WHO WE ARE
FOUNDED IN 2015,
Connecting Founders began as a platform to offer networking and mentoring opportunities to female entrepreneurs. Through working directly with many women-led businesses, it became clear that access to capital and absence of investment readiness services were consistent key growth challenges.
Connecting Founders made the pivotal decision to establish an advisory arm, serving to bridge this funding gap for women entrepreneurs. We work with female founders to structure tailored funding plans and match them with like-minded capital to help them scale their businesses.
We also work with corporate and financial institutions to advance gender diversity & inclusion. We help them evaluate their companies, create and implement policies, and increase their accountability in gender equality throughout their supply chains.
We work with female founders to structure tailored funding plans and match them with like-minded capital to help them scale their businesses.
Our team draws experience from a broad range of expertise, including fund management, impact investing, and private equity governance. Across the years, our partners have built a deep network of local, regional, and global investors and entrepreneurs. Our combined strength lies in understanding the needs of both investors and businesses, and the challenges involved in gender inclusion and gender lens investing.
Connecting Founders Co., Ltd is a Bangkok-based independent advisory firm and is registered as a limited liability corporation in Thailand and Singapore.
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.
MEET OUR TEAM
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).
Michael C. Rabonza
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.
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.
Karima is a Gender Diversity and Inclusion consultant at Connecting Founders with professional experience in Inclusive Business, Gender and Sustainability.
Karima has previously worked at IFC in Washington, D.C. where she worked to drive the organization’s impact on inclusive business – which brings people living at the base of the economic pyramid (BoP) into value chains – through thought leadership, corporate agenda, product development and program activities. She led the classification of IFC’s inclusive business investment across sectors and supported team in enhancing inclusive business agenda. She has also worked to foster inclusion of women entrepreneurs through research on supplier diversity and gender inclusive sourcing. Her work often focuses on the intersection of BoP and women. Prior to IFC, Karima worked at PwC in Thailand as part of management consulting practice focusing on sustainability and climate change. She has helped top listed companies in Thailand and in the Southeast Asia region develop sustainability strategy, provided advisory services on sustainability disclosures such as sustainability reporting and Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI), and co-led training and workshop to raise awareness on sustainability. Through her career, she has facilitated stakeholder engagement activities and workshops with public and private sector including international organization.
She holds an MA in International Development and Economics from Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and a BA in Political Science from Chulalongkorn University.
SudamaT (Phet) Kengrungruengchai
Sudamas is an Investment Analyst with Connecting Founders focusing on capital structuring and financial advisory.
Prior to joining Connecting Founders, Sudamas was a Management Associate at UOB, where she completed stints in Consumer Banking, Wholesale Banking and Global Market divisions She also has experiences with HSBC Corporate Bank, and Jitta, a rapidly growing fintech startup.
Sudamas graduated from Thammasat University with a Bachelor of Business Administration and concentration in Finance’
NIKKI KESSARI GLUCKSMAN
Nikki is the Design Manager for Connecting Founders, in charge of generating digestible content for social media, presentations, and the Connecting Founders’ website. Currently, she is responsible for designing posts for Connecting Founders’ social media, and it’s Yenergy Refrigeration Project, funded by the UK Government.
In 2020 Nikki graduated majoring in Music Business from New York University, receiving the Music Business Academic Achievement Award and Magna Cum Lade. During her time in New York, she was the President of TEDxNYU, Recruitment Assistant for Alpha Epsilon Phi, and brand ambassador for American Eagle’s AerieReal Campaign.
Outside the office, Nikki spends the remainder of her week in the studio, recording for Universal Music Thailand where she goes by the name “kessari”. She credits her university degree as well as internships at LoyalT Management, MAC Presents, and Atlas Music Publishing, for her knowledge in music and business management. Currently, she runs a five-person team who assists her with projects under the label and freelance TVC commercials.
PITRAPEE (EVIE) CHOMCHUEN
Evie is the Lead Writer for Connecting Founders, in charge of content publications on business and gender lens.
