Connecting Founders Co., Ltd. is a Bangkok-based independent advisory firm that represents women-owned companies in raising growth capital to scale up their businesses. Registered as a limited liability corporation in Thailand and Singapore, Connecting Founders began in 2015 as a platform to offer learning, networking, and mentoring opportunities to female entrepreneurs.
Access to capital and the absence of investment readiness services were consistently identified as key growth challenges by the founders in our network. In 2018, Connecting Founders made the pivotal decision to build an advisory arm to bridge this funding gap for growth-oriented women entrepreneurs. With over 1.7 million female SMEs across Southeast Asia’s key markets, there is an estimated need to provide at least USD 30 billion in expansion or working capital to over 150,000 women-owned businesses.
We work with female founders to structure tailored funding plans and match them with like-minded capital to help them scale their businesses. Our work with clients covers the full spectrum of the investment cycle, most importantly capital structuring, funding strategy and investor outreach and management to ensure our clients receive optimal returns in line with their long-term strategic goals.
By investing in women, our goal is to build a stronger female economy and create a business sector that is more responsive to different needs, more diverse in decision-making, and more inclusive in resource allocation. Connecting Founders is equally committed to building an inclusive and robust ecosystem to support female founders thrive. To this effect, we provide management and consulting services to advise funders and private sector firms in designing women-focused programs that promote the female economy.
We bring a unique combination of investment management experience representing retail, institutional, multilateral, private sector and impact investors, with hands-on experience working directly with female founders. This intimate understanding of the needs of both investors and female founders gives us exceptional insights into the challenges and opportunities involved in gender lens investing.
Caterina MELONI, Founder
Caterina is a gender finance specialist with close to 20 years of experience in inclusive finance, women’s leadership, and entrepreneurship.
Prior to founding Connecting Founders in 2015, she worked for leading international finance institutions, such as the World Bank, IFC, EBRD, DFID, as well as development consultancies to design and execute operations in over 30 countries. From microfinance and then SME finance, she found her niche and passion as she began focusing at the crossroads of gender and finance, advising banks and other financial institutions on how to increase their outreach to women-owned businesses and promoting private sector investment in the sector.
She has led and contributed to numerous market studies and research on women-owned businesses in several countries, and on quantifying the business opportunity of this market. In 2015-16 she featured 50 female founders from Southeast Asia to spark a conversation on their specific entrepreneurial stories and to highlight the opportunity of investing with a gender lens in the region.
Caterina is also the founder of Thailand’s international Lean In chapter. She holds an M.A. in International Relations and Economics from The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).
Patricia SOSRODJOJO, Partner
Patricia is an investment professional with more than 15 years of experience with a strong track record in private equity, management consulting and emerging markets.
Patricia began her career with Lehman Brothers in 2002 in the Real Estate Principal Investing Group based in Thailand, investing in structured investments ranging from $20 million to over $100 million in Southeast Asia. In 2008, Patricia joined Grassroots Business Fund (“GBF”), an impact investment fund based in Washington D.C., which was an affiliate of the International Finance Corporation at the time. As an Investment Officer, Patricia originated, structured and executed investments in small and medium-size enterprises in Asia and Africa. She expanded the GBF’s portfolio in Southeast Asia, developed an investment platform in Indonesia and worked closely with portfolio companies to grow their businesses. In 2013, Patricia joined Falcon House Partners, a private equity fund specializing in growth capital and middle market investments in the consumer sector in Indonesia. As an Executive Director, Patricia was involved in deal origination, execution, portfolio management and investor relations.
In addition to her experience in private equity, Patricia also worked with leading management consulting firms Booz Allen Hamilton and L.E.K. Consulting on diverse projects ranging from process improvements, market entry, acquisitions and strategic planning in Asia, Australia and the United States.
Patricia holds an M.A. in International Business and Development Economics from the Fletcher School, Tuft University and a B.A. in Economics and International Relations, also from Tufts University.
Michael RABONZA, Partner
Michael is a financial advisory specialist, having spent nearly two decades as a professional investment manager for institutional and retail investors, investment banks, multilateral funders and impact investors.
He began his career with Lehman Brothers in 2001 investing in non-performing loans and distressed assets across Southeast Asia. Transforming underperforming assets into income producing projects laid the foundation for Michael’s focus on value investing through private equity. In 2004, Michael joined the World Bank Group’s IFC in Washington, D.C. to work on project finance and venture capital investments in oil, gas and mining projects across Latin America, Africa and Asia. In 2010, Michael moved to the fund management industry with Triple Jump B.V., and Amsterdam based investment manager representing Dutch impact investors, where he expanded the firm’s footprint in Asia by investing into funds and organizations dedicated to making finance accessible to rural communities. In 2014, Michael returned to Asia to head Portfolio Management for Altus Capital, an IFC-investee fund manager focusing on mezzanine finance and private equity in the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. This move culminated in Michael having invested and successfully recovered over USD 750 million in capital over his 17-year career as an investment manager, giving him unique insight to the requirements of investors.
Michael’s key strength lies in structuring private investments along the full range of the capital structure, which has allowed businesses to access financing they would otherwise not have received. He now turns this expertise for the benefit of investment-ready SMEs, particularly female founders across Southeast Asia.