FinTech Female Fridays: Anastasia S. Tarpeh-Ellis, Special Projects, Backstage Capital
What made you pivot your career from working for the City of Los Angeles to Backstage Capital?
I started working on side projects with friends, which led to my interest in the local tech scene. My path crossed early on with key players in LA Tech and I was selected to be the program fellow for the first cohort of GRID110. At the time GRID110 offered office space and accelerator-style programming for fashion-tech companies in downtown Los Angeles. That was my first time officially working with early stage startups and I loved it. It was only a 6-month fellowship, so I had to continue my job search, which landed me at the City of Los Angeles. But ever since 2015 I relentlessly pursued opportunities to get back into tech. I was able to do that when I joined Backstage full time in Spring 2018.
You started at Backstage Capital as an Entrepreneur in Residence and have moved to the Special Projects role within three years; what has been the most significant lesson that you have learned in the venture capitalist ecosystem?
What I’ve learned about the VC ecosystem is that it’s like a lot of other professions and industries. The more time you spend in VC the smaller the “world” seems to become. It’s all about people and building genuine relationships. I think that goes for life in general.
Backstage Capital invests in founders who are women, people of color, and LBGTQ founders; what are some other important factors you look at when investing in a company?
I’m interested in how founders think and what they have done to learn. Especially in the early stages of building a company there is a lot of experimentation and gathering of data that can be used to inform the next product iteration and roadmap. If a founder is building their product without speaking to potential users early on or they aren’t running experiments to test things and iterate based on those learnings then those are red flags.
How has your background in government work and Venture Capital shaped you as an individual?
Working in government forced me to figure out what I want to do with my career, in particular who I want to serve. Working in local government is very rewarding as you impact the livelihoods of people in an entire city on a macro level. Throughout my career I’ve learned I like to be more closely connected to those I serve on the micro level. As I transitioned to Backstage and into venture, I knew I wanted to serve underestimated founders. I would say working at Backstage and seeing the disparities in venture have made me even more bullish on supporting, investing in, and amplifying the work of underestimated founders.
A lot of different companies come to Backstage Capital for funding; do you see new start-up ecosystems emerging throughout the country? If so, where are they and why do you think they are developing in that particular area?
I would not say “new” but there are certainly ecosystems that haven’t received a lot of recognition. Some areas I have heard about but haven’t experienced myself are Tampa, Louisville, and New Orleans. Those cities are not obvious areas of startup ecosystems especially to people that live in the San Francisco/Bay Area, Los Angeles, and New York.
There has been a steady growth of the tech industry in Cincinnati as the area has several colleges with great business, engineering, and design programs graduating exceptional talent and it is also home to Fortune 500 companies such as Kroger, Macys, and Procter and Gamble. It was only a matter of time before Cincinnati capitalized on its rich and unique ecosystem of business and innovation which woven into the fabric of the region
What drove you to create and found the Bosa app?
What led my co-founder and I to start Bosa was the need to address the burnout we experienced early on in our professional careers. Through experimentation and iteration, we developed an app that automatically detects action items in Google Docs and simplifies task completion for individual consultants. I’ve learned so much through the product development process! What drives me is the ongoing journey of rooting productivity in wellness and building a productivity app that has some feminine energy which isn’t typical in the space.
You are an emerging real estate investor and angel investor what recommendations do you have for women who are looking to become angel investors and do not know where to begin?
If you want to become an “angel” investor, simply do it. And I would say “angel” in quotations for a couple reasons. To be an accredited investor you have to meet certain income criteria, which can be out of reach for many ($200K in income individually or $300K joint income with spouse for the past two years, or $1 million net worth). But if investing is something you are passionate about doing before you become accredited you can get started right away as an unaccredited investor through crowd equity platforms such as Microventures, StartEngine, Republic, Wunderfund, and Netcapital. Also consider further angel education through an affinity or local angel group which often provide training. There are national programs as well such as First Round’s Angel Track (can be unaccredited) and Pipeline Angels’ Bootcamp (must be accredited).
Reach out to Anastasia on LinkedIn.