Astia Awarded Prestigious Grant by Kauffman Foundation, Launches Enhanced Community Platform and Welcomes Aitua Ekhaese to Board of Trustees

Jul 6, 2017

Funding to expand and enhance Astia Access programs for women-led companies; UK-based Trustee to bring Private Equity and Family Office experience and relationships to the mission

Despite an increase in the number of women-led firms and the support systems available to them, the funding of these firms continues to drastically lag behind male-only firms. In an ongoing commitment to inclusion and innovation, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation today announced that Astia will receive an Inclusion Challenge grant to underwrite the expansion of the Astia Expert Sift™ methodology developed by Astia to source, screen, advise, and select the best-in-class women-led companies for investment. Developed over a decade, the Astia Expert Sift™ has proven to be a gender-neutral method for sourcing and selecting best-in-class innovative companies; the method has demonstrated results commensurate with top-tier venture firms while maintaining a commitment to considering only investments with women in positions of equity and influence.

“The Kauffman Foundation has been a funding partner since 2003 and its support and research has helped to shape Astia’s programs that directly address the intractable problems of bias in the innovation economy,” said Sharon Vosmek, Astia CEO. “Together we continue to put a spotlight on the persistent gap in funding for women and minorities and together we intend to level the playing field for these underrepresented groups.”

“Entrepreneurship is a fundamental right available to everyone, yet women and minorities face more barriers to starting businesses when it comes to accessing funding, education, mentors and markets,” said Christopher Harris, Entrepreneurship program officer at the Kauffman Foundation. "This grant will enable Astia to expand its services to empower more entrepreneurs and help them succeed. The nation's economy will benefit from more entrepreneurs generating income and wealth in traditionally underserved markets.”

The funding will in part support the roll-out of Astia Community, a new platform built on Salesforce Community Cloud that will allow for a direct and more robust engagement of the more than 5,000 Astia community members around the globe and the entrepreneurs who apply to Astia. The new platform will give its companies real-time access to expertise, networks, and capital. Astia has worked with since 2003 using Salesforce Sales Cloud to grow the Astia community, track companies, and harvest data to enable investment decisions and measure program effectiveness. The funding from Kauffman has been combined with the generous volunteer efforts of Salesforce employees through’s pro bono initiative to implement Salesforce Community Cloud and create Astia Community.

“Nonprofits have a tremendous opportunity to leverage technology to increase their impact,” said Marc Ferris, senior vice president of nonprofit sales at “With, Astia has been able to scale rapidly and ultimately accelerate their important mission.”

Astia has also announced the addition of Aitua Ekhaese to the Board of Trustees. Recognizing that investment for women is often sourced through alternatives to venture capital, Mr. Ekhaese is added to the governing body to bring new funding relationships and perspectives to Astia. His work as a trusted advisor to families, their offices, and to institutions, will round out a board that includes leading entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors, and industry executives.

“I am extremely delighted and honoured to join the Board of Trustees,” commented Aitua Ekhaese, “the commitment of the entire Astia community to leverage inclusivity as a way of enhancing growth in ventures throughout the world is something with which I am strongly aligned. I look forward to making my contribution to this objective.”

About the Kauffman Foundation

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that works in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful. The Kauffman Foundation is based in Kansas City, Missouri, and uses its $2 billion in assets to collaboratively help people be self-sufficient, productive citizens. For more information, visit and connect with us at and

About Astia

For 18 years, Astia has been the pre-eminent organization working to ensure the success of high-growth startups founded and led by women. Founded in Silicon Valley in 1999 when less than 2% of venture capital was invested into inclusive founding teams, today Astia is a global community of more than 5,000 investors, entrepreneurs, corporations, family offices, industry leaders and individuals committed to leveling the playing field for women entrepreneurs by providing access to capital and networks for the companies they lead. For more information, visit

Astia Angels

Astia Angels is a premier global angel network investing in companies with inclusive executive teams. Since the launch of Astia Angels in 2013, members have made 66 investments into 45 companies across the sectors of technology, healthcare/life sciences, cleantech and consumer products, from seed to growth stage, representing more than $14.8M in direct investments and more than $135.6M in syndication. The Angels’ first exit occurred in April when Ciel Medical was acquired by Vyaire Medical less than two years after Astia Angels invested. Investment syndicate partners have included Venrock, Google Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, Wheatsheaf Investment Group, Catalyst Health Ventures, Arboretum Ventures, Stanford StartX, BBG Ventures and other top tier investors

Media Contacts:

Sharon Vosmek, Astia, +1-415-806-8252,

Barbara Pruitt, Kauffman Foundation, +1-816-932-1288,