Astia connects female entrepreneurs with investors

December 1, 2009--"From its roots in Silicon Valley, Astia has grown globally into an innovative not-for-profit organization that propels women's full participation as entrepreneurs and leaders in high-growth businesses, fueling innovation and driving economic growth," says Astia CEO Sharon Vosmek.

December 1, 2009--"From its roots in Silicon Valley, Astia has grown globally into an innovative not-for-profit organization that propels women's full participation as entrepreneurs and leaders in high-growth businesses, fueling innovation and driving economic growth," says Astia CEO Sharon Vosmek.

Laser Focus World first learned about Astia after talking with Laura Smoliar, former CEO of Mobius Photonics, at the Frontiers in Optics Conference in San Jose. Smoliar is now an Astia Entrepreneur in Residence, as well as a consultant for Peppertree Engineering (Mountain View, CA), which offers design and marketing services for photonics-based systems.

Smoliar explained that Astia opened up many opportunities for her while at Mobius, and she is eager to "give back" and share that experience with others. "After Lightwave Electronics was acquired by JDSU, I saw opportunities for variations on this technology in other areas, such as electronics manufacturing tools, and in May 2005, Mobius Photonics was incorporated. It was at this time that I learned about Astia, which was then called the Women's Technology Cluster (WTC). I went through the WTC program that trains entrepreneurs about the fundraising process, and I presented at WTC investor conferences in 2005 and 2007," said Smoliar.

Smoliar said she was paired with some excellent advisors who introduced her to first-rate legal counsel and made some essential connections that opened up opportunities with major customers. "I raised funding in Series A thru C from investors in the U.S. and Japan, including angels and two strategic partners, with the last round closing in January, 2009," said Smoliar, all with the help of Astia.

Astia receives guidance from dedicated members of its Board of Trustees, Advisory Board, and Investor Advisory Council composed of seasoned entrepreneurs, investors, and business professionals who volunteer their time to make Astia a success. In total, Astia draws on over 700 expert advisors to engage with client companies and since 2003 has achieved the following results: Greater than 60% fundraising success for the client companies served; More than $600M raised by presenting companies; and 14 exits to date, including 2 IPOs.

Women in business is good for business
Astia requires that companies participating in its programs have at least one woman in a position of influence. "There is a significant body of research that demonstrates the correlation between women in executive positions and higher profits and better overall performance," says Vosmek. "On a societal level, we have spent the past 50 years preparing women for participation in the innovation sectors, only to see them under-represented in Venture Capital. Today in the U.S., less than 12% of venture capital goes to women founders or CEOs, even though U.S. women represent 35-40% of applicants to business schools, hold 43% of environmental engineering degrees and 40% of bioengineering degrees, and represent 25% of proprietary software developers."

Boot camp
Astia focuses on a small number of high-potential companies who go through an intense and rigorous screening process by industry experts and investors. The screened companies participate in an intensive week-long boot camp called "Doing It Right", which is really the on-ramp for the entrepreneur into the Astia ecosystem. Once a company is invited to join Astia, it becomes a life-long member of the Astia community, with continuous access to Astia advisors and resources as it grows its businesses and becomes a market leader.

Entrepreneurs are invited to complete an online application at www.astia.org.

To read the full article from the November 15th issue of Optoelectronics Report, go to www.laserfocusworld.com/articles/370975.

For more first-hand and originally reported business news in the optoelectronics and photonics industry, please subscribe to Optoelectronics Report at www.optoelectronicsreport.com, the twice-monthly eNewsletter from the editors at Laser Focus World and BioOptics World that covers both national and international business news and market trends and tracks technology advances to interpret their business implications.

--Posted by Gail Overton, gailo@pennwell.com; www.laserfocusworld.com.

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