The Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce honors Spirit of Innovation Award finalist companies and names an award recipient at the virtual Spirit of Innovation Awards Wednesday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. The Spirit of Innovation Awards honor businesses that originated in the region and have potential to impact many people and inspire change.
2020 Spirit of Innovation finalists are: Text Request, Landrace Bioscience and Trekka.
Arlan Hamilton keynotes Spirit of Innovation this year. Hamilton is the founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital, a venture capital fund she built from the ground up while homeless.
Backstage Capital is dedicated to minimizing funding disparities in tech by investing in high-potential founders who are people of color, women and/or LGBTQ. Since 2015, Backstage has raised nearly $12 million and invested in more than 130 startup companies led by underestimated founders.
In 2018, Hamilton co-founded Backstage Studio, which launched four accelerator programs in Los Angeles, Detroit, Philadelphia and London.
In Oct. 2018, Hamilton was the first non-celebrity Black women featured on the cover of Fast Company magazine. She has also been featured in Forbes, Fortune, Wall Street Journal, CNN Money, Inc., Entrepreneur and Quartz.
Hamilton and Backstage were the subjects of Season 7 of the popular podcast StartUp from Gimlet Media. Arlan is the author of “It’s About Damn Time” and host of the weekly podcast Your First Million.
In 2019, Hamilton and her mother, Earline Butler-Sims, announced their new scholarship program, which kicked off with Oxford University's first-ever undergraduate scholarship for a Black student, as well as a full ride for a psychology student at Sims' alma mater, HBCU Dillard University.
Prior to entering the investment world, Hamilton authored the blog Your Daily Lesbian Moment, which she grew to a monthly readership of 50,000 fans worldwide. She has written for various publications and was also a live music production professional serving as a tour coordinator to artists including Toni Braxton and Jason Derulo.