Silvia Mah has played a huge role in the growth of the San Diego startup ecosystem. As an author, mentor, angel investor and founder herself she has impacted the community here profoundly.
Silvia was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela to a CIA operator mother and Italian emigrant father with a strong entrepreneurial passion. She attended an international school in Caracas, where students faced bomb threats, transportation defacement, and armed forces on a daily basis. Following high school, Silvia moved to California to study Biology at Pepperdine. She loved being in a lab and thought she would remain in a lab for the remainder of her career, which pushed her to pursue a PhD in Marine Biology at Scripps Institute of Oceanography.
While in grad school, she had two kids, one of which has special needs. She needed to stay in San Diego to provide him with the proper treatment, and found herself a position working with sand morphology outreach for k-12 schools in the San Diego area. After this, she worked with the social innovation program at the Jacobs School of Engineering, which had participants use engineering to create solutions for non-profit organizations. With this experience under her belt, Rosibel Ochoa recruited her as a pitch competition judge and later as a commercialization analyst in which she studied the science behind the people who went through the innovation program. She spent 3-4 years here and helped start 4-5 companies. It was here she realized that access to capital is extremely hard to come by, especially for women and minorities.
Silvia wanted to help start-ups obtain capital, but wanted to obtain more business acumen before pursuing a career in this field. To do so, she went after her MBA at Rady School of Management. Unfortunately, as she was finishing up her MBA, her father passed away. Living a modest life, her family was unaware of the wealth he accumulated during his life as an entrepreneur. This left her with funds to invest in budding companies.
Following her first investment in 2010, Silvia has now invested in 45 companies with a simple thesis in mind. Silvia only invests in women and minority led businesses, focusing on founder and product market fits to help them become the leader they need to be. These companies must be impact driven and understanding how to map impact as an investor is crucial. Like all investors, she has made mistakes, but looks at them as learning opportunities. She has found that the best investments are those made in a community in which investors can bounce ideas off of one another.
She has taken these sentiments to her founding of Next Wave Impact, Ad Astra Ventures, Stella Labs, and She Invests. Next Wave Impact provided a community for women investors to come together and discuss business decisions. Here she met Allison Long Pettine and Vidya Dinamani, who worked with her to create Ad Astra Ventures, which functions as an accelerator, providing boot camps for growing start-ups.
In 2021, the Ad Astra team will be building out its accelerator program extending it from three to six months with an emphasis on discovery.
Tune in to hear all about Silvia’s impressive start-up journey and her plans to continuously empower women and minorities of the tech ecosystem here in San Diego.
Silvia’s Favorite Tacos:
Taco Stand in Encinitas
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Thanks to our partners at Cox Business for their support in enabling us to grow the San Diego ecosystem.