Astia, Google Expand Effort to Match Women-Led Startups with VCs
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the endless pitches at most startup-accelerator demo days. Second, the companies have been carefully pre-screened. Third, the investors in the audience ask smart, aggressive questions. And finally, it’s a chance to learn about companies Simoni might not have encountered in any other context.
“There is overlap between the companies in Astia and our non-Astia deal flow, but it’s fairly small,” Simoni says. “I have certainly seen lots of companies at Astia events that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.”
Much of the support for the expanded Astia venture lunch series is coming from Google for Entrepreneurs, a wing of the search and advertising giant devoted to supporting early-stage entrepreneurs—including women in rural and emerging markets—and making sure they have access to Google tools and technology. “With Astia, what really appealed to us was that this was not just a meetup, not just a networking event, but this was really about finding high-impact entrepreneurs who are women, and helping them get access to the tools and resources they need to grow,” says Bridgette Beam, global entrepreneurship manager at Google. “They are very results-driven, just like Google, so we see that cultural fit. They don’t want to just talk about boosting women-led entrepreneurship, they really want to be part of that process, and that’s very rare.”
In addition to helping to pay for the lunches in San Franciso, New York, and London, Google plans to help Astia find locations for one-off lunches in other cities such as Berlin and Sao Paulo, Beam says. And the idea could spread much farther than that. “The long-term goal is not just more lunches put on by Astia, but figuring out how to really scale and expand this globally, very much like Startup Weekend, which is now in 500 cities across the world,” Beam says.
Microsft, Andreessen Horowitz, and a number of other sponsors are also helping to expand the venture lunch program. “The message is being very well received by the dominant players in the market,” Vosmek says.
So, would Wisniewski, the Profusa CTO, recommend participating in an Astia lunch to her peers? “Absolutely, without question,” she says. “There are other ways to fill the gap [between women-led companies and venture firms] but I think the Astia lunch is one good way to start. There is only upside.”