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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

Students vandalize and steal from schools for viral TikTok challenge

TikTok logo displayed on a phone screen in Krakow, Poland on July 18, 2021. Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A viral TikTok challenge is leading students nationwide to shatter mirrors, steal fire alarms and intentionally clog toilets, The Washington Post reports.

Driving the news: Dubbed the the “Devious Licks challenge, students are showing off their "devious licks" on TikTok — with a sped-up version of "Ski Ski BasedGod" by rapper Lil’ B playing in the background.

Axios-Ipsos poll: People of color face more environmental threats

Expand chart
Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note: ±2.5% margin of error; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Americans of color are much less likely than white Americans to experience good air quality or tap water or enough trees or green space in their communities, and they're more likely to face noise pollution and litter, a new Axios-Ipsos poll finds.

The big picture: Our national survey shows Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely than their white counterparts to live near major highways or industrial or manufacturing plants — and to have dealt in the past year with water-boil notices or power outages lasting more than 24 hours.

18 hours ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.