About Astia

Friday, May 18, 2018

SPOTLIGHT on Astia Entrepreneur

Opportunity is around every corner—how a lot of hard work and a little luck has built Zenflow—one step at a time.

Shreya Mehta is the CTO and Co-Founder of Zenflow, a medical device startup that’s creating ground-breaking advancements in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH - enlarged prostate).

Shreya is a female entrepreneur helping to build a company that creates a product to better men’s health. How she ended up in this field is an interesting journey.

Shreya is a biomedical engineer by training but fell into the field quite by accident. She always loved engineering, as she enjoyed taking things apart and figuring out how things worked. But she also found biology interesting, so it was this combination of engineering and biology that she would eventually
pursue “I was one of those kids that would take the toaster apart and get in trouble with my mom,” she says. “With biology it was a little more elusive and I found that attractive too.” So, becoming a biomedical engineer and learning how to engineer a device that would address a biological and health problem seemed like a natural fit.

After college, Shreya worked at St. Jude Medical, where her interest in biomechanics heightened. She later accepted a job at the FDA as a lead reviewer, where she was responsible for evaluating medical devices for approval or denial. This turned into a fortuitous experience as it taught her what new
companies had to go through in order to have devices approved by the FDA, an experience that would later be helpful to her as she embarked on getting her own company’s devices approved by the FDA.

After a few years at the FDA, Shreya heard about the Biodesign Innovation Fellowship Program at Stanford and decided to apply. Every year the Biodesign Fellowship focuses on a different clinical area of study, and the year she attended the focus was on Urology and Nephrology. This was a whole new
clinical area for Shreya as up until then her interest was in the cardiovascular area, so it meant that she had a lot of learning to do.

It was at Stanford that Shreya met her future business partner (and co-founder of Zenflow) Nick Damiano. Nick and Shreya were teammates in the fellowship program, and this is where they both learned about benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). “We found at Stanford that there was an opportunity to help patients that were suffering from these symptoms but didn’t want to undergo
invasive surgery” she said. “We developed a solution that was minimally invasive for patients suffering from this condition.”

With Shreya as the technical expert and with Nick’s previous experience launching a company, the next step, naturally, was to form a company and take their device to market. In July, 2014, Nick and Shreya bootstrapped their company with Nick’s garage being Zenflow’s prestigious headquarters, until they
finally moved to an office in South San Francisco in 2015

Funding had been an issue for the new company, but as luck would have it Shreya met someone who introduced her to an investor at Astia. After speaking with the investor, Shreya applied to Astia and went through the steps of Astia’s Expert Sift™ program. Shreya did her first presentation to investors via webcast, and then made it to the next step, an in-person presentation to the Astia investors.

The investors were supportive and excited about Zenflow’s product and the company’s future. Shreya secured funding for their seed round through Astia and they were on their way. Since that first round of funding, Shreya and Nick have been back to present to Astia Angels when they were looking for
additional funding, and Astia has always come through for them. She feels as though she’s built a community around Astia, and has enjoyed meeting and learning from other Astia entrepreneurs.

What’s ahead for Zenflow?
The company is up to 10 people now, and is prepping for a 200-person study in the US. They’re also launching a multi-national European 40-50 patient trial. Exciting times lie ahead. The path that has led to Shreya’s current success has been fueled by a lot of learning, perseverance, and a little luck. From her early interest in biomedical engineering to learning how to navigate the path of
FDA approvals while working there, to studying urology and nephrology at the Stanford fellowship, using her technical skills to develop a groundbreaking device to help men dealing with BPH, and jumpstarting her company’s funding through Astia, each step has taken Shreya further along this road to success.

As a woman who once road her bike from San Francisco to LA and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, the launching of Zenflow has also been an exciting journey professionally for her. A journey that she has taken one step at a time. As Shreya puts it “You have to have the endurance to take it a step at a time and understand that if you put the work in now, then you’ll reach your goal eventually.”

~Blog post written by BrandLightning

Monday, March 12, 2018

Seven Benefits of Being an Astia Advisor

Mary McDougall, an Astia Advisor, with an entrepreneur from South Africa

Only 2% of VC 2017 investment went to woman-founded deals
(Source:  Pitchbook)

That may be a shocking statistic to some, and is one of the reason I joined Astia. It certainly is not for lack of amazing women entrepreneurs with big ideas or women-led organizations who are poised to change the world. It is a systemic issue that can only be fixed when we work together...men, women, fighting for equality.

