Connecting Founders is a Bangkok-based advisory firm that represents women-owned businesses in attracting the right type of capital and strategic partners for their business throughout all stages of their growth.
Beginning in 2015 as a platform to offer learning, networking, and mentoring opportunities to boot-strapped female founders, Connecting Founders now focuses on bridging the SME funding gap by providing financial and strategic advice to entrepreneurs. We work with female founders to structure tailored funding plans that can be addressed by a broad set of capital providers over time, from angel investors all the way to local bank financing and the capital markets.
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 an international development specialist with 17 years of experience working for private sector and development finance institutions on inclusive finance, women’s economic empowerment, and entrepreneurship development. She has worked for leading funders, such as the World Bank, IFC, EBRD, DFID, USAID as well as development consultancies to implement projects on the ground 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 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 emerging countries across regions, and on quantifying the business opportunity of this market.
In 2015 Caterina founded Connecting Founders. As a Thailand partner for the Cherie Blair Foundation for, it has also facilitated international mentoring for many young women entrepreneurs. 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).
Michael RABONZA, Director Financial Advisory Services
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.
Our Partners and Network of Collaborators
Promoting female entrepreneurship is a key priority of the Dutch government. The Embassy of the Netherlands in Bangkok has supported the Women in Business series and has hosted a number of events, many attended by Ambassador Mr. Karen Hartogh
Connecting Founders is a LeanIn Partner. We support LeanIn.Org’s efforts to reach gender equality and empower women to achieve their ambitions. We launched a Lean In chapter in Thailand and always welcome new members that share the Lean In spirit and passion for supporting each other personally and professionally.
Connecting Founders is the Thailand partner for the Cherie Blair Foundation’s Mentoring Women in Business Programme. Twice a year, the Foundation offers a selected number of women entrepreneurs the opportunity to join a year-long, 1:1 mentoring program and become part of a supportive community of over 4000 inspirational entrepreneurs and professionals from around the world. If interested to join this program, get in touch with us.