About Astia

Friday, August 5, 2011

Sharon Vosmek, Astia CEO, Video Interview: European Entrepreneurs are Not Interested in Playing Small

San Francisco, CA - July 2011

Sharon Vosmek has been CEO of Astia since 2007, originally joining as COO in 2004. As CEO of Astia, Sharon has an unwavering passion and a uniquely well-suited background to drive forward the organization's mission of propelling women's full participation as entrepreneurs and leaders in high-growth businesses, fueling innovation and driving economic growth. Under her guidance, the Astia community of investors, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders has grown ten-fold and now spans North America, Europe and India. You can find Sharon on Astia's blog and on Twitter @Vosmek


Pemo: I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about Astia & how it serves the female entrepreneurial community?

Sharon: Absolutely. Astia is a global organization built on a community of experts focused on the success of women led high growth companies. This is broadly serving the community of high tech, clean tech & life sciences companies.

We work with the companies on access to capital, achieving high growth & developing the executive leadership of the women on the founding team.

Pemo: Great, fantastic. I wondered if you have access to any stats at the moment about how many female entrepreneurs get investment? Anything up to date in that arena?

Sharon: Well what's really interesting is that there's good news & bad news. The bad news is that women still secure less than 10% of venture capital. It hasn't changed much in the last 10 years. The good news, the exciting news & the real opportunity for Astia, as I see it, is that there's great research validating the reasons why we should all care.

Number one, research shows that if women had the same access to capital as their male counterparts, we would see 6million jobs created in 5 years, 2 million of those in year one alone.

That is our economic jobs recovery that we are all seeking right now. Really exciting numbers.

The other really exciting news is that companies that have women in executive leadership roles, along with men, outperform those that don't for their investors & for their shareholders. So there's really great & exciting research while we haven't yet seen the move as it relates to the percentage of venture capital going to women CEOs.

Pemo: I know that you have offerings in Europe. Can you tell me a little bit about the European scene & how that's looking now for women entrepreneurs? I've been gone a while now.

Sharon: Europe's exciting! I find the entrepreneurial ecosystem there certainly abuzz. And what is the real opportunity for Astia in Europe is that we're a global community & we have great access to serial entrepreneurs around the world. So when an entrepreneur qualifies for Astia & joins us, they actually join this peer to peer network which is really strong & can break them out of their local, social entrepreneurial norms & help them access really the high growth, global entrepreneurial opportunity.

What I find about the European entrepreneurs is that they're ready for that! They're not interested in playing small. They're very interested in playing big & I think that a platform like Astia really then enables that to go quickly.

Pemo: I know that the numbers of female entrepreneurs in Europe are smaller than in the States (even though they're small here). So I'm just wondering, are you seeing any movement in that area? Are more women starting to get on board as entrepreneurs?

Sharon: Fantastic question & interestingly globally is a front of mine. I'm actually going to participate in the APEC Conference (Asia Pacific Economic Conference) talking about women in the economy because globally women are almost half the entrepreneurs. Where we are not is in high growth entrepreneurship & that's certainly true here in the US & in Europe. And really why it matters in high growth is what I talked about with job creation. In the last 30 years all new jobs were created by enterprises less than 5 years old.

So we should want women playing in this space. It's really about getting innovation to market & job creation & wealth creation for those women.

But you're right the numbers aren't much better here than they are in Europe. And actually it's not tracked so it's a bit of data that is not tracked that we desperately need.

Pemo: Yes I guess it's a bit disparate because so many different countries are involved in Europe?

Sharon: What I'm excited about though is that I think that the message is getting out. We certainly are seeing at Astia anecdotally an increase in people reaching out to find out about us, finding how they can become involved as entrepreneurs. So we're seeing an increase in our pipeline even if we don't know if that's true in the broader market.

Pemo: Fabulous, well as you know I've always been a very strong fan of Astia & your work. I'm hoping that you continue on for a long time to come. Or hopefully maybe not?

Sharon: We actually have a pretty big goal in front of us. What we've committed to as part of a collaboration with 50 other organizations globally, excuse me 60 now, is we see the opportunity to mainstream the Astia message & really bake in an understanding of why it matters. We see that within the decade we won't need to exist as an organization. What we believe is that women are half of the MBAs, half of the college graduates, more than half of college graduates & approaching half of the Phd's.

There is an abundant pipeline of talented women at the ready. If we show them the path & the opportunity & give them access to the networks, that's all it takes for them to succeed in this space. And then Astia gets to go away!

Pemo: Fantastic! Thank you so much for your time today, Sharon. It's been brilliant getting this feedback, particularly the stats. It's really exciting news!

Sharon: Thank you Pemo & keep doing these, they are great.

Pemo: Thank you

Pemo Theodore is a startup coach and founder of EZebis: Winning the Venture Game for Women. She video interviews venture capitalists & women founders on the shortfall in funding for women to raise awareness of the challenges that women sometimes face in obtaining investment in startups. She has been an Australian origin entrepreneur in online business for over 6 years since developing her other site, AstraMatch. She has been involved in small business for 33 years in Australia, Canada, Ireland & UK. A certificated business coach with the International Coach Federation, she is founding President of the Ireland chapter of the ICF & was trained by Corporate Coachu.

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