UpperStage Capital hires Kookai Chaimahawong as ESG Partner
Chaimahawong has a history of integrating an impact lens into venture capital investments.
Vancouver-based UpperStage.Capital Inc. has hired local investor Kookai Chaimahawong as an ESG partner for the investment firm. Chaimahawong will lead UpperStage’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy, fusing investment management and operational roles.
Founded by Keith Gillard, UpperStage is a relatively new investor in town, focused on buy-outs and growth funding. A signatory to the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), the firm says it has developed a unique approach to operationalize ESG in lower middle market companies to scale impact and long-term performance.
Chaimahawong previously held roles at women-focused investment firm The51 and Pangaea (where she met Gillard). As to why she made this move right now, Chaimahawong points to UpperStage’s focus on “growth equity, for good.”
“This is the time when doing good is not just for good’s sake; it’s no longer an option (with regulation and increased transparency),” she says. “I believe that this is the time when businesses will have to finally stand on the same side as sustainability and Impact.
“When I was thinking about what’s next, I asked myself, ‘Who, what and how?’ I wanted to support,” Chaimahawong explains. She settled on what she calls underdogs and companies with solutions that can change the world today but don’t fit the VC model. Plus, she wanted to do more than just write cheques. “UpperStage ticks all the boxes,” she says.
Chaimahawong has hit the ground running, having already developed an ESG strategy for the firm, which UpperStage CEO Gillard is confident will positively impact the performance of its portfolio companies. “Many investors use ESG primarily for risk screening, but Kookai has operationalized ESG into our active ownership strategy to further reduce risk, increasing both top- and bottom-line performance. We’re already seeing this with our portfolio company Talius,” he says.
Salmon Arm, B.C.-based Talius is producing roll shutters and habitat screens, which it supplies to the majority of schools in BC.
Earlier in her career, Chaimahawong launched an award-winning technology start-up and formed SDG partnerships at the United Nations Development Programme. Chaimahawong is currently the co-chair of the Vancouver Entrepreneurs Forum and has been recognized in her various leadership roles to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in venture capital and start-up communities globally.
“I’ve dedicated my career to integrating impact and sustainability in business, from corporate responsibility to creating shared value (CSV), and social innovation to impact investing,” Chaimahawong says. “My role with UpperStage will further expand my commitment to enable business as a force for good and scale positive impact as our portfolio grows.”
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