After earning a degree in apparel merchandising from Louisiana State University, Anastasia Simon said she envisioned her career path could play something like The Devil Wears Prada.
But it went through an entrepreneurial streak and started charting its own path within the tech ecosystem.
Simon graduated during the last recession and ended up doing a string of jobs, from selling on eBay to working in a mall to the wholesale apparel world of Atlanta. That fashion sense and entrepreneurial spirit 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 eventually drawn to ecosystem venture capital during her time at Shadow Ventures and Founder Gym.
“I fell in love with how venture capital can be used to raise all boats,” she told Hypepotamus. “It’s a great asset class…I’ve always had a passion for sustainability and have always sought to make our future more ethical and fair. And I realized that adventure is a path to that.
Now she is presenting this thesis to Techstars. Simon is the new investment director for Techstars Atlanta Powered by Cox Enterprises and Techstars Impact powered by Cox Enterprises.
Find and finance founders
In this role, Simon is the first point of contact for many local startups looking to join the Techstars portfolio. That translates to back-to-back Zoom meeting mornings and days, especially when she’s recruiting for the two Atlanta-based accelerators.
Techstars Atlanta has been a staple in the city for several years. He has graduated 100 startups to date, including local software companies like PadSplit, MaxRewards, Bark, and 2ULaundry.
Successful off-program acquisitions include SAWA (acquired by Mailchimp in 2019), Sequr (acquired by Genea in 2020), CommandNerd (acquired by PopMenu in 2021).
Simon is looking to continue this 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 has really helped build the accelerator playbook, supporting start-ups with capital and also giving them the resources they need to grow and scale,” she added.
As an investment director for one of the city’s largest accelerator programs, Simon has a unique perspective on how the local startup ecosystem is growing. And his personal experience gives him a good idea of what it takes for founders to design their own path forward.
Given her new role at Techstars, we know what she’s looking for in a founder in the early stages of building her idea.
For her, it comes down to passion and resilience.
“I look for passion first,” she says. “I want to know what rabbit holes you fell into building this company and why you started this company at this time. But I’m also trying to understand your resilience. Entrepreneurship is not easy. It’s never easy, especially with the market conditions many startups are facing right now.