Diversity in Entrepreneurship: Astia

We recently sat down with Yuka Nagashima and Sharon Vosmek of Astia, one of the five Techstars Foundation Grantees, to learn more about the organization and how it’s helping diversity in entrepreneurship.

Astia transforms the way businesses are funded by providing capital, connections and expertise that fuel the growth of women-led ventures.

What problem are you solving?

Astia continues to deliver on its mission to propel women’s full participation as entrepreneurs and leaders in high-growth businesses, fueling innovation and driving economic growth. We are transforming the way businesses are funded, providing capital, connections and guidance that fuel the growth of highly innovative, high-growth, women-led ventures around the globe.

With the launch of Astia Angels in 2013 under our White House Commitment, we are now investors in 40 companies that include women in positions of executive influence and leadership. In total, we have invested more than $12.5M of our own capital, representing more than $124M in syndication into 56 investments.

The Astia Angels portfolio is diverse in nearly every measure: team composition, sector, stage, technology, market, size and geography. And as an investment group, our impact on the market is notable: still today less than 3% of venture capital is invested in women-led companies.

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Our investment activity in just the prior twelve-month period is on pace with some of the most active investment groups and represents more than $5.5M in direct investment (almost half of our three-year total).

Our investment velocity is increasing. In the same 12 month period, Astia has made >356 Astia Advisor connections, >100 investor connections to >143 women-led companies and maintained >5000 Astia Advisor volunteers around the globe.

What sparked the vision and foundation behind Astia?

Originally named the Women’s Technology Cluster, Astia was founded as part of the Three Guineas Fund in 1999, by Cate Muther, former CMO of Cisco Systems, and was spun off in 2003 as an independent non-profit. When Muther looked around, she wondered, “Where are all my female peers?” so she started WTC.

We changed our name to Astia to communicate a broader focus in diversity beyond just women. (The word Astia is derived from the Greek word, Aster, meaning star.)

We were not seeing sufficient interest from the larger community to invest, despite research demonstrating financial value of women-led companies, so we took matters into our own hands by starting Astia Angels (only investing in companies led by gender-inclusive teams).

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What is the biggest misperception around the issue you are trying to solve?

Female and male entrepreneurs are different. It’s not that women are forming different types of companies than men, but instead it’s the funding level that determines the kind of companies they end up becoming: the difference lies in the investor’s lens, and not the entrepreneurs.

How has the Techstars Foundation helped your cause/business?

What we hope to achieve from this relationship is a true partnership. Techstars investing in us was a validation of our mission and approach, alongside other mainstream investors such as Andreessen Horowitz, Prolog Ventures and Illuminate Ventures.








Diversity in Entrepreneurship: Change Catalyst

We recently sat down with Wayne Sutton and Melinda Briana Epler of Change Catalyst, one of the five Techstars Foundation Grantees, to learn more about the organization and how it’s helping diversity in entrepreneurship.

Change Catalyst is an organization committed to inclusive innovation through two main initiatives, Tech Inclusion and Startup Showcases.

What problem are you solving?

The lack of diversity in tech and venture capital is a clear problem for the tech industry, for innovation and for society as a whole. As an organization, we focus on inclusion across the whole ecosystem of entrepreneurship, where innovation and technology represent and benefit all people. The tech workforce is not inclusive and welcoming to everyone, and we want to change that.

Tech Venture Capital Diversity Numbers

  • 92% of Senior Investment teams are men
  • 78% of Senior Investment teams are White
  • 29% of Senior Investment teams are Asian
  • 1%  of Senior Investment teams are Hispanic
  • 1% of Senior Investment teams are Black
  • 2.7% Venture backed companies are women-led
  • 4% decrease Women VC Partners since 1999

Entrepreneurship Diversity Numbers

  • 37% of entrepreneurs are women
  • 0.2% of venture capital for Black Women
  • 1%  VC-backed founders are Black
  • 1%  VC-backed founders are Latino

Tech Leadership Workforce Average Diversity Numbers  

  • 29% Women
  • 2% Black
  • 3% Asian
  • 1% Hispanic

Tech Workforce in Technical Roles Average Diversity Numbers

  • 29% Women
  • 52% White
  • 8% Hispanic
  • 7% Black
  • 25% Asian

Sources – Engadget, TechCrunch, The Verge

What sparked the vision and foundation behind Change Catalyst?

