About Astia

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What is the right time to be an entrepreneur?

The following is a guest post by Esha Tiwary.

This is one question I’ve been thinking about for a while, and that often comes up in conversations. It is an interesting one because it seems to have a “publicly acceptable” answer, regardless of what the individual might personally believe. It is a favorite topic of academicians to disseminate wisdom on, quite ironically I must add. And it is definitely one that has given every budding or struggling entrepreneur a sleepless night or two.

Of course, the well-known answer is, “When you have gathered enough relevant experience.” Everyone knows how important experience is to build a successful business. You can’t possibly know what to do if you haven’t been doing the exact same thing for the past 10 years. Current entrepreneurs will agree because that’s what they were told and they went and got the experience. Investors will agree because this is the only easy filter they can apply to choose amongst the hundreds of proposals they see every year. And academicians, well, serial (and hence, experienced) entrepreneurs make the best business school case studies!

Allow me to propose something drastic. The above answer is wrong. And it is wrong for the simple reason that the question itself is incorrect. I think the right question is, “What is the right attitude to be an entrepreneur?” It is a state of mind and not a biological age that determines when one is ready to be an entrepreneur. And no place better exemplified this than the Astia Doing it Right program this year. It was supremely inspiring to see the absolute range of entrepreneurs there – from a 21 year old to women who had been in the industry for two decades before taking the plunge. And one thing they all had in common was the spark – the desire to build something amazing.

A thing to note is also that you needn’t always have “the idea” to be able to take the plunge. One of the women I met at Astia said that one day she just decided that she wanted to build her own business. And once she made that decision, everything sort of fell into place. Because let’s face it, the right attitude and effort can turn the most commonplace of ideas into a stroke of genius.

- Esha Tiwary

Esha is the Head of Business Development at Embrace, one of the companies selected in the Doing it Right program this year. She is a graduate of Harvard Business School and Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Guest conversation from Astia VP Europe, Simone Brummelhuis

Astia is a community of experts, building women leaders and accelerating the funding and growth of high potential, high growth women-led start-ups.

I have read and heard this many times, it's on the Astia website, the reason of its existence, it became for me almost a mantra.

And as of this week I know, I have seen that the mantra is true.

I have never seen a group of experts more committed, more experienced, more qualified than this week. And I have never seen a group of women entrepreneurs who are so eager to be leaders and to accelerate their high potential startups. I am overwhelmed, and I am not the only one, the entrepreneurs are overwhelmed, both by the experts as well as their peers.

Last week I arrived in San Francisco -after a 22 year absence- much too long. And the occasion to visit San Francisco is the 2010 Astia Doing it Right Silicon Valley Program.

A full 43 companies and 58 entrepreneurs made it through the rigorous screening of joining this week’s program. Most are North American companies, 2 companies from Europe, 1 company from India and 1 company from New Zealand in industries of clean tech, life-science, enterprise software, medical devices, leisure and retail products.

Many of these female entrepreneurs have built a business before, some in a corporate environment, some have successfully exited their previous businesses. Some of the startups already raised their angel money, and are connecting with Astia for the institutional rounds of funding. Some of them are serial entrepreneurs or -as one woman calls herself- Startup Junkies. But what has been clear from the outset is that the class of 2010 is quite special.

I came to watch, to learn, to support the European companies, and, above all, to get ready for our European Astia program which will take place March 14-18, 2011.

From the first day of the program with a panel of impressive alumni Astia entrepreneurs - who where in the 60% success rate of Astia companies getting funding - to the last day of the program: it has been a roller coaster of panels, workshops and round tables with impressive investors, entrepreneurs, corporate heads and service providers with bios that each read as novels.

The entrepreneurs have -inter alia- stood up to present their ideas, listened to seasoned entrepreneurs who have uncovered their go-to-market strategy, calculated their financial projections together with financial wizzards, shaken hands with illustre giants of the tech industry, given out business cards to gatekeepers of venture capital firms, and established relationships with the global corporate giants.

The week was packed from morning to evening, there was no escape but go for it; a steep learning curve for all the women-led companies as never before. Also, never before were so many men and women of outstanding caliber together to support women-led companies. Tom Kosnik of Stanford, Dan'l Lewin of Microsoft, Bashkar Gorti of Oracle, Bill Reichert of Garage Technology Ventures and Bill Campbell, Chairman of Intuit. And who says that there are no women in global high positions? With Shellye Archambeau of Metric Stream, Eileen Gittens of Blurb, Andrea Zurek of XG Ventures and Renee Knee of Hewlett Packard, Astia brought forward outstanding rolemodels.

And on top of it, there was Female Internet Hero, Susan Wojcicki of Google who presented her case to give her support to the Astia female entrepreneurs.

As one of the first employees from 1999 at Google (she let her garage to Sergey and Larry), now a top 10 leader in Google and responsible for 97% of Google's turnover, while being a mom of 4 children, she puts in practice her own advice: Have a mission and you and other people can work harder for you, collect the best insights and make them your own, continue innovation and not perfection and believe in the impossible and it can become true, and KEEP GOING!

The great things is, that it's all applicable to the Astia class of 2010.

We want this in Europe too!

Simone Brummelhuis joined Astia in 2008 as a member of the Astia European Advisory Board. A former attorney, today she runs Astia Europe as the Vice President of that market. Simone lives in Amsterdam with her husband and three daughters.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Open Letter from the CEO to the new Astia companies

November 2010

Dear Entrepreneur,

Welcome to Astia!

Today begins your relationship with a ten-year-old community that spans the globe and seeks to ensure your success as a business and your success as an entrepreneur. We focus on what matters most to high-growth entrepreneurs – skills and networks. We know that it takes specific skills to succeed in high-growth markets and that those skills can be learned (think “not recreating wheels”). Of equal importance, it takes a network to connect you to your investors, customers, suppliers, employees and acquirers (think “the individual does not scale”).

All of this we know because of who we are. We are a community of entrepreneurs, investors, industry leaders, and others who influence and benefit from the high-growth, innovation ecosystem.

Our model is extremely unique, in that it is:

High touch – over 1,000 advisors work to help our entrepreneurs grow their businesses and achieve success. On average, Astia Advisors spend over five hours per week with our companies during the Doing It Right program.

Highly customized – the Astia screening process gives us critical information that enables us to build a program and an Advisor team designed for each company and entrepreneur’s specific needs, based on stage and location of company, market opportunity, technology, CEO experience, and every other bit of information you have provided. This approach is how we will continue to work with you long after your experience at the Doing It Right program.

High impact – since 2003, our clients have averaged a greater-than 60% success rate – a level unparalleled in the industry. Each Advisor relationship is tied to measurable results. This is not a networking group. This is a group that delivers real and measurable results for the entrepreneur.

In today’s uncertain investment climate, you must focus on your business. Let us join you in that effort. As I said at the beginning of this letter, Astia is a community – and as of today – Astia is you!

Yours sincerely,