Arlan Hamilton on why she’s backing Career Karma

Arlan Hamilton, founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital, knows what it feels like to be underestimated.

Hamilton built Backstage Capital when she was homeless, and has turned it into a powerhouse firm that champions people like herself: women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community, who are largely underfunded in the venture community.

With a large Twitter following, Hamilton shares lessons she has learned along the way, including most recently “How to shake your self-doubt.” She’s also the author of It’s About Damn Time: How to Turn Being Underestimated Into Your Greatest Advantage and host of the podcast Your First Million.

Backstage Capital has since invested in more than 170 startups. The firm launched four accelerator programs in 2018 to serve what they call “underestimated founders” in Detroit, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and London.

Career Karma—one of Backstage Capital’s portfolio companies—is a 1 million-strong community of peers, coaches, and mentors who offer training and advice. 

“Rapid reskilling is the most critical issue of our time, not just economically, but politically in the United States and all over the world. Career Karma’s mission is to connect the world to their next opportunity, and we are positioned to be the category king of the rapid reskilling movement,” CEO and cofounder Ruben Harris tells Fortune.

Arlan Hamilton, founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital.
David Paul Morris—Bloomberg/Getty Images
  • Name of startup: Career Karma
  • Year founded: 2018
  • Valuation: Confidential, but “above average for Series A’s,” according to CEO and cofounder Ruben Harris.
  • Investment level: $11.9 million
  • Number of employees: 150, across 14 countries and nine states
  • Location: San Francisco
  • Other major investors: SoftBank, Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective 

Why she invested, in her own words

I crossed paths with Ruben a few times before Backstage Capital invested in the summer of 2018 during their pre-seed, and completed their negotiation over a few short emails. His talent for building brands and culture was evident, and when he launched his podcast, Breaking Into Startups, it was clear he had no reservations about sharing his own conviction and voice.

He seemed like someone who has always been doing the work. Ruben and the team at Career Karma are in a great position to help people find more than just jobs: People are finding self-worth, a sense of direction, and a career path that makes them part of something bigger than themselves. And that’s all because of what Career Karma offers.

When they told us they were raising $10 million in 2020, I knew that would happen because I knew that he had been planning the next level of what they were going to do. He wasn’t going to be stagnant.

This is an installment of Why I Invested, a series featuring famous investors from all different backgrounds and industries, revealing what inspired them to invest their own money in a new business.

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