Astia and Inforum on Pulling Women Into MI’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

6/19/12Follow @XconomyDET

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companies that successfully raise capital will achieve high growth through its extensive international network, which includes 300 investors and 300 former and current CEOs.

Last week, Astia announced it had received a $600,000 grant from the Kauffman Foundation to help high-growth companies founded by women scale up. Astia CEO Sharon Vosmek says that Kauffman data indicated that the market wasn’t very robust after the incubator/accelerator growth stage—that hypergrowth tended to take place, on average, in a company’s fourth year of operation. “That’s almost a three-year gap,” Vosmek notes. “That was our first warning.” Astia also discovered that women-owned firms were still underperforming in the greater context of overall U.S. economic growth, so Astia will use the grant to try to acheive 25 percent year-over-year growth in its portfolio of client companies.

It’s with that in mind that Astia comes to Michigan for the first time and works with Inforum to recruit women and startups founded by women into its network. Astia has already worked with one Michigan startup: Local Orbit, which provides ecommerce and digital tools to food-based local businesses. Vosmek calls Local Orbit a “really exciting” company targeted for hypergrowth. “When we focus on the Midwest, it’s not our intention to move companies out of Michigan, but to build the network and access to capital and expertise regardless of geography.”

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) is backing both Activate and Astia with $700,000 to get the programs off the ground. “The MEDC is very visionary on this front,” Vosmek says. “Within this space, with women, there is very little investment.” To that end, Inforum will be educating angel investors to increase the capital flowing to women-founded startups.

Both Mechem and Vosmek say that the most important thing is that women boost one another with networks to override the “boys club” atmosphere that saturates the startup world, no matter how unintentionally that boys club may be. Mechem advises any female tech entrepreneur interested in Activate or Astia to get in contact with her at Inforum (kmechem@inforummichigan.org). “After all, the system works through referrals,” she adds.

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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