Alumni Spotlight – Paul Maa

Paul MaaPaul Maa, MBA 13

Private Equity, New Island Capital Management

“Put yourself in challenging situations and test your limits.” That’s the advice Paul Maa, MBA 13, has for students.

The Berkeley alum found himself testing his limits when he started working at the international social venture Room to Read – a different world from his days of investment banking on Wall Street.

But his time at Room to Read was a revelation – not only in having to adapt to very unfamiliar territory, but in that it uncovered a world beyond what he had experienced in prior finance jobs.

“Realizing what else was out there and thinking about what mattered to me,” says Paul, led him towards a new path, starting with graduate studies at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. At Haas, he focused on the intersection of financial profit and impact, particularly pertaining to the energy industry. His experiences at Haas further clarified the type of work that is most meaningful to him.

Haas exposed Paul to cutting-edge ideas surrounding investing and impact. In 2012, Paul was one of three Student Co-Chairs of the Global Social Venture Competition, a contest hosted by Haas since its founding in 1999, which draws aspiring entrepreneurs from the world’s top business schools to present their social sector innovations.

It was important to Paul to explore opportunities outside the classroom at Haas because, in the course of the school year, it was easy to lose focus on what really mattered. In fact, it was reflecting on essays he had written to gain admittance to Haas that helped keep Paul grounded in what motivates him most.

Students, Paul suggests, should “throw caution to the wind.” Trying something different, when you have the freedom to do so, can spark a new interest. And, he notes, “the knowledge you will gain from these experiences will prove useful in your career.”

Paul’s Berkeley Board Fellowship at the San Francisco YMCA helped him step out of his comfort zone and utilize his experience to benefit an important community organization.  The board called on him to weigh strategic impact outcomes against financial results. He saw firsthand how boards make organization-changing decisions. Looking back, Paul says what he learned as a Board Fellow is relevant to the work that he does now.

Another formative experience for Paul was an internship between his first and second year of Haas. At New Island Capital Management, a San Francisco-based investment firm, Paul focused on sustainability-oriented investments.  It was there that Paul was able to pursue his personal interests and blend the finance and investing background he had acquired over three years at Gryphon Investors and Lehman Brothers with the impact lens he’d built at Room to Read.

After graduation, Paul returned to New Island as an associate in private equity. Today, he says, “I enjoy what I do because I believe in the impact that we create by building and investing in profitable, sustainable businesses.”


Community Partner Spotlight – Bridges Ventures Offers Hands-on Impact Investing

Bridges Ventures

At ten leading business schools across the country, students are investing in impact.

Students get the unique opportunity to try their hand at investing thanks to an innovative program called MBA Impact Investing Network & Training, or MIINT.

A program run by Bridges IMPACT+, the advisory arm of fund manager Bridges Ventures, MIINT is an experiential program that educates the impact sphere’s future leaders.  MIINT gives students the opportunity to think like an impact investor.  With guidance from MIINT faculty, composed of leaders at Bridges Ventures, the Wharton Social Impact Initiative, and JK&B Capital, and guest lecturers, students at 10 of the country’s top business schools learn to develop an investment strategy, consider impact, and source and diligence investments. Ultimately, they present to an investment committee for a potential angel investment of $50,000.

MIINT fills a gap in traditional MBA course offerings.  As evidenced by the rapid expansion of the Global Social Venture Competition, headquartered at Haas, social entrepreneurship is energizing campuses across the world. Few business schools, however, teach classes on impact investing, and fewer still offer hands-on learning opportunities. That’s why a program like MIINT is so crucial to students.

Maya Tobias, co-founder Haas Impact Investing Network

Maya Tobias, co-founder Haas Impact Investing Network

“Haas is already known for its strong social impact focus—we have centers and clubs for social enterprise, non-profit, and CSR—but impact investing has been a missing link in our school. It’s a burgeoning and evolving field and it’s important to have Haas’ path bending leaders at the forefront of helping to shape this space,” says Haas MBA Maya Tobias. Maya, along with Tammy Guo and Karthik Suryanarayanan, is one of the co-founders of the Haas Impact Investing Network (HIIN), a program at Haas run in partnership with Bridges Ventures.

“We chose to start HIIN to ensure that students at Haas were exposed to the exciting program that Bridges began two years ago,” notes Maya, referring to MIINT. The club received an enthusiastic response to their application when the program commenced in September. A growing number of prospective students are inquiring about the space and HIIN aims to further solidify Haas as a place for socially minded and innovative leaders.

MIINT is also valuable on a wider scale.

