right past you.

We can’t be apologetic for who we are, where we came from, what we do and don’t know. Our lives are too valuable to be a cast in others’.

 

Confidence isn’t a hack. It’s superpower.

Here are a few things Arlan finds helpful to build her confidence:

  1. Listen to music
  2. Dress for success
  3. Ask yourself “what would your role model / alpha do?”
  4. Tell yourself every day you worked your way up here and you deserve it
  5. Refuse to compare your chapter 2 with someone else’s chapter 10
  6. Surround yourself with positive peer group

 

Sometimes, time and space are your biggest allies.

Working on a project nonstop isn’t always the answer. Try to accomplish more with less. Schedule downtime every week. Arlan reserves a day a week for just thinking because if you’re an entrepreneur, it’s really hard to detach your life from your job.

Once you’ve collected your thoughts and reflected yourself, you need to regroup. Based on everything you’ve learned, decide what you’re going to do next and then commit to it.

 

Bonus: Frequently Asked Questions to Arlan Hamilton (the founder of Backstage Capital)

Q: What are investors looking for in a startup?

Different investors have different tastes in investment strategy. But as a rule of thumb, an investment should justify at least ten times the amount of money that an investor puts in.

Q: What do you look for in a founder?

Hungry, not thirsty. Someone who’s willing to do all it takes to bring their vision to life but isn’t willing to cross ethical lines or become a bulldozer in response to a desperate situation.

Q: How do you know if you should seek investment?

Do as much as you can through bootstrapping before you look our outside capital. Generally speaking, outside capital combined with access to investor network and resources, allows you to grow faster and better within a certain amount of time.

Q: When should you quit your day job to pursue your entrepreneurial vision?

If you have a well-paying job with benefits and stability, there’s nothing wrong in holding onto that job while you put the pieces together for your next big thing. That way you can use your day job to fuel and fund the side hustle in a strategic, responsible and thoughtful way.

Q: Do I need a co-founder?

You don’t need a co-founder. However, having one who is invested financially and mentally in the company as you are, will take some weight off your shoulders.


Kyaw Wai Yan Tun

Hey, I’m Wai Yan. I help people make full use of digital in reaching their goals. Outside nine-to-five, I enjoy sharing my knowledge and designing visuals. I see it as my way of making the world a more beautiful and insightful place.

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