Prior to joining Connecting Founders in 2022, she was a multimedia journalist and news reporter for NHK World (Japan) and BBC World Service (Thailand). Evie has covered major events in Southeast Asia including the 2nd Trump-Kim Summit in Vietnam, 2019 Indian Election, 2020 Tokyo Olympics and more. Evie is based in the United Kingdom where she graduated with an M.A. degree in Multimedia Journalism from the University of Westminster.
Simran is a recent graduate from Burapha University, receiving a B.B.A in International Business Management. During her time at university, Simran was a member of the PR student council and represented the university in international conferences with American and Indonesian universities. She also participated in GBLC (Global Business Leadership Camp), a student exchange program at Chungnam National University, South Korea.
Prior to joining Connecting Founders, Simran worked in the Fashion and Textile Industry as a digital marketer, gaining expertise in sales and marketing strategies for various online marketing channels.
With regards to non-profit work, Simran volunteered as a Content Creator for “Games for Love”, a non-profit organization dedicated to easing suffering, saving lives and creating a sustainable future for children, in addition to being an English Facilitator at Pattaya Redemptorist School for the Blind.
Kantaphon (Tata) Vareekasem
BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE DEVELOPER
Kantaphon is a Business Intelligence Developer at Connecting Founders, specializing in Data Warehouse Development.
His main role centers around the provision of data-driven insights by building scalable data solutions and frameworks. Tata consolidates existing legacy sources into a single data warehouse. In addition, Tata identifies and automates the workflow to optimize the data consolidation and reporting process by assisting and co-developing dashboards for the management team.
Prior to joining Connecting Founders, Tata was an intern at the Bangkok Bank, where he created a business project about marketplace platforms and pitched for investments by conducting sustainable and socially responsible processes. Tata also has experience working with an Armenian NGO as a research intern, generating baseline surveys for impact analysis on economic, health and other factors to investigate the effectiveness of current and future projects.
Tata holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of East Anglia, specializing in programming and data analysis.
NUTCHAPON (KIN) KONGSRISAK
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ANALYST
Ambitious logical and analytical thinker with experienced in financial and accounting analysis for Thailand and Global top tier company. Also process improvement, strategic planning and creating operational metric dashboard by big data technology, process automation technology and business intelligent tools as highly motivated result-driven professional with a proven track record of process cost reduction, exceeding expectation process performance improvement to achieve organizational objectives. In additional, experienced in project base work frame on account of tight deadline and difficult mandate.
WHY WE DO IT
We believe in the power of investing in women. Whether we are supporting women to scale up their businesses, advance in their careers, or become first time investors – giving women more voice and decision-making power is critical to building healthy businesses and sustainable economies.
Female founders face significant barriers in the investing ecosystem and continue to access only a small portion of total capital allocated to early-stage and growth-stage businesses. With over 1.7 million female SMEs across Southeast Asia’s key markets, there is an estimated need to provide at least USD 40 billion in expansion or working capital to over 150,000 women-owned businesses. We work to overcome gender biases in the investing world to give financing power to the right entrepreneurs.
Woman-owned SMEs: 1,533,000
Estimated Funding Gap: US $30 Bil
Woman-owned SMEs: 90,000
Estimated Funding Gap: US $1.8 Bil
Woman-owned SMEs: 40,000
Estimated Funding Gap: US $0.8 Bil
Woman-owned SMEs: 27,000
Estimated Funding Gap: US $0.5 Bil
Woman-owned SMEs: 110,000
Estimated Funding Gap: US $2.2 Bil
Similarly, women face multiple challenges in the workplace and continue to be under-represented in leadership and decision-making roles across all sectors. Gender issues are complex and often companies struggle to reconcile their business priorities with enhancing diversity & inclusion and effectively supporting their female employees.
We guide and support companies in this process to identify solutions that work for them, step by step. Advancing gender diversity requires a long-term commitment and we work with companies to set ambitious yet realistic goals.