S03E011: Tanya Rolfe and Christine Yu, Co-founders of Sophia, Singapore & Hong Kong

Every time you go into a negotiation as a woman and you are scared to ask for what you really want, think about the audacity of organic raspberries and the price that is asked of a seven-ounce container [of organic raspberries]. And think about that. Think about the audacity of organic raspberries and take that with you into the negotiation room.

Tanya Rolfe

In this episode, I spoke to Tanya Rolfe and Christine Yu, two out of the three founders of Sophia.

Sophia is a learning platform made for women with the mission to increase the amount of venture capital funding and angel investment funding for women entrepreneurs. 

christine yu sophia women
Christine Yu is inspired by the strength and resilience of her countrywomen, the Filipina migrant domestic workers.

It is a mission born out of their frustration experienced in the world of investing towards funding for female entrepreneurs. They want to create a refreshingly new dialogue for women funders as well as women founders and create the right kind of impact from the clean and green perspective. 

tanya rolfe sophia women
Tanya Rolfe is a venture capitalist whose previous engagements included starting her own seed venture fund in Singapore investing in female-founded, scalable businesses across Southeast Asia.

Tanya is a venture capitalist whose previous engagements included starting her own seed venture fund in Singapore investing in female-founded, scalable businesses across Southeast Asia. She is now an advisor for two tech startups as well. 

Christine is an impact investor, angel investor and venture builder in the sustainability and social impact arena. She founded her impact investing platform, Lapidary where they focus on investing in and building for-profit and mission-driven companies across education, sustainable fashion, financial inclusion and the gender lens space.

Both Tanya and Christine were really funny together and here’s a secret, they haven’t met in person! Tanya’s in Singapore while Christine is in Hong Kong. Both were firm and ferocious in their desire to change the conversation about women, money and investing. 

Tanya said that she is inspired by Christine and their other co-founder, Nicole and the everyday women that she comes into contact with – female founders like Suzy Patz, Veroniek Vermeulen, Jingjin Liu,  Amy Read, Eva Goicochea, Virginia Tan and Suhina Singh. She cites Man’s Search For The Meaning Of Life by Victor Frankl as her favourite read.

Christine finds her inspiration in Angela Merkel because Angela led Germany for so many decades stoically, without controversy. Christine remarked, “She’s been a calm and strong leader despite the many geopolitical changes in the world. I’m aware that many people don’t like her but I admire her for her no-drama, consensus-building leadership style. I think history will look upon her legacy with great admiration.” 

Everyone thinks investing is so hard. No, it’s not and you have to surround yourself with like-minded people and understand that there’s a lot to learn and just get through it and just do it!

Christine Yu

At the same time, Christine is also inspired by the strength and resilience of her countrywomen, the Filipina migrant domestic workers. She said that these women had to leave their country, their families, their children and face the unknown to work as migrant domestic workers overseas for very low wages to keep their families alive. 

Her favourite authors and poets include Haruki Murakami, Pablo Neruda, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Edith Wharton and Margaret Atwood. She calls Margaret Atwood “an absolute genius. The Handmaid’s Tale always blows my mind with its brilliance.” In the non-fiction space, she enjoys reading Malcolm Gladwell and Daniel Pink’s books. Her music tastes range from 90s grunge, trance/EDM and French electronica like M83.

Christine is most proud of her 12 years plus finance career and her MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. She taught herself angel investing in 2014 and is now an active angel investor heading up the HK chapter of AngelVest, a regional angel investing network. 

She also co-founded a 400+ person strong financial literacy non-profit community for women called Girls Just Wanna Have Fund$ to close the gender investing gap.

She launched 2 new startups this year including Sophia! Says Christine, “I’m energized and inspired to share my knowledge to help more women take a seat at the decision-making table by helping them gain the confidence to invest in the future of innovation!” 

One of her major milestones is the priceless experience of mentoring each and every person across her career because “effecting change starts with being the change and it starts with one person, one woman at a time.”

What’s really important for us is that we’re seen as a company that is lifting up other women whether that’s founders or funders because that is really at the heart of our mission which is to actually make an impact.

Tanya Rolfe & Christine Yu

In this episode, they discuss:

  • Why women are not receiving enough funding despite being just as smart as men
  • How Christine became an angel investor
  • Christine’s light bulb moment when she worked on the first green bond for a corporate in Asia Pacific 
  • Why Tanya moved to Singapore from London and started an investment circle of women which transformed into a private capital funding targeted at female startup founders 
  • The importance of investing in mission-focused startups and companies especially in Asia
  • Christine’s non-profit community – the 400 women-strong – Girls Just Want To Have Fund$ in Hong Kong for financial education and empowerment 
  • The unfortunate yet cold hard truth is that the gender investing and gender funding gap do exist
  • How women can change the game by investing in green companies
  • The inherent bias of institutionalized funding
  • The challenges of fundraising for the private capital fund Tanya started just before Covid hit Singapore 
  • How Tanya and Christine want to change the conversation for female founders 

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