On International Women’s Day, we celebrate the remarkable founders who shook up expectations and turned them on their heads.
Time and time again, woman entrepreneurs have brought their steadfast tenacity, resilience and levelheadedness to steer the ship during hard times. In 2018, Crunchbase recognized SOSV as a top 5 seed investor in female-founded startups. In 2020, MOX had the first cohort in which 50% of the startups have a woman co-founder. In celebration of International Women’s Day, we want to give the spotlight to the remarkable founders who shook up expectations and turned them on their heads. Meet 11 amazing entrepreneurs coming from India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Korea, Thailand, and the Netherlands who’re empowering millions of people worldwide.
1. Vu Van, CEO of ELSA
A hard-core operator & tireless entrepreneur, Van is passionate about edtech and how we can use technology to change the education landscape, and make education accessible to all, at high quality. MBA & M.Ed at Stanford, with 8 years of experience in international operations as Engagement Manager at Booz & Company.
ELSA (English Language Speech Assistant) is the world’s smartest A.I. assistant for pronunciation training and accent reduction. Using proprietary speech recognition technology based on deep-learning algorithm, the company is helping a growing user base of millions of people from 101 countries. With SOSV as its first institutional investor, In 2019, ELSA closed a US$7M Series A led by Google’s AI fund Gradient Ventures. Winner of SXSWEdu Launch 2016, top 5 best Artificial Intelligence apps (Research Sniper), Top 4 Companies using AI to transform the world (Forbes).
2. Neha Suyal, COO at Woovly
Award-winning entrepreneur Neha Suyal oversees operations and business development at Woovly. Prior to co-founding the company, she worked with Quess Corp, managing tech operations and sales for a US$15M business. Suyal is an alumna of Stanford Ignite and the winner of the Woman Entrepreneur Award, part of the Global Education and Corporate Leadership 2019 Awards.
Wish to taste the most exotic seafood or experience the most thrilling adventure activity? Woovly, a social discovery platform, is helping people create and achieve their bucket list goals. Founded in 2019, Woovly is the brainchild of award-winning entrepreneur Neha Suyal and Quess Corp founding member Venkat J, with 1 million registered users. The company announced a US$2.5M funding round last year, one month after graduating from SOSV MOX.
3. Mahima Kaul, COO at CoutLoot
After graduating from the University of Mumbai with a degree in Electronics Engineering, Mahima Kaul, then 26, co-founded CoutLoot together with Jasmeet Thind and Vinit Jain in late 2016. Prior to CoutLoot, she was an associate research analyst in retail measurement services at Nielsen, consulting India’s leading consumer goods & telecom firms on their marketing, sales & distribution.
A leading mobile-first social commerce platform, CoutLoot empowers anyone to sell online within 30 seconds. Catering to a market size of 780 million young Indians, CoutLoot is currently listing over 10 million products on its platform. The company is backed by leading VCs in China, Artha India Ventures, SOSV MOX and Venture Catalysts among others. In 2019, YourStory recognized CootLoot in its Tech30 list as one of India’s top 30 high-potential tech companies.
4. Kusha Kohli, COO at CivilCops
Kusha Kohli oversees sales, business development and operations at CivilCops. Prior to CivilCops, Kohli served as the National Finance Manager of Gramiksha, supporting local governments with the digital transformation of public primary schools. Having devoted her career to civic tech and govtech, Kohli believes that getting our voices heard as citizens will form a premise for public policy and will set off a chain reaction for co-creating smarter cities.
CivilCops helps governments be more responsive and communicate better with citizens using AI-enabled chatbots and voice assistants. Already working with 10 local governments in India—the largest of which has more than 25 million citizens, CivilCops is on a mission to increase citizen trust, boost government efficiency and bring transparency to all levels of governance.
5. Arini Astari, CEO at Moodah
Arini Astari started her career as a software engineer in Midtrans before founding her own software house Ruby.H. Combining technical know-how with business acumen, she has over 5 years of working as a business & IT consultant for various sectors including mining, trading and e-commerce. Prior to Moodah, Astari also co-founded Belsbee.com, Indonesia’s version of Rent The Runway.
