It’s About Damn Time: How to Turn Being Underestimated into Your Greatest Advantage
By Arlan Hamilton
I want to share this journey, not because I think I’m exceptional, but because, like many people, I have been exceptionally underestimated. And if you’ve picked up this book, I’m guessing that so have you.” - Arlan Hamilton
In 2015, Arlan Hamilton, a Black, gay woman, was on food stamps and sleeping on the floor of the San Francisco airport, with nothing but an old laptop and a dream of breaking into the venture capital business. She couldn’t understand why people starting companies all looked the same (White and male), and she wanted the chance to invest in the ideas and people who didn’t conform to this image of how a founder is supposed to look. Hamilton had no contacts or network in Silicon Valley, no background in finance – and not even a college degree. What she did have was fierce determination and the will to succeed.
As much as we wish it weren’t so, we still live in a world where being underrepresented often means being underestimated. But as someone who makes her living investing in high-potential founders who also happen to be female, LGBTQ, or people of color, Hamilton understands that being undervalued simple means that a big upside exists. Because even if you have to work twice as hard to get to the starting line, she says, once you are on a level playing field, you will spring ahead.
Despite what society would have you believe, Hamilton argues, a privileged background, an influential network, and a fancy college degree are not prerequisites for success. Here she shares the hard-won wisdom she’s picked up on her remarkable journey from food-stamp recipient to venture capitalist. The book is divided into eight parts: becoming money, relationships, resilience, authenticity, creativity, confidence, self-care, and the big picture. Each part tells a little about Hamilton’s journey and gives advice you can put to use in your own life and on your own journey. These lessons are not just applicable to investors, adventure capitalists, of those interested in Silicon Valley; they are foundational life lessons that she hopes will help you realize the best of yourself.
A question she is frequently asked: “How do I know whether or not I should keep going or give up on this company or this project or this mission?” Her wise answer is this: “If you close your eyes and visualize the world five, ten, twenty years from now and feel okay with the thing you’re working on not existing, then it’s not urgent. But if you can’t imagine the world without it and want it to exist whether you get to enjoy the benefits of it or not, then not only is it important to you, it is your calling. How exciting and much more stimulating this is than the usual goal setting advice one reads in entrepreneurial books.
The books is full of authentic and empowering advice: “People who have more money than you or more success or more friends… aren’t inherently better than you.” “Self-care is about recognizing your value.” “Being so deeply true to yourself, as a nonnegotiable, is the answer to everything.” “I refuse to believe that there’s any room any of us don’t deserve to be in.” In short, read this book. No matter where you are in life, this wise and wonderful book has something that will wake you up and inspire you to get going, despite all the good reasons and excuses you have been telling yourself. As Sophia Amoruso, the New York Times bestselling author of #Girlboss, wrote: “Hamilton is unfiltered, vulnerable, and funny as hell. Her story teaches us we can be successful on our own terms, without sacrificing our values or personalities.
Arlan Hamilton is the founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital, a venture capital firm dedicated to minimizing funding disparities in tech by investing in high-potential founders who are people of color, women, or LGBTQ. Backstage has now invested over $10 million in more than one hundred start-up companies led by underrepresented founders. In 2018, Hamilton co-founded Backstage Studio, which launched accelerator programs in Detroit, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and London. She is the first non-celebrity Black woman to be featured on the cover of Fast Company.