After earning an Apparel Merchandising degree from Louisiana State University, Anastasia Simon said she envisioned her career path might play out something like The Devil Wears Prada.
But she hit an entrepreneurial streak and started designing her own path within the tech ecosystem.
Simon graduated during the last recession and ended up stringing together jobs from selling on eBay to working at a mall to being part of Atlanta’s wholesale apparel world. That fashion sense and entrepreneurial mindset helped her land jobs at SoftWare Automation, an Atlanta-based textile and robotics startup, and later at a music discovery platform called Spinrilla.
Simon was ultimately pulled into the venture capital side of the ecosystem through her time at Shadow Ventures and Founder Gym.
“I fell in love with how the venture capital can be used to rise all boats,” she told Hypepotamus. “It’s a great asset class… I’ve always been passionate about sustainability and I’ve always been focused on making our future more ethical and equitable. And I realized venture is one pathway towards that.”
Now, she’s taking that thesis to Techstars. Simon is the new Investment Principal for Techstars Atlanta Powered by Cox Enterprises and Techstars Impact Powered by Cox Enterprises.
Finding & Funding Founders
In this role, Simon is the first point of contact for many local startups looking to join the Techstars portfolio. That translates to early mornings and days of back-to-back Zoom meetings, particularly while she is recruiting for the two Atlanta-based accelerators.
Techstars Atlanta has been a staple in town for the last several years. It has graduated 100 startups to date, including local software companies like PadSplit, MaxRewards, Bark, and 2ULaundry.
Successful acquisitions out of the program include SAWA (acquired by Mailchimp in 2019), Sequr (acquired by Genea in 2020), OrderNerd (acquired by PopMenu in 2021).
Simon is looking to continue that streak by targeting more founders with high-growth ideas to join upcoming cohorts with Techstars Impact or Techstars Atlanta. “TechStars is one of the companies that really helped build the accelerator playbook, from supporting early-stage companies with capital and also giving them the resources they need to grow and scale,” she added.
As Investment Principal for one of the city’s largest accelerator programs, Simon has a unique perspective on how the local startup ecosystem is developing. And her personal background gives her a good sense of what it takes for founders to design their own path forward.
Given her new role at Techstars, we what she looks for in a founder in the early stages of building out their idea.
For her, it comes down to passion and resiliency.
“I’m looking for passion first,” she said. “I want to know what rabbit holes you fell down to build this company and why you founded this company at this time. But I’m also trying to understand your resiliency. Entrepreneurship is not easy. It’s never easy, particularly with the market conditions a lot of startups are facing right now.”