Q&A with Thidarat “Tina” Tosukhowong, senior director, GC Ventures America

1. First, just give us a quick overview of who you work for, what you do, and how long you have been doing it. 

My name is Tina Tosukhowong, senior director of GC Ventures America. We are the corporate venture arm of PTT Global Chemicals, a global petrochemical and material company headquartered in Thailand.

I have been in this position for three years as one of the founding members of the fund. We currently have a team of nine people with two offices located in Boston, Massachusetts and Bangkok, Thailand.

Our investment theses are in advanced materials, cleantech, biotech and life sciences and industrial digitals. My responsibility includes overseeing all the transactional aspects of CVC activities from deal sourcing all the way to deal closing and portfolio monitoring. In addition, I am also involved in the strategic aspects, such as investment thesis and process workflow development, as well as communications and alignments with key stakeholders within the corporate.

2. What attracted you to CVC? 

I have always been passionate about bringing disruptive technologies to market. However, it takes a village to do so, especially in the hard tech space, like in advanced materials, cleantech and life sciences, which are quite capital-intensive.

As a result, I see the opportunity that large corporations can play big roles in incubating and collaborating with startups to de-risk the technologies and help them go to market faster. Those aspects really attracted me to CVC.

So far, this has been a very rewarding career to get to see all these cutting-edge technologies, to work with amazing entrepreneurs, and to get to know many visionary investors.

3. What have been your greatest successes at your unit? 

Our unit was set up as a vehicle to help the corporate diversify into new areas that are adjacent to the core and we have been doing just that. To name a few examples in advanced materials space, we have invested in Arevo, a continuous carbon fibre composite 3D printing company, and Actnano, an advanced coating company for automotive and consumer electronics. In the cleantech space, we have invested in ESS, a world-class flow-battery company for long-duration energy storage.

All these investments have given us options to get into fast-growing businesses and they represent a lot of savings in research and development (R&D) dollar-spending if we were to spend time and resources developing all these tough technologies by ourselves.

In addition, our relationship with various co-investors have broadened our network and brought us additional co-investment opportunities.

4. What have been your biggest challenges? 

I think the fact that we have two office locations with 12 hours of time difference is a challenge and an opportunity at the same time. On the one hand, managing meetings with key stakeholders can be quite challenging, especially during the pandemic that put a restriction on our domestic and international travels.

On the other hand, the fact that we can be a gateway for the startups in the US and Europe to expand into the Southeast Asian market also plays to our advantage and strength. This year, we do plan to expand our investment from the US and European regions to include investment in Asia as well, so I am very excited to see more dealflow and activities from that part of the world.

5. What is your main professional ambition for the future? 

My priority is to ensure that our CVC unit is successful in bringing strategic and financial values back to the corporate. I am quite confident in our team and our portfolio companies to achieve that. But equally important to me is I want to see our unit making a strong impact on the greater good of the society we live in. We need to do more in climate change, and we need to do more to give opportunities to female founders and minorities in start-up and venture capital communities. So I hope that by the time I retire, I will have a successful career behind me and that the VC community will look a lot different with more diversity, inclusivity and an opportunity for everyone.

6. What do you think all CVCs could do better to make it a stronger industry?

Each corporation is unique, so there can be multiple ways to run successful CVCs to fulfil the corporate’s strategic and financial goals. What I think is helpful for young CVCs is to hear from those that have been around for decades what have worked very well for them and what did not as they have navigated through the ups and downs of the economy and the ever-changing political climate. Ultimately, I think this industry will be stronger and more sustainable if we can foster best practices sharing and collaboration among various CVCs. I would also like to commend GCV for bringing the CVC community around the world together through various events every year. I, myself, have enjoyed and benefited from networking and co-investing alongside various peer CVCs.

7. And, finally, for colour, what did you do prior to CVC or in your spare time?

Before joining GC Ventures America, I served as a senior director at Myriant Corporation, a leading industrial biotech company with technology to convert renewable sugars into industrial chemicals. I had been with the company from their early startup days until a successful acquisition and served in various capacities, including R&D, scale-up and technology transfer, application development and business development. Prior to that, I was at Eastman Chemical’s corporate research division.

I hold a PhD in chemical engineering and a certificate in management of technology from Georgia Institute of Technology. I am also a graduate of Harvard Business School’s private equity and venture capital programme.