Featured Network Partners: Microsoft BizSpark

Our Network Partners share our passion for driving the success of software startups through mentoring, networking, business advice, financial assistance, and peer connections. Network Partners know the startup environment and understand what it takes to succeed.


Featured Network Partner

Company: Astia
Interviewee: Sharon Vosmek, CEO
Web Site: www.astia.org

Astia is a connected global community comprised of men and women dedicated to the success of women-led, high-growth ventures and to the eradication of the need for the organization within the decade. It provides meaningful and engaging thought-leadership to the market on behalf of organizations working to ensure the success of women entrepreneurs and women leaders of high growth businesses. Sharon Vosmek, CEO, explains more in a candid conversation.

What is your company’s mission?

Vosmek: Astia’s mission is to propel women’s full participation as entrepreneurs and leaders in high-growth businesses, fueling innovation and driving economic growth.

How do Startups work with you?

Vosmek: Startups work with Astia on the three fundamental elements of success for high-growth Startups: access to capital, growth of the businesses and the leadership of the women on the founding teams.

What, specifically, can Astia do for clients?

Vosmek: We connect entrepreneurs to serial entrepreneurs, investors, industry leaders, advisors, and service providers to create a tremendous value-add network. This lets us customize our services for each Startup, providing access to the right expertise at the right time.

So, for example, an Astia client can receive introductions to venture capitalists, angels, and strategic, foundation or government funding sources. Or we might help a Startup gain access to expertise from serial, high-growth entrepreneurs, corporations or industry leaders.

It’s important to understand that the Astia method is designed for entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs who understand the value of extraordinary relationships and believe in giving back. This generous, ongoing and consistent ‘give back’ mentality is really an incredible strength of the Astia community of advisors.

Tell us about your Global Entrepreneur Program.

Vosmek: To be invited into the program, a company must meet highly competitive criteria as well as engage in a productive feedback session with the Astia team. It’s a very rigorous process but once they qualify, a company receives unfettered access to the global Astia community.

This program offers participants a team of four Astia advisors who evaluate the company and provide feedback, participation in a week-long Entrepreneur Program, regional guidance and assistance, lifetime membership in Astia, and participation in our annual CEO Summit. All these things help open the minds of participants to new ideas and individuals which can take their business – and their leadership – to the next level.

What kind of success have Astia entrepreneurs had?

Vosmek: We really have an exceptional success rate. More than 60 percent of our companies have achieved funding or an exit within one year of joining Astia. There have been 23 exits and 2 IPOs achieved, as well as more than $1 billion raised in capital.

How did you hear about BizSpark?

Vosmek: Microsoft has supported Astia since 2006. It was through this long-standing partnership in support of entrepreneurship that we learned of the BizSpark program when it launched in 2008. Startups everywhere have benefited from the access to Microsoft software, community, and events.

Astia, along with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, is the founding and convening organization for the We Own It Collaboration and Summit (http://www.weownitsummit.org). We Own It is an innovative collaboration of over 70 organizations from around the globe seeking to mainstream the methodology and conversation within the decade – ending a need for organizations like Astia.

The 3rd Annual Summit will take place June 28-29, 2012, in New York City, gathering over 200 entrepreneurs, investors, academics, policy makers, industry leaders – men and women – in conversation and connection.

For more information about Astia, you may contact Sharon at Sharon@astia.org.