Meet 22-year-old Fia Jones, CEO & Co-founder of Astrix fighting unconscious bias
“I can’t wait to prove them wrong one day.”
Name: Fia Jones
Age: 22 years old
Born: Auckland, NZ
Education: Bachelor of Science majoring in Applied Physics from the University of Auckland
Interests outside of work: Going to raves on the weekend and road trips
Random talent: Can sleep on the floor, anywhere, at any time of the day
What’s something you are grateful for today? I’m grateful for my friends and my support system. It’s so important to have encouraging people who have your back especially when things aren’t going well.
I’m curious, what were your goals as a child growing up?
By the age of 21, I wanted to build space crafts. Also by 21, I wanted to be worth $1m. Another goal of mine was that I wanted to go to Antarctica and visit the Antarctic Research Centre (Te Puna Patiotio).
You are a phenomenal founder in tech. What are some of your proudest moments?
I am extremely proud to have Peter Beck’s support and investment behind Astrix. I love the way our relationship has grown. He supports me as a person rather than for Astrix, regardless of whether I’m pursuing this or a new startup.
Another major highlight on this journey was when we began conversations with other aerospace companies in the industry. We were able to validate that our tech is going to be hugely beneficial now and in the near future as NewSpace is growing. This was a big moment for me to receive this validation.
Finally, I’m extremely proud to have built my team: Will & Max are incredible co-founders. We have been through so much together already. The impact of the Covid lockdown hit us pretty hard. We had to navigate our way through constant delays for the launch with Rocket Lab. We were continuously changing and adapting to ensure our prototype would meet regulations. The number of delays meant we couldn’t film our technology and show people in the aerospace industry. There was so much uncertainty and endless streams of tears. All in all, the strength and resilience we have built as a team is special to me.
Is there anything you would change about the startup ecosystem?
There needs to be more education everywhere. The startup ecosystem is only something you can truly understand once you’ve started the process. A lot of people (including myself) don’t know there are VCs and angel investors in New Zealand. There are people who start businesses and make terrible decisions because they don’t know where to start and which people to connect with. It’s tough to educate yourself. Therefore the change I’d like to see is an increase in education around the time someone starts their entrepreneurial journey.
As well as this, I’d like to see less misogyny and sexism and more access to affordable legal care. In this industry, no level of misogyny is acceptable but I have experienced it firsthand. As a founder, I need support in many ways. I want someone that can help me grow as a leader and helps to guide and educate me. We need love, support and reassurance.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve experienced as a female founder?
Definitely having to fight my way through unconscious bias when pitching to investors. I experienced preventative questions from investors, especially when Max and Will, my two male co-founders aren’t present. When I’m pitching without them to a male VC, the investor seems so focused on the possibility of failure. I’m always getting questions such as “in the event of a failure, what is your exit plan?” or “what are you going to do if you don’t get enough traction?”. They were so concerned about Astrix failing and what measures I have in place to prevent that. I was never asked positive questions around growth or milestones. It was so hard to promote Astrix when I never got asked those questions in the first place.
There’s a lot of misogyny too, both here and overseas. When having conversations with men in the aerospace industry, some act really surprised about my line of work and sometimes they try to diminish it. One overseas investor said, “you’re really in the deep end with the big boys”. It frustrates me that older and more traditional men think it’s okay to say things like this. I feel lucky that I’m a strong individual because comments like this don’t leave any dents. I can’t wait to prove them wrong one day.
While it’s tough being a woman in this industry, I’m also grateful to be respected and recognised by certain people as a leader. I love the idea of diverse representation in my space. Being a young Polynesian female, I feel powerful and independent. I find myself sticking with the other women and forming close friendships. For example, I met Flavia Nardini (CEO of Fleetspace) and she told me “women like us in this male-dominated field need to stick together”. Imche Fourie from Outset Ventures has also been an incredibly supportive friend from day one.
What piece of advice would you give to university students who want to become entrepreneurs?
Academic life is very slow and it’s important to move as fast as you can with the information that you have. This means you need to adapt to a new change of pace. You must be quick to learn and be agile. Whilst studying, I had to ensure I made enough time for my studies but also gave enough energy towards the Astrix project. Staying focused and on track helped me to move quickly and grow.
What is the ultimate goal for Astrix? The absolute dream?
I want Astrix to be a humanitarian company that can provide ease of access to power not only for aerospace but on a global scale. Astrix would be providing energy to isolated communities, developing countries or where resources are scarce. That is a big dream for me. Also, one day, I would love for us to become a unicorn and then become public on the Nasdaq.
Thank you Fia! You are intelligent, resilient and an amazing hero to many.
Stay up to date with Fia and her journey with Astrix here.