Hello friends, it’s Spiffy, your favorite interplanetary journalist and equality enthusiast. Today we’re talking about someone who is passionate about making the playing field more even for the world’s diverse community of founders. Let’s meet Ashley Aydin, and see what she’s doing!
Spiffy: Hi Ashley, thanks a million for talking to me today. Tell me, what inequality are you addressing?
Ashley: It’s wonderful to talk to you, Spiffy. So, this summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to join VamosVentures, a venture fund with a mission to invest in companies led by diverse founders. Latinx and Black founders received only 2% of the total funding that went to founders last year. More surprising is that founders of color are 30% more likely to experience a lack of capital and relevant networks. The stats are similar for female-founded companies. At Vamos, we want to improve these numbers and pave the way for diverse founders to have access to capital, networks, and other pertinent resources. Our driving force is our belief that there's extraordinary entrepreneurial talent in diverse communities.
Spiffy: That is a very stark inequality! What are some of the factors that have motivated you to change these statistics and outcomes?
Ashley: Well Spiffy, I’m committed to investing with purpose and so joining a fund that’s mission-driven is important to me. Being a half Puerto Rican and half Turkish daughter of an immigrant, I saw the struggles my entrepreneurial parents faced when trying to build businesses. It wasn’t easy for them to get conversations with investors or even have supportive communities on their journey. If Vamos existed back then, their story might have been a bit different. We need investors who understand the unique needs of diverse founders and who are genuine about helping out — lip service doesn’t do anyone any good.
Spiffy: It sure doesn’t! How is VamosVenture trying to make the world more equitable?
Ashley: Around 2% of venture capitals are Latinx and 3% are Black. Vamos will prove to the industry that venture scale returns are possible with a focus on impact. Additionally, Vamos is building the careers of many amazing young Latinx women and men on the team by giving them ownership over deals and providing them with resources and training to be successful investors. I believe this encourages other diverse young professionals to be curious about careers in venture investing.
Spiffy: What about a recent milestone, do you have any to report?
Ashley: We recently invested in two mission-driven companies — Stix and Repeat. Stix is helping women access health products and learn about their bodies with the support of educational resources and communities. Repeat is helping Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) brands that don't have the tools to meet the demands of today’s online consumers. Through our investments in Stix and Repeat, we’re bettering communities of diverse young women and small business owners.
Spiffy: What about an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn?
Ashley: Last year, a friend and I tried to launch a marketplace business and didn't have any success in engaging with and bringing on technical talent to our founding team. We tried everything from AngelList to posting in newsletters across university campuses. It was months and months of failed attempts and endless searching. After one very exhaustive day, my friend and I sat down and realized that we never sought the guidance of other entrepreneurs. We were too proud to try to get help from anyone else and thought we could figure out everything on our own, because that’s what cool entrepreneurs do, right? We were wrong. The lesson I learned from this failure is to stay humble and build a team of strong supporters and advisors around you — you won’t always have the answers.
Spiffy: That’s a great reminder for all of us! Any other interesting things you’ve discovered lately?
Ashley: I just learned how to properly do breathing exercises through a course on mental fitness I took last week. I thought breathing exercises were too easy to make a difference in my day. The course required everyone to do light breathing exercises early in the morning, and I followed through. The calmness, peace, and happiness I felt after doing those exercises really drove positive energy into everything I did afterward. In the craziness of the world today, it’s so important to take just five minutes, focus on yourself, and breathe.
Spiffy: Before we sign off, is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Ashley: If you’re a founder and feel like your company aligns with Vamos’ mission, please reach out. It’s never too early to start a conversation. Even if it’s not the time to raise venture dollars, we can still be helpful with connecting you to mentors and other resources in the meantime.
Spiffy: This is fabulous Ashley, thanks for being accessible to our budding entrepreneurs! It’s been an honor speaking with you!
Ashley Aydin started her career at Morgan Stanley and moved into strategic roles at Shoptiques.com, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Estee Lauder. She’s been an investor at Brand Foundry Ventures, Founders Factory, Dorm Room Fund, and VamosVentures. She’s pursuing her MBA at MIT Sloan and holds a BA from Brown University.