Driven Businesswoman Proud Limpongpan Lives For The Deal
“I was fixated on business and attending Harvard ever since I spent a summer there with my father, Dr Sathit, when I was 10 years old,” laughs Proud Limpongpan. At the time her friends at Ruamrudee International School were looking forward to high school in the US and naturally Proud wanted to go too. But her parents had different ideas and packed their young daughter off to the prestigious Cheltenham Ladies’ College in southern England, where she says homesickness and adapting from an American-style educational system made the first few weeks hard. “Honestly, I cried every day when I first got there. But as I made friends and was introduced to the school’s entrepreneurial activities, I began to settle in and adapt. In the end I quite liked being in an environment that constantly pushed you to do better. It also helped me become even more independent.”
Proud then attended the London School of Economics, where she majored in economics. “I got into finance at that point and did internships at Merrill Lynch in London and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in Bangkok,” she says. After graduating she received an offer to join BCG but decided to head to Shanghai to study Chinese. “It wasn’t a very calculated decision but I went to Fudan University for six months to study Chinese. I thought it would be useful. At the time, the city was on the cusp of change—the Shanghai World Financial Center had just been finished and you could see the city’s entire skyline morphing by the day,” she recalls.
The young lady returned to work at BCG and over the next two years did stints in Vietnam, Singapore and other countries in the region to work on high finance deals. “I was encouraged by senior management to apply to a good business school, so in 2013 I fulfilled a dream and enrolled at Harvard Business School,” she laughs. “It was a general management course but I took a lot of marketing modules and even graduated top of the class in it.” It was also at Harvard that she met her future husband, Jonathan Biagiotti.
In 2015 Proud returned to Thailand and went to work for the John Hardy jewellery group. Her year-and-a-half there was a crash course in the jewellery industry and she says, “I learnt a lot from the job and when I realised I could do it myself I came out and went for it. My time at John Hardy opened my eyes to the scale of the industry in Thailand and just how many popular jewellery brands were produced here.” Spurred, she opened her own e-commerce jewellery brand called Cerimani out of New York, where then boyfriend Jonathan worked. “I wanted to have a sustainable aspect to it and managed to find a virtually unknown Thai workshop that was producing sustainably using traditional methods. I liked what they were doing so much that I ended up becoming a third partner in the business.” This led to the setup of Ennovie—one of the first sustainable jewellery manufacturers in the world.
Dedicating herself to the business, Proud nevertheless found time to become engaged to Jonathan in 2018. The couple married a year later with ceremonies in Bangkok and Long Island in the US, but by then Proud already had her eye on a new project, Zipmex, a digital assets exchange company. She explains, “Co-founder Akalarp Yimwilai came to me with this idea for doing something involving cryptocurrencies that would change the financial industry. By then Thailand had become one of the first countries to make licenses available for those wanting to trade in digital assets, so I figured why don’t we give it a go. I started helping him on the side and invested a little myself.” However, on learning that the wait for a license would take 18 months, Proud and the Zipmex co-founders decided not to delay and opened operations in Singapore, Australia and Indonesia before finally starting Thailand’s market in September last year.
Today the 30-year-old dedicates 90 per cent of her time to Zipmex as its chief strategy officer and her plan is simply to make the company grow. “The opportunity to reinvent the wheel of the finance world with technology is limitless. And the idea for Zipmex is to function as an alternative investment that is easy for anyone and everyone to use,” she says. “There is no more need for a broker.”
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