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Working tirelessly as a fintech entrepreneur, strategic advisor, angel investor, and “recovering attorney,” Steinway is passionate about fostering communities to support non-traditional founders and social impact, supporting underrepresented founders to increase diversity and access to the innovation economy. 

Inspiring positive impact, read more on her journey into entrepreneurship - one that is people-focused, grounded in research, and infused with inspiration.

 

You have penned yourself a “recovering attorney” with a passion for helping people make sense of their financial lives. Any advice in our current climate?

Technology has given us a tremendous ability to make smarter decisions. When I first got interested in consumer finance, there were fewer regulatory guardrails and it was really hard for people to understand financial literacy/competency. Systems are frequently designed to get people to spend more, not save. But there has been a massive revolution of products and services to help with your financial health, from tracking your spending to automated saving mechanisms - being able to access and use those “fintech” tools is really important and exciting.

 

Although I’m a member of NY and CA Bar, I never practiced in a traditional law practice. I’ve always had an interest in the regulatory sphere, particularly helping startups with licensing and regulatory challenges and helping people understand what you need to do to navigate this world.

 

Your career has been inspired by the intersection among the for-profit, non-profit, and government sectors. How have you helped organizations navigate those boundaries? 

I'm a systems person when it comes to changemaking. How do systems work together to make change happen? I really enjoy thinking about bigger picture strategies - where do we want to go and how do organizations get there. In my current role at Artemis, for example, I work with a large philanthropy looking at post-secondary education in light of Covid, thinking about digital access and the support that students need. We are also working on creating an education strategy for a large Fortune 500 company. I’m always thinking about what communities need, not just now but for the future, and how technology can serve students. 

 

 

I'm also excited about the future of the workforce. Adult learners have different needs and we need to think about how university systems can adapt to serve all types of students. I’m a lifelong learner: I set myself a learning goal every six months. One of the my biggest “aha” moments was learning that your IQ can actually increase if you work on improving it - you not only can continue to learn throughout your life, you can also increase your ability to learn.

 

What led you down the path of angel investing, particularly in the San Diego community with Tech Coast Angels? Any advice for female founders?

I love angel investing, it's my surprise passion. Building an entrepreneurial ecosystem is the foundation for a thriving community. Successful startups create jobs and lift up the economy. With my partner, we wanted to put more money into San Diego and support businesses that are doing good for the world. We will only invest in companies led by underrepresented founders (for example, women, founders of color, and LGBQTI+ individuals) who are doing something important and good for the world. 

 

We joined Tech Coast Angels to learn about angel investing and it's been phenomenal, especially as a springboard to learn about other investment opportunities. We are now members of Interlock Capital, which puts a premium on diversity. It's critically important to diversify who creates and leads companies. I want to encourage more people to see themselves as founders. All founders bring their own experience and background, and their companies reflect those values. I think about diversity in a variety of respects, including age. The average age of a founder is higher than people realize. I'm particularly excited about funding mid-career female founders who understand something about the world and the problems that need to be solved.

 

You are passionate about entrepreneurship and developing communities to support founders, especially those with more diverse backgrounds and experiences. In what way is UC San Diego driving this movement? 

Last year, a group of us created Village Up, an organization dedicated to identifying barriers to access. Funding is easily quantifiable, but there is so much support needed before and after funding. I'm very excited to be working on that, from providing mental health resources to thinking about ways to combat imposter syndrome to featuring diverse founders and supporting their missions. 

 

Being an EIR at UC San Diego has been an incredible springboard to learn what the university is doing and get involved in a variety of efforts. I loved helping out a little with the Changemaker Institute, the Basement, CIID with the StartR program, and the Design Lab - there is an unlimited amount of opportunity for students, faculty, and community members.

 

Describe one of the most valuable lessons gained from a mentor in your journey and how has it continued to guide you today?

One of my best mentors, and the kindest human being I’ve ever met, is Chief Judge Robert Katzmann. I clerked for him, which means I did research on the cases he heard and helped him draft opinions. In addition to serving as the Chief Judge of the Federal Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, he created an organization to provide legal representation to immigrants, the Immigrant Justice Corps. Judge Katzmann also started an organization to enable high school students to understand what courts do and ways to think about justice. Judge Katzmann died on June 9, and the world is a sadder place without him in it.

 

I often ask myself - What would Judge Katzmann do? How can I be of service to my community? He had unlimited capacity to help others and give of himself. We shared a belief in the Jewish tradition of tikkun olam - or repairing the world. I believe it is incumbent on me to make things better in any way I can. 

 

What interested you in sharing your passion as an Entrepreneur in Residence at UC San Diego?

I became an EIR because I'm passionate about supporting diverse founders, and UC San Diego is such an incredible springboard for entrepreneurship in the San Diego community. I love the energy and enthusiasm of students, and I've been amazed at how many programs and initiatives the university has, particularly for those who are underrepresented in the startup community. It's been a privilege to play a small role this past year.

Learn how Artemis Connection helps clients develop entrepreneurial strategies and achieve transformative results: https://www.artemisconnection.com/ 

To email Sonia, reach out at ssteinway@ucsd.edu