Moodah is a mobile-first, easy-to-use SaaS platform helping the 51 million mom-and-pop shops in Indonesia digitalize their sales, inventory, and cash management. The company recently closed a partnership with the Indonesian government which entails twenty thousand family-run businesses.
6. Preeti Chib, Head of Growth at Pencil
A brand, media & product marketing strategist with over a decade of experience in the content industry, Preeti Chib has held multiple leadership roles in media & entertainment, brand strategy and consumer engagement. Prior to Pencil and Leadstart Publishing, where she met Pencil co-founder Swarup Nanda, Chib had been instrumental in launching programs for National Geographic Channel, The History Channel, Star Movies and Star World.
Pencil turns books into living content using analytics and dynamic editing. On Pencil’s platform, writers can understand how their book is being read and make dynamic edits—selling the new versions across the world in both print and digital. Founded by a team with decades in the publishing industry, Pencil has launched 1100 books with global e-commerce distribution.
7. Jean Heah, COO at Kravve
Heah comes from an architecture background, bringing to Kravve her design thinking combined with an entrepreneurial spirit. While still in college, she ran a profitable design software training company that helped more than 1,000 local and international students. With a lifelong passion for empowering people through good design and good food, she is now heading the operations team in Kravve and overseeing the company’s design and branding.
The Etsy of Food, Kravve is a social commerce platform powering small businesses. Kravve helps artisanal producers – all the aunties, grandmas, and home chefs with special homemade products – set themselves up as entrepreneurs using Kravve’s technology. The social commerce platform helps artisanal producers list, market, sell and deliver so they can focus on celebrating local cuisine and monetizing their culinary skills. In the past 12 months, Kravve has helped its artisanal producers go online and achieved over US$1 million in sales.
8 & 9. Pichaya Jomsiriwatana, CEO, and Sandra Lai, COO at NATBAY
With over 10 years of experience in offline and online retailing, Jomsiriwatana has built an extensive network of connections in luxury fashion retailing with both international and local brands. Prior to co-founding NATBAY, she had over 5 years of experience in FMCG, leading sales and marketing initiatives at Unilever Thailand.
Lai spent 5 years in quantitative market research and analytics in Asia markets at IPSOS and Lamplight before co-founding NATBAY. Having worked with a wide range of industries including luxury fashion and media consumption, she specializes in analyzing complex sets of data, and translating the hidden insights into actionable business strategies. Her experience has been instrumental in scaling and achieving operational excellence at NATBAY.
The Farfetch of Southeast Asia, NATBAY is a luxury fashion and lifestyle platform offering hard-to-find clothing and accessories from the world’s most prestigious designers.
10. Sun Bang, Founder at Tappytoon
After a career in film and the arts, Sun Bang co-founded Tappytoon in 2013. “For me, as a woman, I like stories that I can relate to, so I think it’s why we have a lot of titles for the female audience,” she shares about her vision for Tappytoon. She previously worked with the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival, the Film Society of Lincoln Center, and the renowned Busan International Film Festival.
“Netflix for Comics” TappyToon is a premium comics service accessed by readers from over 190 countries, serving one-stop access to never-before-available, official English translations of popular comics, K-drama/K-pop tie-ins and exclusive hit titles from content partners such as Kakao, NHN comico, Mr Blue, Jaedam and more.
As of January 2019, the Tappytoon app is the #1 top comics app by revenue on the iTunes App Store ‘Books’ category, and a top-ranking Comics app by revenue on Google Play in US, UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, and many more countries. (Source: Google Play, Apple, AppAnnie.)
11. Mihaela Georgieva, Chief Communications Officer at UNL
Georgieva is the Chief Communications Officer at UNL, a smart addressing platform for navigation and location-based services. She has over 8 years of experience in full-stack communications and brand storytelling. Coming from an engineering and business background mix, she has helped multiple startups and corporates, throughout the years, to translate complex tech concepts into human brand messaging.
UNL is a smart addressing platform that provides any location with a
unique, universal location ID to power services from ecommerce and delivery to mobility. Adding a programmable layer to real-life
locations, UNL is building the Internet of Places, serving as an infrastructure for location-based service economy.