From left: Entrepreneurs and investors Vidya Dinamani, Allison Long Pettine and Silvia Mah founded Ad Astra earlier this year with the goal of increasing the number of women founders. Three startups are enrolled in its inaugural accelerator program.

From left: Entrepreneurs and investors Vidya Dinamani, Allison Long Pettine and Silvia Mah founded Ad Astra earlier this year with the goal of increasing the number of women founders. Three startups are enrolled in its inaugural accelerator program. Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle.

One of San Diego’s newest incubator programs succeeded in bringing together two stellar startup cohorts in its first year. Ad Astra Ventures, a program for early-stage companies founded by women, graduated six companies in 2018. They ranged from Envy, an e-commerce platform with a visual search engine, to Cooler Heads, a medical device startup making portable cold caps, which are applied during and after chemotherapy to prevent hair loss.

Three prolific local investors founded Ad Astra: Silvia Mah, Vidya Dinamani and Allison Long Pettine. Mah, CEO of coworking space Hera Hub and business accelerator Hera Labs, currently focuses on supporting startups founded by women in both of her ventures.

Dinamani served as vice president of insurance software giant Mitchell International before co-founding Product Rebels, which is designed to help product managers and entrepreneurs reach customers.

Long Pettine is a founding partner of angel investor network Seed San Diego. She also is founder and partner of Crescent Ridge Partners, which provides seed capital to early-stage startups.

They created Ad Astra with the long-term goal of increasing the number of female founders, investors and leaders in San Diego’s startup ecosystem. Part of that includes closing the gap in how many woman-led startups receive funding. According to Dow Jones Venture Source, just 14 percent of venture capital invested in 2017 went to companies led by women.

Each startup that participated in Ad Astra received $20,000 in funding, as well as one-on-one mentorship throughout the 12-week program.