Haas MBAs sit in a global video conference training hosted by Bridges Ventures

Haas MBAs sit in a national video conference training hosted by Bridges Ventures

Educating next generation impact leaders through MIINT is valuable not only for Bridges but for the sector as a whole. As more mainstream investors channel capital into the nascent impact investing sector, the more the sector will need human capital to source investments and measure their impact.

Bridges hopes that MIINT will encourage MBA students to question traditional businesses and nonprofit models and explore better ways to achieve impact.  Bridges dismisses as a myth the claim that business results are incompatible with social results.

Effective business models are grounded in the finding of a solution to a problem.  Bridges recommends that MBA students look at today’s most pressing problems – limited access to healthcare and education, threats posted by climate change – and ask if there is a business approach to effectively addressing these problems.

Established in the U.K. in 2002, Bridges Ventures uses an impact-driven investment approach to create superior returns for both investors and society. It manages over $500M across three fund types: Sustainable Growth Funds, Sustainable Property Funds, and Social Sector funds. Bridges IMPACT+ also offers practitioner-led advisory services to a range of clients including NGOs, and produces annual thought leadership pieces.

San Quentin Inmates get Entrepreneurial with Help from MBA Course


How do you communicate with 120,000 people spread across California who are denied ready access to computers, phone calls, emails, and texts? You have to start with a plan to make it financially sustainable. Social Sector Solutions for Social Enterprises (S3SE), a fall course at Haas, drafted this plan working with entrepreneurial inmates from San Quentin prison. The Daily Californian highlights the importance of the San Quentin News, the only inmate-run newspaper in California and the struggle inmates face to financially support their work. The S3SE team has crafted a business plan that focuses on financial sustainability to enable the inmates to continue writing for years to come.

“According to Dr. Nora Silver, [Director of the Center for Nonprofit and Public Leadership and the co-instructor of S3SE,] the the plan involves a multifaceted, multiyear process. To finance its goals, the inmates must earn revenue from newspaper subscriptions to subsidize the free issues provided to prisoners and corral more outside volunteers to help in writing grant proposals. And in order to obtain subscriptions — which might come, for example, from recent parolees or San Quentin’s 3,000 volunteers — they need to turn the paper into a well-known brand.”

Dr. Silver also notes that, “the field of social enterprises is pretty new and evolving, and this is a fairly unusual project within the field. This certainly stretched [the team].”

Read the full article at The Daily Cal.

Kim Wright-Violich Puts Real World Investment Decisions in the Hands of Students

kim_wright_violichKim Wright-Violich: Putting Real World Investment Decisions in the Hands of Students

Tonight’s homework: pick a nonprofit to receive a $100,000 impact investment.

That’s the assignment for students in Real World Impact Investing, a class designed and taught by the former CEO and President of Schwab Charitable, Kim Wright-Violich. Wright-Violich exposes students to the impact investing continuum – from philanthropy to for-profit investing. The course culminates in teams pitching a $100,000 investment.

Wright-Violich secured the capital for students to invest from Echidna, LLC. Founded by Google’s first employee, Echidna supports girls’ education in the developing world through donor-advised funds. Wright-Violich and Echidna started the class to tap students’ talents and to educate future leaders in impact investing. After the final investment decision is made, Echidna will distribute the funds and monitor the investment.

From 2000 to 2011, Wright-Violich served as CEO/President of Schwab Charitable, which offers donor-advised fund and charitable trust services. She grew the organization from a start-up to one of the ten largest charities in the country, attracting over $5 billion in charitable assets. There, Wright-Violich introduced numerous innovative programs to facilitate charitable asset management, including the first-ever microfinance guarantee program using donor-advised fund assets.

Leading Schwab Charitable taught Wright-Violich the power of a blended for-profit/non-profit approach to scaling social impact activity; in her words, “If you can harness the commercial markets and the motives that drive markets toward social improvement, it is much more powerful than charitable giving alone.”

“Of course,” Wright-Violich adds, “some important mission-driven activities do not lend themselves to earning revenue or traditional capital investment, but when such an opportunity is discovered, change can occur at an unprecedented rate.”

To that end, she has drawn on her experience to assemble a curriculum packed with readings and guest lectures by luminaries in the social impact field.

Among the guest speakers she featured were Dr. Madhav Chavan, the founder and CEO of award-winning education nongovernmental organization Pratham;co-founder of Room to Read Erin Ganju, and nonprofit consultancy FSG’s founder, Mark Kramer.

“Kim and the class don’t need to work really hard to… simulate something that happens in the real world,” said one of her students, former Leapfrog Fellow and MBA student Tom Pryor. “It is the real world.”

Unique among business school classes for providing students the experience of making a direct investment in an organization, Real World Impact Investing is one of three experiential learning courses offered by the Center for Nonprofit Leadership at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.