Women In Business Gain New Sponsor
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 28, 2013 00:02
When Amy Gips, BC ’04, came to the Carroll School of Management in the fall of 2000, she followed the standard path for many CSOM students—she concentrated in finance, graduated, and got a job working at an investment bank in New York City. She has since broken this mold and has recently started an angel investor fund for female entrepreneurs: Astia Angels, located in the Bay Area.
“From investment banking, I went into private equity and credit funds,” Gips said. “I worked on Wall Street for seven years and was meeting with five companies a week. I could count on one hand the number of women on management teams I met. There were no women. I was frustrated with this. I asked myself, ‘What is the problem? Why am I not meeting more women?’”
After this experience, Gips decided to leave Wall Street and New York to move to San Francisco, Calif. She wanted to explore the question of why there were not more women in management positions. When she arrived in San Francisco, she began by meeting with organizations that were interested in women in business and the issues that faced these women. In doing this, she focused on organizations that worked specifically with female entrepreneurs.
“There was a lot of emphasis on the education side and networking,” Gips said. “The organizations were making sure that the women were well prepared. What was missing was the capital. There are a ton of really great women entrepreneurs out there, but they needed early stage capital. This is what was really keeping women entrepreneurs back.”
Gips decided that she wanted to do something to change this, so she partnered with Astia. Astia is primarily an accelerator program for female-led businesses. Working on the education side, the company finds women advisors in different industries, and has experts all around the world.
“A lot of the experts were also investors or could have been investors,” Gips said. “There were community members who had the ability to invest, but weren’t necessarily investing in Astia companies.”
In order to change this, Gips worked with Astia to form Astia Angels, a network of angel investors committed to invest in female-led companies. Serving as a founding managing partner, Gips worked to bring together people who would act as early investors in startups led by women.
“We started off with a training program for investors in the fall,” Gips said. “This was to help those who did not know how to make early stage investments. We held our first meeting in January. We had four companies come and present to a room of 30 individual investors. Since that meeting, we had a lot of interest in one of the three companies—a medical device company focused on women’s health care products—so we focused on making that investment the first investment.”
One of the bigger issues that Gips thought faced female entrepreneurs was that of business networks.
“Finding early stage investment is part of a larger puzzle,” Gips said. “Women and men typically run in separate business networks—men have other men and women have other women. Historically, men do more of the early investments.”
In order to change this trend, Astia Angels is structured to have a balance of male and female investors.
“We want to open up men’s networks to women’s networks,” Gips said. “Part [of this] is capital, but part is also knowledge. A lot of Astia’s mission is mixing the networks. The percentage of angel investors who are women is 12 percent. Also, 12 percent of women entrepreneurs receive money. We want to increase women investors and entrepreneurs.”
One of the things that Gips thought was important for the success of female entrepreneurs was reaching out to students in college.
“We are always looking for high-quality women entrepreneurs,” Gips said. “Encouraging women in college that they can be entrepreneurs is important. College students are the future college entrepreneurs. They must be aware that being an entrepreneur is an option for them. We didn’t feel like, when we were in college, that there was much of an emphasis on becoming an entrepreneur. There seems to be a lot more interest now. I am thrilled to see the changes at BC—that the school is being proactive and putting things in to place right now.”