The vision of Change Catalyst was borne from two founders who were confronted with barriers in their own careers based on gender and race, and decided to do something about it. Melinda Briana Epler and Wayne Sutton began by mapping the needs of the tech industry: what was currently working, what wasn’t working and where the needs and gaps were greatest. What they found:

  • An ecosystem approach is needed – to fundamentally shift the industry across education, workplace, entrepreneurship and policy.
  • A lot of great work around diversity and inclusion was being done in silos, without collaboration and sharing of best practices.
  • Severe biases, lack of empathy and lack of resources were keeping many diversity and inclusion solutions from taking hold. A focus on individual behavior change and collective culture change is needed.
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For a year they worked to build the first Tech Inclusion Conference and Career Fair, bringing the whole tech industry together to focus on solutions to diversity and inclusion.

The two-day conference sold out, and they had to turn away quality candidates for the career fair because there was so much interest.

The results from the event were widespread: numerous public-private collaborations, shared best practices, changes in careers, new startups formed, diverse candidates hired, new solutions blossomed across the US and even around the world.

Tell us about how your organization has affected/positively impacted your audience?

Change Catalyst empowers diverse, inclusive and sustainable tech innovation through Tech Inclusion and Startup Ecosystem programs.

We partner with the tech community to solve diversity and inclusion together through conferences, career fairs, strategic consulting and training. Our work spans the full tech ecosystem, including: Education, Workplace, Entrepreneurship and Policy.

Below are some of Change Catalyst’s impact from January 2016 to September 2016:

  • Change Catalyst has worked with 26 startups and over 60 entrepreneurs
  • Hosted 4 conferences and 2 career fairs, reaching 1800+ Tech Inclusion event attendees
  • Featured 200+ diverse speakers in tech
  • Launched a community platform at Community.TechInclusion.co to provide inclusive tech career oppounites.
  • Hosted diversity and inclusion corporate training with several leading Bay Area startups.
  • Led Entrepreneurship Bootcamps for Women in Hyderabad, India and Canary Islands, Spain – reaching a total of 400 women.
  • Participated in multiple roundtable discussions focused on improving diversity and inclusion in tech and entrepreneurship.

What is the biggest misperception around the issue you are trying to solve?

One of the biggest misperceptions around the work to create an inclusive tech ecosystem is the perception that the responsibility to create change is up to one ethnic group, gender, class or other homogeneous group.

The other equal misperception is there is a pipeline problem for tech companies hiring qualified candidates in technical and non-technical roles.

Both are damaging perceptions that often stifle opportunities for impact.

Creating an inclusive tech ecosystem is the responsibility of everyone in every role in tech. Using “the pipeline” as an excuse for not addressing diversity in a company’s hiring practice, or inclusion in the culture, is irresponsible and sends negative signals to qualified candidates.

To counteract this, Change Catalyst hosts Career Fairs to bring the diverse tech pipeline to tech companies, and the Tech Inclusion Conference to create an educational opportunity for everyone improve their diversity and inclusion practices.

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Has the Techstars’ network impacted your business so far?

Yes, during the Tech Inclusion New York Conference, Change Catalyst partnered with Techstars to host the Startup Showcase pitch contest.

We worked with Techstars to expand our reach for high quality startups via suggestions from the network. Techstars IoT and Barclays NYC Managing Director, Jenny Fielding, participated as a pitch judge during the conference. The Techstars network also provided prizes such as mentor office hours to the top three winners of the Tech Inclusion New York Startup Showcase.

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How has the Techstars Foundation helped your cause/business?

