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Arlan Hamilton at SXSW 2019. Photo: Mike Jordan/Getty Images for SXSW

Arlan Hamilton seems to be everywhere: keynote interviews at conferences like SXSW and the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit, to the cover of Fast Company, to an engaging Twitter feed with more than 55,000 followers. She is, in short, one of venture capital’s highest-profile investors — befitting someone who created her firm while homeless and who since has dedicated herself to backing founders who aren’t straight, white men.

Yes, but: Axios has learned that Hamilton was unable to raise a new $36 million fund called Backstage Capital that she touted last summer. Instead, Backstage has transitioned entirely to an accelerator model (Backstage Studio) and cut costs (read: layoffs) in the process.

What's happening: Hamilton says that “two separate anchor investors fell through” for the fund, which was to focus on startups founded by black women, and that Backstage also lost out on a $5 million “operations deal” with the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance after CEO Carlos Ghosn was arrested in Japan.

  • She adds that some prospective LPs are waiting “until we have more traction,” arguing that the fundraise is indefinitely suspended rather than ended.
  • Some investors confirm this with Axios, adding a reservation that Hamilton and Backstage may have spread themselves too thin.
  • Hamilton adds that the Backstage Studio has generated around $3 million over the past 14 months via corporate sponsorships and an online resources portal for founders.

The bottom line: Hamilton has a compelling biography, and she has sought to do something laudable outside of Silicon Valley's pattern-matching mold. But it's also true that tech media has been so thirsty for such stories that it may have put the cart before the horse, attributing success to a work very much still in progress.

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”