And when it comes to equality, there is a sea change taking place in all areas of business. You might be asking yourself where and how best to get involved to make the greatest impact. Here are a few ideas:

If you would like to help women gain better access to capital, join Astia Angels ($$) and invest now!
If you have time to offer, become an Astia Advisor. I've been an Astia Advisor for more than eight years, currently participating in the Operations and Industry Screen steps of the Expert Sift process, a methodology developed by Astia to curate best in class companies led by women.

As an Astia Advisor, each week, I might review two live company presentations to assess funding readiness as well as read one to three executive summaries to determine business growth potential. If I like the business or the entrepreneur, I might offer to directly engage with them.

Here are the seven reasons why Astia is so rewarding:

  1. Identify high potential deals, led by women, that deserve funding and pass them onto eager investment sources.
  2. Help each entrepreneur further hone their plans and business models by providing constructive feedback at each step of the three-level review process.
  3. Directly assist entrepreneurs with their growth challenges or investment initiative with 1:1 consulting.

  1. Learn new ways of monetizing IP such as creative licensing models, new revenue sources, and not-so-obvious future revenue opportunities e.g. data-as-a-service.
  2. See how demand generation tools and techniques are employed to leverage more messaging channels, mine social media data, predictively analyze customer behavior, etc. to better segment, reach, and convert target audiences.
  3. Introduce new services and products to either your own company or another company in your professional network for a real Win:Win.

  1. Join a network of very accomplished individuals and organizations who are interesting, engaged, and kind…… each wanting to make a very real social impact together.

by Mary McDougall

A corporate innovator and technical business leader Mary has had four successful exits and participated in ten acquisitions. She was most recently CEO of Survox, a phone survey automation platform, sold to Enghouse (TSX: ENGH). Before Survox, Mary led change and growth initiatives in both public companies and early stage ventures, each focused on applying software technology to business process improvement. A long-time advisor, Mary is now part of the Astia Expert Sift process and stays engaged with technology by advising local start-ups through HBS Start-up Partners. Mary was one of the first women to earn an Engineering degree from Dartmouth College before getting her MBA from Harvard Business School.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Astia CEO Reflects on 2017

More Than Numbers
Astia CEO Reflects on 2017
to Chart Beyond 2018

2017 really put a spotlight on women's rights... from the historical manifesto authored by a Google employee decrying diversity in the workplace to the unforgettable #MeToo movement and underlying accounts of discrimination, harassment and abuse.

The question for 2018: what will we do next? Will this create a backlash that sends us spiraling into the abyss or shine a light on a new path forward? I have more conviction than ever before of Astia's mission: ensuring that women get the same opportunities as men, starting and running successful businesses. The best part: we have an ecosystem of investors, partners/sponsors, advisors, and volunteers who have the same conviction. We are also celebrating many successes across every part of Astia. Here are some highlights from our year:

Our Entrepreneurs
In 2017, we welcomed 17 startups who raised $4.2M from Astia Angels, representing $57M in syndication! To date, this brings our portfolio to 51 companies, who have received more than $17.5M of capital from Astia Angels, and $185M in funding total! 100% of our startups have a female executive or were founded by a female. We've teamed up with people who came to us because of our relationship-driven approach. These leaders understand that it's not just about having a good pitch—it's about creating opportunities to connect and build something meaningful together.

Our Portfolio—the Thesis at Work!
We don't take a cookie-cutter approach to the companies we fund. If you look at the three companies who had successful exits with Astia this year, you'll see geographical diversity—one from Pittsburg, one from Silicon Valley, and one from London. You will note they were from very different sectors (medical devices, cloud service, fintech) and that they ranged in stages of growth (from early-stage to pre-IPO). Read more about each of these exits here! [more specifically, Boku IPO on the AIM Exchange, Cloudamize's merger with Blackstone-owned Cloudreach, and Ciel Medical being acquired by Vyaire Medical]

Our Investors—Putting their Money where their Mouth is!
Our community of 55 seasoned investors is comprised of men and women, individual contributors, couples, and family offices, with expertise in a wide spectrum of sectors. These Angels understand the need for diversity in their portfolio and chose Astia to demonstrate their values in dollars and deeds. In return, Astia proved our model and delivered huge returns on their investments. We will continue to leverage these relationships to drive systemic, positive change in the investment community.