Being a recipient of the Techstars Foundation grant has allowed Change Catalyst to reach more entrepreneurs and startups through our Tech Inclusion Startup Showcases. The Techstars staff have been great collaborative partners in providing opportunities for founders.

Aligning with the Techstars brand has also elevated our own brand. We appreciate our mutually beneficial partnership and we’re excited to see what we will do next together!








Techstars Foundation Welcomes New Director

I just completed my first month as Director of the Techstars Foundation. WOW! I am excited to be here.

Diversity in the tech industry is something we are all reading about, talking about and a place we want to see change. Rather than sit on the sidelines, Techstars has developed resources for founders to use when creating and growing their companies and announced a Diversity Commitment in conjunction with the White House last year.  

Another way we have committed to moving the needle on real change is through the creation of the Techstars Foundation. The Techstars Foundation was founded in 2015 and is committed to improving diversity in tech entrepreneurship. We do this by investing in organizations with grant money and leveraging the Techstars network to empower these organizations to accelerate their mission forward.

I have followed the work of the Techstars Foundation since its inception. When Techstars established the foundation last year, I always thought to myself, “That sounds interesting, and I would love to find a way to help.”

A few months after its creation, I got connected to Ali Berman, interim Director of the Foundation. Over lunches, coffees and exchanged emails, we brainstormed ideas on how to raise more money for the Foundation and how to make impactful grants to interested organizations.

I always walked away from my conversations with Ali with that ‘head spinning’ feeling of excitement, enthusiasm and wanting to help more.  

My career to-date has been as a fundraiser for nonprofit organizations. I have always had a strong mission and interest in connecting individuals to their areas of philanthropic passion. When I think about the words “connecting” and “passion”, they are almost synonymous with the power behind the Techstars network. The Techstars Foundation is built upon that very premise.

You might be wondering – What does the Techstars Foundation support? What do we not support?  How can my organization apply for funding? How can I get involved?

What does Techstars Foundation support? – We support non-for-profit and for-profit organizations that are impacting diversity in tech entrepreneurship. How do we support them? In two ways.  

  • First, we provide grant money to that organization to help with a specific project or general operating needs.  
  • Second – and more powerful than the money from our vantage point – we actively wrap the Techstars network around our funded organizations to help drive their mission forward. We are not funders who grant money and walk away. We grant money and actively engage around your organization’s challenges.

What does Techstars Foundation NOT support? –  The Techstars Foundation is not designed to provide start up funding for individuals or companies. We do not provide grants to individuals either. Organizations that do not have 501c3 status or lack a fiscal sponsor are not eligible to apply.

I want to apply for funding. Where do I begin? – Awesome! We want to hear from you and understand how your organization is impacting diversity in tech entrepreneurship. We just rolled out a new process for interested organizations. Visit our website to review our grantmaking guidelines and our grantmaking process. If you are a fit, apply!  

How can I get involved? – There are a number of ways to become involved:

  • If you are in the Techstars network and want to help one of our funded organizations, ping me.  
  • If you are passionate about diversity in tech entrepreneurship, consider making a gift today. (The Foundation is 100% powered by personal donations.  Your tax-deductible gifts is what enables us to run.)  
  • If you are a company and want to contribute, consider becoming a Pledge 1% company and listing Techstars Foundation as a beneficiary.  
  • If you have an awesome idea on what we should be doing, please drop me a line.

A special thank you to our generous donors who helped get this off of the ground. Without you, the Techstars Foundation would not exist. A big shout out to Google who just came on board as the Foundation’s first corporate partner. Thank you also to the Techstars Foundation’s Advisory Board, current grantees and certainly Ali Berman for helping me get up to speed. You have all guided the Foundation to a wonderful place thus far, and I am excited about where we will go.

I look forward to meeting many of you and working with you in the months and years to come!  








Diversity in Entrepreneurship: Patriot Boot Camp

We recently sat down with Charlotte Creech and Josh Anderson of Patriot Boot Camp, one of the five Techstars Foundation Grantees, to learn more about the organization and how it’s helping diversity in entrepreneurship.

