by Silvia Mah
When I entered the Rady MBA program, my goal was to develop leadership and entrepreneurial skills. I never envisioned myself leading a nonprofit that helps businesses to launch and scale, but that’s exactly what I’m doing as executive director of San Diego-based Hera Labs. I also didn’t see myself as an investor, but I’ve personally angel funded 13 startups in Southern California and supported business micro-loans for two domestic violence survivors. I love paying my MBA degree forward and through Hera Labs, I’ve helped launch more than 100 startups and boosted 150 small businesses to the next level.
UC San Diego has been very good to me over the past several years. Not only did I receive several degrees here, but I’ve never really left. I’ve served as a Teams in Engineering Service program manager in the engineering school and I currently serve as a curriculum designer and strategic advisor to The Basement at UC San Diego.
I use lessons from the Rady MBA program every day in my job, whether I’m helping an inventor refine their concept in our Hera Labs Idea Potential Lab or helping an existing business expand through our SCALE Intensive workshop.
Though I love touching the lives of entrepreneurs here in San Diego, I wanted to expand my reach on a more global scale, especially because I’m originally from Caracas, Venezuela. Last year, we hosted entrepreneurs from Russia, Jamaica, Mexico and Venezuela at Hera Labs’ headquarters in Sorrento Valley. I also traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia to conduct the first ever female startup weekend, which was (amazingly!) covered in Forbes Woman Russia.
I wanted to keep riding the wave of mindfully impacting global innovation ecosystems, so in June 2017, I launched She Invests!, a podcast featuring female angel investors, which I think are the real unicorns (as opposed to startups valued at over $1 billion, which are known as unicorns in the investing world). The podcast’s goal is to bolster angel investors’ knowledge about how to invest and find likeminded individuals they can collaborate with. It’s essential for women startups and investors to find synergies and allies with a tribe of other women like them.
So far, we’ve spoken on the podcast with remarkable women including Trish Costello, founder of entrepreneurial investing platform Portfolia; Dr. Alicia Robb, founder and CEO of Next Wave, which provides early stage financing and advising to young firms; and most recently, Xandra Laskowski, startup consultant and cofounder of OSEA Angel Investors. The learning doesn’t stop after you leave school and I’ve learned so much from the women I’ve interviewed so far in my new endeavor as a podcaster.
If anyone is interested in learning more about the world of startup funding and angel investing, I personally invite you to join Hera Labs for Hera Venture Summit on September 16 at University of San Diego. The one-day event will bring together women from both sides of the investing table. Guests will get to hear from experienced investors and entrepreneurs who’ve successfully navigated the tidewaters of funding. You can learn more and register, here. I look forward to seeing you there.
Dr. Silvia Mah received her PhD in Marine Biology from UC San Diego in 2004 before earning her MBA from the Rady School of Management in 2010. She is founder and director of nonprofit business accelerator Hera Labs, and she recently launched a podcast, She Invests, which puts the spotlight on the rising tide of female angel investors.