As someone who reads a myriad of articles and listens to a lot of podcasts about the tech space, particularly the journey of a founder, it's important to me to share my findings. Their journey is always inspiring moments of grit, luck, and courage to go against the grain to push your vision into reality. Like any other person of color, you quickly realized many of these people do not look like me or come from a similar background. Continue reading to learn about three successful, inspiring founders and talk about key lessons we can take away from them because there are successful black founders out there, and I would hate you not to realize it.
Arlan Hamilton is a disruptor in the truest sense. She is a Black, queer woman and a leader in venture capital, operating out of Silicon Valley. When it comes to venture capital, women, LGBTQIA+, and people of color founders are the least likely to receive venture funding. Arlan knew there was a lot of money being left at the table because of this. She founded Backstage Capital while homeless and with zero connections to investors. She faced constant pushback and rejection because of her vision when striving to raise her initial fund.
After gaining traction and fighting for her vision, she raised a fund with tens of millions of dollars to support entrepreneurs and founders from underrepresented communities. To this day, Backstage Capital has gone to invest in over 125 companies founded by women, LGBTQIA+, and people of color. The importance of resilience is the key takeaway from Arlan Hamilton's accomplishments. She started from one of the most challenging positions and hustled her way to success. Also, I highly recommend listening to the Startup podcast series on Arlan, which documents the second round of funding for Backstage capital—linked below.
Links for more information: Startup podcast series on Arlan
Tristen is a Stanford MBA that was an Andreessen Horowitz Entrepreneur-in-Residence after a stint at FourSquare. While at Andreessen Horowitz, he hit a wall when deciding what problem he wanted to solve before the end of his residency. He troubleshot the idea of tackling logistics and trucking but realized he had to identify what he was uniquely qualified to do. Eventually, this led to identifying how underserved Black, Latinx, and Asian people of color are in the health and beauty industry.
He launched Walker & company to tackle that problem with their flagship product, Bevel, a razor that reduces and prevents shaving irritation, razor bumps, and other unique issues for people of color. To this day, he's raised 33 million dollars from the most well-known investors and expanded their product offering with skincare, shaving, and hair products with people of color at the forefront and not behind. The critical takeaway from Tristen Walkers' story is learning about his ingenuity approach when identifying a problem. You have to be creative and focused on sharpening the skill set of identifying the right problem.
Learn more about Tristen: Tristen's podcast episode on How I built this
Christopher Grey grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, with a single mother and went on to be the first person in his family to go to college and graduate. He started college shortly after the housing crash recession, so he wanted a college education; he would have to find a way to fund it himself. Christopher diligently started scouring the internet looking for scholarships. Through his hard work, perseverance, and investing hours in searching for opportunities, he was able to raise 1.3 million in scholarships for him to go to college. During his time in college, he volunteered to help high school students and noticed the problem between students and finding scholarships. He was able to navigate weird sites, shady postings, and untrustworthy requirements to find scholarships, but that wasn't the case for everyone.
He knew he had to find a way to bridge this gap, and he started Scholly. He was able to raise funding on the tv show Shark tank and went on to help students win more than $100 million. The first word that comes to mind when I think of Christopher Grey is discipline. He was able to find the resources for school diligently, and he applied that same discipline as a founder of Scholly. He didn't have tech experience before founding Scholly, but that didn't stop him from leaning on his core values to learn how to run a company.
Links for more information: Christopher on Shark Tank
I've been reflecting on the three Black founders listed above, and it is inspiring to see their triumph as they push towards success. Whether you are starting a business or working on another dream, challenges will come. I genuinely believe you need to face them with resilience, ingenuity, and discipline, especially to execute your vision.