The Social Impact Partner Spotlight series highlights various Cisco non-profit organization partners that are helping transform the lives of individuals and communities. This blog features Cisco’s partnership with Astia and Kiva, in honor of the incredible work these organizations are doing to advance investment opportunities to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color-owned businesses in the United States and globally.

Cisco Social Innovation Investments (SII) and the Cisco Foundation partner with nonprofits globally to invest in equitable and innovative tech-enabled solutions that provide meaningful and scalable impact, especially in underserved communities. Supporting opportunities and partnerships that level the playing field for promising but often overlooked entrepreneurs and companies is a key driver of Cisco SII and the Cisco Foundation’s ability to make long-lasting impact on a local, national, and global scale. Learn more about two of Cisco’s partners, Astia and Kiva, who are leading impactful work in providing opportunities and resources for entrepreneurs and their businesses– and learn about ways to support both organizations.


Astia logo

“Astia’s investment team came to the table with the expertise, they made calls on my behalf and took investor meetings with me – they breathed life into the funding process. Within a mere four months of Astia saying yes, we had significant investors on our cap table, and we achieved an oversubscribed round.”  —Tanya Van Court, Founder & CEO, Goalsetter 

Less than 3% of venture capital is invested into women-led startups with women CEOs, and a mere 0.3% is deployed into companies led by Black or Latina women. Astia is a global pioneer investing in innovative, women-led companies. With a reputation for innovating on the venture capital model, Astia is a beacon of success for investors and entrepreneurs. Its mission is to level the investment playing field for companies led by women, with a particular emphasis on doing so for Black and Latina CEOs. To address the intersectionality of race and gender, Astia established a clear focus via an effort called Astia Edge, a program designed to redress the funding imbalance. Learn more about their findings and focus in this Bloomberg interview with Astia’s CEO and download the Edge whitepaper.

Cisco funding and strategic guidance have enabled the development of an underlying technology platform, Astia Connect. Via Connect, 5,000+ experts around the globe connect with 1,000+ companies each year, elegantly eradicating bias from the investment decision-making process by leveraging technical tools and proven processes. Connect enables multistage, community-driven screening (Expert Sift™) and connections. Cisco’s support has enabled Astia to scale its impact from working with dozens of entrepreneurs each year, to serving hundreds of companies each year.

In 2023, Astia reviewed 1,033 companies, including those led by 100 Black women and 46 Latina CEOs. This represents more than $2.2B in investment opportunities. The current Astia Fund portfolio companies represent:

  • Employees: 54% women, 36% people of color
  • Leadership: 70% women, 30% people of color
  • Board: 61% women, 39% people of color
  • Solutions addressing 14 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals

Successful outcomes of some of these companies include:

A group of women sitting in chairs holding microphones
Tanya Van Court, Founder & CEO of  Goalsetter (orange blouse) participating in a panel discussion
  • Candesant: in 2023 launched Brella SweatControl Patch, FDA cleared, for the treatment of excessive underarm sweat, forging a new path forward for aesthetic clinicians and the patients they treat. Brella received the 2023 Allure Magazine Best of Beauty Breakthrough Award
  • Goalsetter: Nationally recognized for its real-world approach to family-focused financial education, Goalsetter is a goal-based savings and smart spending platform that provides families with both engaging educational media and the foundational tools for building wealth and was chosen by Apple as one of the top 24 apps for 2024 in their exclusive feature, “Our Favorites: 24 Apps for 2024.” with Tanya Van Court being honored by in American Banker’s Most Influential Women in Fintech
  • Mae Health: a digital health solution on a mission to improve the health and quality of life for underserved mothers, babies, and those who love them, selected as a finalist for the Massachusetts eHealth Institute’s Women’s Health Challenge and spotlighted in the 2024 Digital Health New York 100.

Interested in helping with Astia’s effort to level the investment playing field? Join in two meaningful ways:

  1. Become an Astia Advisor: an international community of industry experts, investors and serial entrepreneurs who are dedicated to seeing more women succeed in high-growth entrepreneurship.
  2. Invest in one of the Astia Funds: Astia invests through a family of funds which enable investors to assert their values through investments.


Kiva logo“Since our founding, Kiva has been committed to addressing the finance gaps that exist for underserved communities worldwide and this work has extended into the U.S., where countless entrepreneurs lack access to the financing they need to start or grow their businesses. We are thrilled to partner with Cisco in supporting Black and African American entrepreneurs through 0% interest loans, leading to more thriving businesses and communities across the country. We can’t thank Cisco enough for their transformational support of this critical work.” —Brit Heiring, Director of Communications, Kiva

Kiva is an international nonprofit founded in 2005 with a mission to expand financial access to help underserved communities thrive – providing equitable access to financial products and services to traditionally excluded populations. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color-owned businesses are three times more likely to be turned away by banks than non-minority-owned businesses, (NerdWallet). Kiva envisions a financially inclusive world where all people hold the power to improve their lives – focusing on four key areas of support: women, refugees, systemically marginalized entrepreneurs in the U.S., and people impacted by climate change.

Shawn, Kiva U.S. borrower and small business owner

Cisco’s funding and strategic guidance have provided support for a variety of Kiva initiatives, investing in early-stage ideas and experimentation, and helping Kiva to successfully replicate and scale those initiatives globally. This includes initiatives to design and test innovative loan products in new markets and sectors, and the adaptation of Kiva’s global model for the U.S. market. Cisco has also donated our technology to enable Kiva to scale their reach in a secure, efficient, and effective manner.

In 2021, Cisco provided support to help Kiva accelerate lending and capacity building to aspiring and existing underserved small business owners in the U.S. and expand their Hubs model to nearly a dozen new cities. That work has continued to further increase support to black entrepreneurs in the U.S. via Cisco’s Social Justice grant-making program.

Today, Kiva U.S. operates in all 50 states, with 40+ Hub partners and 100+ trustee partners. In 2023, Kiva reached 10,000 borrowers, a 49% increase since 2020. And, of the $69M in 0% interest loans funded over the course of the program, 72% has supported Black, Indigenous, and People of Color entrepreneurs and 36% has supported Black entrepreneurs, like Kiki.

Kiva U.S. borrower and small business owner, Renee holding products in her hands
Renee, Kiva U.S. borrower and small business owner

To better understand and measure the impact on these borrowers’ lives, Kiva partnered with 60 Decibels in 2022 to interview both Kiva borrowers and non-borrowers. The results speak for themselves:

  • Without a Kiva loan, 1 in 4 borrowers would’ve had to close their business
  • 3 in 4 borrowers wouldn’t have been able to find a good alternative for financing
  • 73% of Kiva US borrowers saw their business outlook improve

Now, looking ahead, Kiva is committed to supporting an additional 7,500 systemically marginalized people in the U.S. by 2028.

Cisco is proud to continue to support Kiva in reaching Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities in the U.S. with financial access.

See how you can get involved:


Julie Rose

Portfolio Manager, Economic Empowerment

Cisco Foundation / Social Innovation Investments