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.
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).
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.