Providing resources, research & advocacy to level the playing field for women entrepreneurs

In recent years, we have seen vast numbers of women start their own businesses both in the United States and across the globe. But despite great numbers, women entrepreneurs employ fewer employees, have less sales, and obtain less financing than their male counterparts.  The dual problem -- too little support for women-owned startups and a dearth of women at the helm of successful, high-growth businesses -- require a holistic solution that will cultivate and support women along their entire entrepreneurial journey.   
By combining the resources of Barnard College with those of the venture community at Columbia University – both located in New York City, a growing center of entrepreneurial activity,   Athena is uniquely positioned to provide education and training needed by today's underrepresented and highly undercapitalized women entrepreneurs - Athena is developing a unique and innovative program, specifically tailored to women, that will serve as a model that can be replicated across the nation. 

Student Programs

Studies show that teenage girls as early as the ninth grade begin to internalize messages that ultimately dissuade them from entering technology or startup fields. These perceptions persist throughout high school and manifest in low enrollment in departments that serve as funnels for entrepreneurship after college graduation. For women who beat the odds and decide to launch ventures, a landscape with few channels of support and limited mentorship is disproportionately challenging.  Athena’s programs help to change these messages and offer much needed support and mentoring for young women entrepreneurs:
Athena Mastermind Groups:  Athena Mastermind groups of eight women pair promising Barnard students who are actively running start-ups with experienced women entrepreneurs for monthly accountability sessions and hands-on support. The first Mastermind cohort, launched in 2012, has already resulted in the acquisition of a student venture by a Silicon Valley startup and other promising successes.  Beginning in fall 2013, Athena will sponsor two Mastermind groups, providing leadership to the groups and monthly dinners. LEARN MORE
Office Hours for Entrepreneurs:  Beginning in Fall 2013, Athena will hold regular office hours for student entrepreneurs.  Drawing upon successful women entrepreneurs, Barnard alumnae, parents, and program staff, these one-on-one sessions will provide mentoring and support for Barnard students and provide information on available resources such as workshops, brainstorming labs, pitch-fests, competitions and hack-a-thons offered by the Columbia Venture Network and the New York startup community. LEARN MORE
Leadership Lab Workshops:  Each year, the Athena Center offers 40 – 50 Leadership Lab workshops to Barnard students on a wide range of leadership skills, from financial literacy to effective negotiation to story-telling and communication.  Ranging from two-hour to full-day sessions, the workshops are taught by experienced trainers and professionals and feature interactive, hands-on components.  Among the offerings is a special series designed for young entrepreneurs. Taught by experienced entrepreneurs and angel investors, these workshops help Barnard students learn the basics of starting their own businesses, strategies, project management and team building that are necessary for successful startups.  LEARN MORE
Entrepreneurs in Training:  In collaboration with Barnard’s Office of Pre-College Programs and leading business and STEM educators, Athena has launched an intensive 10-day summer program for female high-school students called Entrepreneurs-in-Training.  Starting Summer 2013, participants will design businesses, pitch their plans to respected investors from the startup sector, and be exposed to core entrepreneurial concepts.  The program will foster the confidence and develop skills young women need to launch their own ventures.   LEARN MORE



Additional Programs & Partnerships:

  • Athena hosted the White House’s Urban Economic Forum. This full-day program featuring Senior White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett, and an extraordinary group of successful entrepreneurs, brought to campus over 400 women business owners from across New York.
  • Athena co-sponsored the nation-wide pitch competition for Make Mine a Million, where hundreds of women pitched their businesses for a chance to enter Count Me In, a program that helps women grow their businesses into million-dollar enterprises.
  • Athena partnered with the Girl Scouts of Greater New York in July 2013 to create a leadership training institute, which kicked off with the ten-day intensive summer program, Entrepreneurs in Training. LEARN MORE 
  • Athena collaborates with the Columbia Venture Community to provide mentors, counseling, forums and informal social events that introduce the Barnard community to innovators and entrepreneurs from diverse fields.  We have also co-sponsored several hack-a-thons with HackNY
  • Athena is sponsoring a promising new student-run startup, Athena Digital Design, that will provide web development training for Barnard students and cost-effective web site development to the community.

Brain Trust:

Brian Cohen serves as Chairman of the New York Angels, the #1 most active angel group in the country. As a new author, Brian‘s book entitled “What Every Angel Investor Wants You To Know: An Insider Reveals How To Get Smart Funding For Your Billion Dollar Idea”, was published and released in April 2013. As a social entrepreneur, Brian is the founding Board member of Center4, NYC’s. As a disruptive media entrepreneur, Brian co-founded Launch.it, with his son Trace in May 2012. As a social medial specialist, Brian created iFluence PR in 2009. As a technology media communications strategist, Brian is considered one of the fathers of science & technology strategic communications, and co-founded Technology Solutions, Inc. with his wife Carol in 1983. As a researcher, Brian created Focus Technology. As a publisher, Brian was a pioneer in helping start a number of the first computing publications. As an educator, Brian created the AIMS (Advanced Internet Media Studies) Program. He also advises entrepreneur students at NYU and Columbia University. As a recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award, Brian holds a Masters Degree in Science Communications from Boston University's School of Public Communications.

Sarika Doshi is the CEO & Co-Founder of Rank & Style where she leads content, strategy, public relations, business development and fundraising efforts. Recently listed as one of the "100 Most Creative People in Business" by Fast Company, Sarika brings broad based startup and business building experience to founding Rank & Style. As a member of the management team at a venture-backed growth company, she was responsible for growing and managing a $20 million business segment in London and New York. In this role, she gained hands on experience in product development, business development, marketing, operations and strategy. Prior to that, Sarika spent three years practicing international corporate law in London. Sarika studied at Columbia University and the University of Michigan Law School.

Jennifer Gilbert is the Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of the New York based, 30 million dollar, special events company Save the Date®. She earned the “Entrepreneur of the Year” award in 1998, followed by recognition in Inc. Magazine as one of the “Great Companies Started” and received the Entrepreneur Award of Excellence from Working Woman Magazine. Jennifer’s new memoir is titled I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag.



Vanessa Pestritto is Program Director of New York Angels.  She manages the deal flow pipeline, sources companies, and constantly improves the membership experience for investors to increase engagement, investment and startup community participation. She is a true optimizer and is on a mission to make the world work efficiently. After NYU Stern School of Business, she worked in technology management consulting on product development as a business lead. She then managed a number of art organizations where she restructured operations, implemented successful marketing campaigns and managed sales.  She currently mentors for the NYU Venture Competition and blogs at IamVP.com.

Adam Quinton is Chief Financial Officer of Nopsec and is responsible for financial planning and forecasting, budget management and investor relations. He is Founder/CEO of Lucas point Ventures and an active investor in and advisor to early stage companies. Adam is a Board member at Thrive Metrics. He serves on the Advisory Boards of leading Board and executive search firm RSR Partners and San Francisco based SwoopTalent. He is and member of and/or advisor to several angel groups including Astia Angel where he is a founding Angel and sits on the Astia Global Advisory Board. In the not for profit space he is a Trustee of International House New York and a member of their Executive Committee. He is a Board member at the Center for Talent Innovation. Adam has over 25 years of investing and management experience most recently at Bank of America Merrill Lynch where he was Managing Director and head of Global Macro Research. Additionally he is an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs where he is a Capstone workshop advisor and member of the Management and Gender & Policy faculties. He holds a MA in Natural Sciences from Cambridge University and an MBA from Cass Business School, London.

Sarayu Srinivasan is the founder and CEO of Kaargo, an online consumer transport marketplace. She is a venture capitalist and advisor to companies in the US, Asia and Europe, most recently serving as CEO, Americas of a global $30MM sports technology provider. Ms. Srinivasan is also a Practice Fellow at the University of Edinburgh. Ms. Srinivasan was a Director at Intel Capital investing in sector and stage agnostic international and cross-border technology businesses. Ms. Srinivasan, who is American, moved to India to deploy Intel’s first targeted $250MM emerging markets fund in 2006. Ms. Srinivasan began her career as a brand manager at the Pepsi-Cola Company running a $300MM brand, Mug Root Beer. She has authored research, case studies and papers including contributing to the award-winning textbook Business Analysis & Valuation Using Financial Statements. Ms. Srinivasan has also published a range of academic and practitioner’s literature on investment, technology and business. She is a frequent speaker on venture capital and entrepreneurship. Ms. Srinivasan earned a BA in Architecture from Barnard College/Columbia University, an MBA from Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussees, a Certificate in Medieval Studies from Cambridge University, and held a research fellowship at the Harvard Business School pre-PhD.

Jeanne Sullivan has more than 20 years of private equity experience and has spent 28 years in the technology sector encompassing both extensive operating and investing experience with technology companies.  Over the past 20 years as a founding principal of StarVest and previously with Olivetti Ventures, Ms. Sullivan has served on the boards of multiple private and two public companies and has extensive experience creating “go to market” plans for expansion stage companies. Her expertise also includes strategy, an understanding of the technology landscape and industry trends. Ms. Sullivan holds a BS from the University of Illinois and a JD from Creighton University School of Law. She was part of the founding group for the New York New Media Association Angel Investors Program, one of the first Angel groups in NYC and this is the predecessor to the current New York Angels. She is active with the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC), a nonprofit New York City-based organization that lobbies for environmental reform, and established the New York area Environmental Entrepreneurs group comprised of business and technology leaders. She serves on the board of the New York Venture Capital Association (NYVCA) and has a passion for supporting and mentoring rising stars as entrepreneurs and investors and is a member of the Astia Board of Trustees.