Patriot Boot Camp is an intensive, 3-day educational event designed to mentor military members, Veterans and their spouses to start technology-focused businesses.

What problem are you solving?

PBC helps bridge the resource gap that Veterans and military spouses face when starting technology companies. Our mission is to equip them with focused education, mentoring and community support to help them innovate and build the next generation of scalable companies.

Patriot Boot Camp leverages a nationwide network of business and startup community thought leaders to help entrepreneurs bridge the divide between military service and entrepreneurial life.

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What sparked the vision and foundation behind Patriot Boot Camp?

Patriot Boot Camp has a strong foundation in the Techstars network. While going through the Techstars Boulder accelerator, Taylor McLemore questioned whether the tech community could be doing more to support Veterans in making the transition to startups.

With support from David Cohen, Taylor crafted an intensive 3-day boot camp to mimic the mentorship-driven Techstars accelerator. The first program – held in Washington, D.C. in 2012 – was met with huge demand from the military & Veteran community, and sparked what has now become a standalone 501(c)(3 non-profit organization running multiple programs each year.

Tell us about how your organization has affected/positively impacted your audience?

Patriot Boot Camp (PBC) has run nine entrepreneurship education programs across seven cities since 2012, providing hands-on training and mentorship to more than 500 early stage military/Veteran and spouse tech entrepreneurs.

Successful outcomes from these programs range from having alumni meet a co-founder, to getting accepted to a Techstars accelerator program, to having a PBC mentor invest in their company and everything in between.

Most commonly, our alumni tell us the advice they received at PBC helped them quickly hone in on, or pivot to, a more viable business model and helped connect them with a network of subject matter experts that they never would have been able to access on their own.

What is the biggest misperception around the issue you are trying to solve?

A popular misconception about military Veterans is that because of their uniformed service, they are rigid and heavily regimented.

While structure and order are hallmarks of the military, most personnel serving in the U.S. armed forces must be creative and inventive in order to accomplish their missions. Many of the ideas and companies that come through Patriot Boot Camp are highly innovative and operate with a social mission.

What is one world-changing company that you admire?

USAA! USAA has a long history of being a trusted service provider for military members and their families and has been an incredible supporter of Patriot Boot Camp. USAA’s mission is deeply rooted in its culture, and it truly leads the industry in both customer service and technology innovation.  

Do you have any examples of how the Techstars’ network has impacted your business so far?

Since its inception, Patriot Boot Camp has benefitted from the strength and expertise of the Techstars network. Nearly every member of Techstars’ leadership has volunteered at PBC programs as speakers and mentors, sharing invaluable advice and lessons learned.

Furthermore, Patriot Boot Camp is pleased to have five of its alumni companies gain acceptance into a formal Techstars accelerator program, and countless other alumni have leveraged its vast network of mentors and founders to gain critical knowledge and guidance.   

At an organizational level, Patriot Boot Camp is fortunate to have David Brown sit on its Board of Directors and access to a wealth of subject matter experts in all facets of business development.

How has the Techstars Foundation helped your cause/business?

Having the backing of the Techstars Foundation and brand has helped Patriot Boot Camp establish credibility among a highly competitive landscape of non-profit organizations.

More importantly, the Foundation provided a grant award which has helped us expand our programming and has also connected us with incredible mentors in the nonprofit arena to help us build a lasting, impactful organization.  

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How can Techstars help with getting more Veterans involved with startups?

Many active duty military members, Veterans, and their spouses have an interest in pursuing entrepreneurship as an alternative career path, but don’t always have the community support and network needed to effectively guide them to the right resources.

By making a greater effort to outreach to the military and Veteran community, Techstars and its supporting programs including Startup Week, Startup Weekend and Startup Next, can help shepherd more Veterans into tech and ensure they have access to critical startup knowledge and resources.  

Brad Feld and Amy Batchelor will be matching donations to the Techstars Foundation until October 31. Brad and Amy will be matching $1 dollar for every $2 dollars contributed by members of the Techstars’ community, up to $100,000. Donate here today!