Ashley Aydin is a Principal at VamosVentures, an early-stage venture capital fund focused on investing in Latinx / diverse founding teams and impact-oriented companies. Ashley started her career at Morgan Stanley in Capital Markets and moved into strategic roles at Y-Combinator e-commerce startup Shoptiques.com, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Estee Lauder focused on the intersection of consumers and technology. She was previously an investor at Brand Foundry Ventures, Founders Factory, and Dorm Room Fund across commerce, health and wellness, and financial technology. Ashley holds a BA from Brown University and an MBA from MIT Sloan.
Thank you for joining me! I would love to share and impart your knowledge to others because I know it would be helpful for others looking into venture! What got you into venture, what inspired you to pursue your career path?
Thank you for having me!
I went to Brown for undergrad + I started to learn about the startup / venture world through classes. At the time, lots of entrepreneurial focused classes at Brown were taught by Professor Hazeltine. These classes focused on everything from the founding journey to business strategy. I also started to read about all of these stories of successful entrepreneurs + said to myself “wow, this is a really interesting path”. It also helped that my parents were entrepreneurial in their own way. My dad immigrated from Turkey in his early 20s + my mom is a Puerto Rican girl from Brooklyn. They took a lot of risks early on + I found it inspiring that they were adventurous and courageous in their journey to a better life. With all of this, I got more involved in the entrepreneurship / venture ecosystem at Brown. I co-founded an organization called Lady Launchers on campus, focused on getting more women into entrepreneurship and venture. I also helped to lead the entrepreneurship program across campus.
After Brown, I wanted to gain foundational skills working at a larger company, particularly in Finance, so I decided to pursue a role in the Capital Markets group at Morgan Stanley where I covered all consumer equities. I learned about storytelling and what drove markets which is related to the Venture capital space as founders and investors are always storytelling. As founders – storytelling about the company and the vision. As VCs – having a story around your conviction in companies to the Investment Committee. After Morgan Stanley, I worked for a Y Combinator e-commerce startup Shoptiques.com because I missed being a part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. I was operating at Shoptiques.com doing everything from business development to sales. I was helping to build the business while learning what it means to cultivate culture, acquire customers, and more. Then, right before business school, I did a few different roles at the intersection of consumers and technology, strategizing at Saks Fifth Avenue and Estee Lauder about how we can buy or build technologies that meet the consumer where they’re at such as virtual try on, buy online / pickup at store, and other omni-channel initiatives. This was super interesting because I got to see, from the lens of a larger company, the role technology played in innovation.
At b-school, I dove deeper into the venture capital space because I wanted a career that married my finance and operating experience where I could contribute to technological advancement and connect with great founders. I spent time at Founders Factory, Brand Foundry Ventures, and Dorm Room Fund investing in all consumer verticals. I met Marcos Gonzalez in between my first and second year of b-school and started to get more familiar with a mission that was very near and dear to my heart which is investing in diverse founders and impact-oriented companies. About 2% of VC investment goes to black and brown founders and as a first-generation college student, Turkish-Puerto Rican, I want to contribute to increasing this percentage. I joined Marcos In this mission of building and scaling VamosVentures – an early-stage fund focused on investing in Latinx and diverse founders from pre-seed to Series A. I cover the health & wellness and FinTech spaces but the fund does a lot in the Future of Work and Sustainability as well.
I love hearing your passion in VC and the impact you’re looking to make. It is inspiring to see an underrepresented woman invested in this career path. What are the sectors that most excite you?
We focus on several areas at VamosVentures – Health + Wellness, Future of Work, FinTech, and Sustainability. A focus on Health + Wellness is inherently impactful. There are barriers to adequate healthcare. Healthcare is very expensive in this country. These barriers especially affect overlooked communities. Within Health + Wellness, the verticals that are most exciting to us are: aging, mental health, affordability + access, and chronic conditions. Mental health conditions are underdiagnosed by 40% in Latinx and Black communities, plus there is still stigma talking about mental health. Within affordability & access, there is a high uninsured rate in our communities. As it relates to aging, the Latinx population is going to account for a larger proportion of our population in the coming years – how do we care for our loved ones and make them feel comfortable aging in place? Within chronic conditions, 1 in 2 Latinx will develop diabetes over the course of their lifetime – how can we manage and prevent this? Also, heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in our country – how do we think about educating people on preventing this disease? Within FinTech, Latinx are founding 1 in 4 new businesses in the U.S., how do we empower them with financial tools to build and scale these businesses? For Future of Work – how do we empower people to upskill themselves so they’re more adequately skilled for their jobs? On the Sustainability side, many members of our community live near superfund sites –how do we help them?
I definitely got a firsthand look at the themes VamosVentures places importance on this past summer and it is very aligned with the kind of impact I continue to wish to see in the industry. What would you recommend people do to prepare themselves to break into Venture?
This is one of the industries you have to do the job before you get the job. You have to prove your value before you even get in. You have a lot of power as a person in school to start doing this stuff. Especially in business school where you have 2 years to transition into this space. I would do three things. One is develop a network. Get to know as many investors and founders as possible. A founder’s word is very valuable as you look for venture roles. Secondly, it’s important to be an expert on a space or have an interesting perspective on a space. You can post your thoughts on medium, LinkedIn, and so on because it will inform your conversations as you are developing your outreach to founders + VCs. Finally, stay connected on campus. Leverage your university ecosystems because VCs will ask you how you are connected to entrepreneurs and other stakeholders on campus.
Thank you for your perspective! What would you recommend for founders and entrepreneurs looking to build businesses given the current economic environment?
It is very important to be a little more conservative during this time. Be mindful about where your spend is going. It might mean you have to cut back on something and make difficult choices. Do what it takes to survive in the next year. Be intentional about the customer. Always ask them what’s top of mind, what you can improve on, put the customer first. Finally, build a great support system around you. This is a difficult time for people. Having a great support system from a mental health perspective will empower you + reminds you that you’re not alone in this journey.