Four Rules For High-Growth Women Entrepreneurs

Nicole Kekeh
Four Rules For High-Growth Women Entrepreneurs

The New Age of high-growth women entrepreneurs is about to transform economies across the globe and create millions of jobs.

If this sounds like a grand statement, it is not, from listening to Sharon Vosmek. As CEO of Astia, the premier venture accelerator for women-led high growth companies, Vosmek is passionate that women entrepreneurs will create the next high-growth firms, and pull the global economy out of the doldrums. Literally.

Vosmek points to the data. It is underpinning Vosmek’s crusade to take women-led high-growth entrepreneurship global and to next scale. It is compelling. Data shows that if women CEOs had the same access to capital as male CEOs, six million jobs would be added to the economy in five years; two million in year one alone.

For Vosmek, the case is clear-cut.

Women make up over half the planet.

Women make up 50 per cent of all new MBA graduates.

Women make up just under 50 per cent of all PhDs.

Women make up 48 per cent of all entrepreneurs globally.

And yet, states Vosmek:

Women represent fewer than 20 percent of high-growth CEOs.

Women CEOs attract only 10 per cent of venture capital dollars.


Based in Silicon Valley, where she has led Astia as CEO since 2007, Vosmek has an unwavering passion––and, indeed, a mission–– for propelling women's full participation as entrepreneurs and leaders in high-growth businesses, fueling innovation and driving economic growth. Astia is focused on innovative firms ranging from high tech, clean tech, life sciences and consumer services.

Vosmek is thinking big. Vosmek is looking for the next "Diane Greens." Green, a serial entrepreneur, founded VMWare and, as CEO, led the Silicon Valley virtualization software provider firm to a multi-billion profit-generating business.

So, I was quite excited to link-up to a recent videoconference call sponsored by 85Broads with Sharon Vosmek.

High-growth entrepreneurship matters, says Vosmek. It is the solution to today’s economic crisis. Indeed, as more data shows:

All net new jobs in the last 30 years were created by enterprises fewer than five years old.

One hundred per cent of all new jobs created in the past five years came from high-growth startups.


So, how will Astia deliver on this global change?

Founded by a former female Cisco CMO who saw a “niche” in high-growth innovative industries, Astia today is an inclusive ecosystem, where women and men come together around the goal of exposing women entrepreneurs to a global community of experts, and to what Vosmek terms “equity and influence.”

Vosmek believes that to tap into high-growth, women entrepreneurs need to be exposed to “networks” (capital and expertise) and “opportunity”(leadership self-assessment and aspiration.)

Astia is teaming up with partners. It is a player in a multi-partner venture launched at a recent summit in London, under the sponsorship of the Kaufmann Foundation, the Cherie Blair Foundation, Astia and others. The London summit served to commit to “The Decade Of The Woman Entrepreneur." By focussing on the next 10 years as the “Decade of the Woman Entrepreneur”, these partners would shine the spotlight on the challenges women face in launching successful high-growth businesses and identify practical ways such challenges can be overcome. (Stay tuned for forthcoming blog post on this exciting initiative of the Decade.)

Under Vosmek’s guidance, Astia has grown into a community of investors, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders that now spans North America, India and Europe. In the interview below, Vosmek discusses the mission of Astia, and the prospects of Astia’s partnerships in Europe.

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High-growth entrepreneurship is not rocket science. It can be learned.”

Listening in on the videoconference call, I thought that was the most uplifting message, yet. Women entrepreneurs need to understand what makes them unique, and what will ensure their path to success.

Vosmek laid out her “four rules” for women innovators on the road to success.

Rule #1. Less QQ, More Pew Pew! In Vosmek's world, the "QQ" is the picture of a teary, whining figure. Less whining, more shooting at your goal.

No whining about how difficult the work is, find out about the rules of the game. Get out there and get exposed. Build out an advisory board. Build out a core team. Find those who are in it together with you. Get the help you need.”

I loved the advice! As the founder of a start-up strategy firm, I can confess I have succumbed to whining more than a few times, to whomever was there to listen.

Rule #2. Pay Forward. Get involved with the ecosystem. Find how/what you can contribute to the ecosystem––your time, knowledge, skills––before you even think of asking for money from an investor.

Don’t pitch, actually says Vosmek. Get on the journey. Build the relationships.

Caring for and maintaining involvement with the ecosystem is critical to success. It is at the heart of high-growth, believes Vosmek. And the single most defining success factor.”

Rule #3. There Are No Good Secrets. Get out there, get exposed, hammers Vosmek. Make sure people know what you are trying to achieve. Learn how people can get aligned and on board with you. Enthuse. Don't start the conversation, with a NDA (non-disclosure agreement) clause!

Rule #4. Failure Is Not The End Of The Game. Data actually shows, Vosmek laments, that most college women would quit calculus, maths and science courses, if they received less than “A” and “B” grades––in contrast to their male counterparts who will stick with the math and sciences courses, despite getting lower grades.

Failure is not the end of the game. If you’re a serious entrepreneur, you might––you will––fail at a business venture. Business failure is not the end of the game. It is just the end of that business deal. It is the door to the next opportunity! It is NOT failing at your life––just as getting a "C" in calculus in college is not a call to quit!”


Nicole Kekeh is a contributor to ForbesWoman World With A View, a blog for global women, and to ForbesWoman. Nicole Kekeh is the founder of The Dora Kan Group LLC a startup and strategy firm dedicated to affecting change in Africa by leveraging the power of business innovation and by working with emerging businesses and industries in Africa and connecting them to ideas and solutions, to grow. She created and writes a blog on Africa and on issues ranging from politics to economics. For further information, visit: or write to us: