With new financial backing, Astia is to launch a new platform geared to getting women and minority entrepreneurs greater access to networks and capital.
Those familiar with Inspirefest will know the name Astia and its CEO Sharon Vosmek who, for the past 18 years, has been one of the pre-eminent CEOs working to ensure the success of high-growth start-ups founded and led by women.
While set to take the stage on Friday for the investors panel, Vosmek spoke at last year’s event about the “continual tone deafness in Silicon Valley” when it comes to those on the periphery, but has now become the forefront of conversation in the past few days.
Now, Astia is looking to turn the tide with the announcement that it has received a grant from the Kaufmann Foundation – a private, nonpartisan foundation that works in education and entrepreneurship – to expand its outreach and networking platforms.
One such endeavour is Astia Community, a new platform that will allow for a direct and more robust engagement of the more than 5,000 global Astia community members and the entrepreneurs who apply to the organisation.
The purpose of the new platform, Astia said, is to give its companies real-time access to expertise, networks, and capital.
The Inclusion Challenge grant will also underwrite the expansion of Astia’s Expert Sift methodology developed to source, screen, advise, and select the best-in-class women-led companies for investment.
Over the past decade, Astia claimed it has proven to be a gender-neutral method for sourcing and selecting innovative companies and has shown results with top-tier venture firms that consider investments only with women in positions of equity and influence.
Putting a spotlight on the persistent gap
“The Kauffman Foundation has been a funding partner since 2003 and its support and research has helped to shape Astia’s programmes that directly address the intractable problems of bias in the innovation economy,” Vosmek said.
“Together we continue to put a spotlight on the persistent gap in funding for women and minorities and together we intend to level the playing field for these underrepresented groups.”
Meanwhile, the Kaufmann Foundation’s entrepreneurship programme officer Christopher Harris added: “Entrepreneurship is a fundamental right available to everyone, yet women and minorities face more barriers to starting businesses when it comes to accessing funding, education, mentors and markets.
“This grant will enable Astia to expand its services to empower more entrepreneurs and help them succeed.”
Last year at Inspirefest, Astia Angels was central to Irish start-up SoapBox Labs getting €1.2m in seed funding with the children’s speech technology company now seeking expansion in Ireland and the US.