My Unlikely Entrance into Venture Capital
From a retail job in Detroit to Investment Apprentice at a fast-growing VC firm
On March 13, 2017, still tired from working on my schoolwork the night before, I was waiting for customers to stroll through the door of our Detroit Sprint store. My least favorite part about my job as a bilingual sales consultant was helping customers with billing issues — those were never fun, especially when the customer decided to take the company’s issue out on you. As a way to escape the reality of work, I would scroll through Twitter to keep up with the latest tech news and venture capitalists that I followed.
The previous December I had discovered Arlan Hamilton of Backstage Capital and appreciated the strong voice she had on Twitter. I decided to send her a DM asking for advice and book recommendations as an aspiring VC. I was like a wide-eyed kid in awe over their favorite athlete when I saw her response. Her recommendation: Venture Deals by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson. Naturally, I hopped on Amazon that minute and was reading the book two days later.
To my surprise, Arlan ended up following me back on Twitter. Arlan is the Founder and Managing Partner of Backstage Capital, a seed-stage investment firm that invests in underestimated founders. You could imagine the excitement I had coming home from work and telling my wife all about my latest Twitter follower. To her surprise, I came home from work not complaining for once.
As the son of an immigrant, seeing my dad build a life for himself in the United States has always inspired me. I feel this drive and thankfulness deep in my stomach just thinking about it. In spite of my current job, I would often (and still do) daydream about running my own VC firm helping Latinx entrepreneurs accomplish their dreams. I knew I had to start somewhere, so I began thinking about starting a blog or podcast focused on Latinx founders.
One night I tweeted looking for advice and suggestions for my idea. Arlan sent me a DM and said she would like to chat with me. At the time, she was looking for an executive assistant to help with her busy schedule. After a few exciting phone conversations with her talking VC, podcasts, tech, and more, she offered me a job on a part-time/trial basis. I was blown away! I was taking my first steps into the world of venture capital.
I started working remotely for Backstage in May, while still working full-time at Sprint and being enrolled full-time in online classes. It was a grind. I would wake up early for some school work, head to work at Sprint, back home for more school, and finally, late in the evening, I’d work on my Backstage projects — the best part of my day. I had been thinking about quitting my job at Sprint in hopes that Backstage would turn into a full-time job, but I had zero guarantee of that happening.
Sometimes in life to achieve your dreams, you have to find the confidence to take big risks without knowing the full scope of the outcome.
After a long and particularly frustrating, retail customer-riffic Sunday, I decided I had had enough. It was time to take action. If I could devote more of my time and energy into what I loved and less of my time and energy into the frustrations at my day job, then I could go on full-stride towards my dreams of becoming a VC. I put in my two-week’s notice the following day.
I texted Arlan to let her know that I had quit my job at Sprint to dedicate myself to Backstage. She was surprised but also taken aback by the serendipity of it all; she and Christie had been discussing the idea of bringing me onto the team full-time. Sometimes in life to achieve your dreams, you have to find the confidence to take big risks without knowing the full scope of the outcome.
Since making the leap, I’ve been working as an Investment Apprentice to Arlan and Mentor Program Coordinator at Backstage. To my wife’s continued delight, I’m not frustrated and grumbling about work anymore. Most days at Backstage are never the same; I could be traveling with Arlan to a speaking engagement, sitting in a pitch meeting with Christie, onboarding mentors into our ecosystem, helping Bryan with events and brand marketing, or working on deal memos. I am given the opportunity to wear many hats in order to learn and grow. And although I’m getting more entrenched in Silicon Valley and other tech hubs across the country, I’m enjoying getting involved with the growing, local Detroit tech scene.
So there you have it. I now have my dream job — learning how to become a VC from some of the most creative, open-minded VCs in the business. Arlan and Christie are my Socrates, and I am their Plato. For fans of The Office, you could say they’re my Michael Scott, and I’m their Dwight Schrute … or whatever metaphor you’d like to use. 😄
Like many other Latinx folks in the U.S., I am a second-generation immigrant with a minimal professional network. It’s not always easy finding people who see your potential, take a chance, and give you an “at bat”. I will be forever grateful for, and humbled by, Arlan for picking the kid on the bench to step up to the plate and swing for the fences.
My heart belongs to the Latinx community. I hope to support anyone who wants to start their own company, raise their first round of funding, or land a job in tech. I encourage you to keep striving. Keep grinding. Keep sharing your voice! If I had not taken the time to share my thoughts and dreams, I wouldn’t be in the position that I’m in today. You never know who is listening.