Our Community—Making a Difference!
Our community boasts over 2000 Astia Advisors who actively review on average 120 applications a quarter. The three exits we celebrated in 2017 continue to validate the Astia Expert Sift™ model and the Astia investment thesis of investing in teams that include women. In 2018, we will create more meaningful touchpoints with the community to ensure each member realizes the value of their contribution, whether giving Astia access to their network, providing expertise during the early assessment stage, or offering counsel to entrepreneurs during the growth of their business.

We would not be able to do the work we do without our sponsors, some who have stood by us for over ten years: from global brands like Dentons, Silicon Valley Bank, and Salesforce.org to best in class entities such as Moss Adams, Lowenstein, and Prolog Ventures; and of course, our founding sponsor, Three Guineas Fund. Partners like Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and Google for Entrepreneurs, who are themselves leaders in entrepreneurship and innovation, extend our reach and validate our mission.

Our Team—Eleven Strong and Mission-driven!
As we grow, we have not diluted or lost sight of who we are. We take a very personal, relationship-based approach to our mission. It is the lens by which we operate and how we attract those who want to change the world. This year, we added one part-time staff member, four Executives in Residence, one intern, and two volunteers—senior level individuals who still want to grow professionally and play a meaningful role in empowering women around the world.

Our voices—Leading the Change We Seek!
Our thought leadership platform, Astia Think, is one of the most challenging aspects of our work because we face two reactions: that there is no problem to solve or that it's too overwhelming to solve. Our objective for 2018 is to create increased dialog around our call to action: invest today. As we head into the new year, we must learn from the watershed moments of 2017 and capitalize on our investment momentum to establish a dominant voice and position in the investment community.

I leave you with our final message. invest today. The call to action is clear and the time to engage and act is now. No more sitting on the sideline. Still today, less than 5% of venture capital is invested in women-led companies: this must change. These words are not just intended for Astia Angels, who demonstrate their commitment by investing in Astia-screened companies. We invite all VCs to review the Astia pipeline that includes companies from all sectors, stages, and geographies. To facilitate this access, we hold monthly Venture Showcases for the venture community. If you are a VC, we welcome you to join us! You can register for the Venture Showcases by contacting our Managing Director here. And if you are an angel investor looking for a group to invest with, we welcome a conversation.

As I have said time and again since coming to Astia in 2004...Astia is a community. Astia is You! Thank you for another year of support, engagement, and enthusiasm for the women we serve and the companies they lead.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Look at what you did in 2014!

Thank you to each of you for making 2014 such an extraordinary year for Astia. You are integral to the work of Astia, so we wanted to share with you the many ways you participated, supported, engaged and committed to Astia this year.

You can download an end of year report here: 2014 end of year report - Astia is You!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Astia participates in high-level discussion at the United Nations

October 31, 2014 | New York, NY

Astia CEO Sharon Vosmek, spoke at United Nations Headquarters in New York at a program sponsored by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and organised by the Global Citizen Forum (GCF) and the Universal Peace Federation (UPF).

Titled: “Globalisation and Sustainable Development: the Role of Government, NGOs and the Private Sector”, Sharon spoke about the Astia mission and community on the panel: "Business, Technology and Social Sector: Harbingers of a New Civilization"

The session was broadcast live and attended by UN Ambassadors, international diplomats, dignitaries, Executive Heads of UN bodies, international NGOs and Private Sector representatives.

Sharon's comments were to highlight the importance of and the need for a global strategy - that includes both men and women - to address women's access to capital. Astia was the model she used throughout her comments. The benefits to the economy and society were also core messages.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Investing in the Success of Women High-Growth Entrepreneurs, their Teams and their Ventures

The Astia White Paper

Co-authored by Sharon Vosmek, Astia CEO, and Teresa Nelson, PhD, Elizabeth J. McCandless Chair in Entrepreneurship, Simmons College this statement on the future of innovation has developed over fifteen years of Astia working with high-growth ventures internationally.

We see women leaders as integral participants in inclusive, high performing entrepreneurial teams — without them, success is more difficult. We believe this position should be more widely shared and understood.

In this report we explain why... and how you can join us.