Who has money? Men have money. It may not be fair, but that's largely the way it is. Women entrepreneurs can either limit their networking to just other women, or break out of the sisterhood to the vastly broader network of male entrepreneurs and investors.
Among the seemingly hundreds of program intended to help women start and grow their businesses, Astia has a unique approach. "We believe that high growth entrepreneurship is a unique skill set and can be learned, " Sharon Vosmek, CEO, told me a few days ago. "We believe we can surround the leaders of our innovative companies with a support system and relationships that ensure that they succeed -- and become serial entrepreneurs."
She's not done believing. "We believe in an inclusive ecosystem, and that it's critical that women have a 50-50 gender balance in their advisor network and board of trustees." The Kauffman Foundation believes, too, to the tune of a $500,000 grant that Astia will use to add to its outreach network.
Mentoring and networking only with other women is a self-defeating strategy. Women can't segregate themselves in girls-only networks. The plain truth is that women may command the pocketbook, but not the brokerage account. It takes very deep pockets to fund start-ups, and few women have access to that kind of money. Women also need widely connected advisors and champions. Most fast-growth companies are headed by men, and have boards comprised by men. Those entrepreneurs and investors are the ones that any entrepreneur needs to connect with.
The Kaufmann grant will help Astia expand its "ecosystem," says Vosmek, across the country. She's looking for great ideas lurking in university labs; women with high-potential companies who've been trying to find a way to grow; and women-led companies that are growing and need more connections and capital to leap into the big leagues.
Aligning with Astia boosts your chances. Vosmek says that 60% of the companies that join the Astia network achieve either funding or an exit (i.e., get acquired or some variation thereof) within a year. Sounds like good odds to me.
Image courtesy of Morguefile contributor mzacha.