Gaining Experience in Impact Investing

Berkeley-Haas Education Team at MIINT

Berkeley-Haas Education Team at MIINT

A Move into Impact Investing

My momentous experience with the Haas Impact Investing Network (“HIIN”) started in late September. I came to Berkeley-Haas to pursue a career in impact investing, so HIIN was an obvious decision. At work, I was frustrated with the nonprofit funding model – I had an undergrad degree in finance and I wanted to incorporate social impact into my work – a career in impact investing was a natural fit. However, I neither had the experience nor the tools to make this change. I quickly learned that HIIN was much more than just another case competition. My HIIN experience provide the tools I needed to make a career switch into impact investing.

HIIN is the Berkeley part of an experiential training program called the MBA Impact Investing Network & Training (“MIINT”). It’s an international competition where MBA teams from the US and Europe spend 6 months going through the impact investing process. Teams identify, conduct due diligence on, and recommend for investment an existing early stage for-profit organization that is building social impact into its business model and is looking to raise funding in order to scale up. The winning companies receive seed investments as part of an existing funding round. In addition to the competition component, MIINT provided access to various online and in person trainings on the stages and nuances of impact investing. The competition provided access to professionals in the industry both in formal speaker and panel settings to informal lunches and coffee chats. Furthermore, the competition provided access to networking both internal and external to Berkeley-Haas. I was able to connect with fellow students interested in the same topic. Soon it became an addendum to my MBA curriculum.

Focusing on Education

I joined the MIINT education team based on my personal interests. The first step was to source a company that fit a robust set of criteria. Our team assessed over 50 companies in the education space. I was doing research for the competition that allowed me to learn more about the education industry in the US. I learned about various tools for students, teachers, administrators, professionals, etc. Kickup-logoI learned about trends such a mass open online courses (MOOCs) and adaptive learning platforms. Ultimately we decided to work with an organization named KickUp, an analytics platform for school district directors to better tailor the professional development teachers. We worked closely with Jeremy Rogof, the founder and CEO, to analyze the market, understand the value proposition, conduct financial and social due diligence. Through this deep dive into the company, I came to understand the challenges of creating a company that provides a differentiated value and a social benefit in a market that is willing to pay for this product.

Haas Impact Investing Network Fellows 2016

Haas Impact Investing Network Fellows 2016

My first wake up call came when we presented the company at the Berkeley-Haas investment committee presentations. We believed the company was strong, the team was qualified and the product and impact were clear. However, the probing 20-minute Q&A following our presentation strongly challenged our assumptions and highlighted weaknesses which we had failed to discover. Ultimately, KickUp’s strong value proposition that addressed a massive problem in public school education today allowed us to win the local round. We represented Berkeley-Haas at the final round at Wharton. We spent the next three weeks engrossed in research, interviews and further analysis to develop answers to the gaps the judges had identified. Our further work proved to us that KickUp was a strong investment and we presented the company to a group of investors at Wharton.

The MIINT Finals at Wharton

The two day competition in Philadelphia was a fantastic experience for the whole team. The first day consisted of coffee chats and networking events where we met the other teams and judges. Their credentials and level of commitment to the tournament were impressive. The second day consisted of the final investment presentations. We spent weeks honing our presentation and were excited to show it to the judges. In our final presentation we felt we did a good job describing the company and answering the tough questions that followed.

In the end, we were not victorious. As the day wrapped up, we were awed with a presentation which showed what happened with previous winners, including Learnsprout who were acquired in a multi-million dollar deal by Apple earlier this year. Even though it didn’t win, hopefully KickUp will enjoy similar success!

Although we did not win, the experience was invaluable. Our team learned a great deal about the impact investing space, how investments are sourced, studied and eventually executed. Classes are great at providing concepts, tools and frameworks, but it is opportunities such as these that allow students to take their learnings and apply them in the real world. It was also wonderful to work closely with passionate MBAs from four continents, as well as an inspiring entrepreneur, and learning so much in the process. It is countless such activities that makes Berkeley-Haas a truly experiential program.

 

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Recruiting MBAs for Social Impact Internships

MBA Intern at SMASH Academy

MBA Intern at SMASH Academy

Berkeley-Haas MBAs want to have a positive impact on the world. For some of them, the time to start is now, not after graduation or a “first career” in corporate America. That desire translates into an opportunity for nonprofit and social enterprises to recruit and hire MBAs as summer interns. If your organization has a tough, strategic project that could use a smart, energetic, passionate MBA from a top program, now is the time to recruit.

Top graduate programs, including Berkeley-Haas, are seeing an increase in socially-focused MBAs. Is compensation too large an obstacle to be competitive? The answer is that there is no answer. Some large nonprofits can provide top pay, while others struggle to provide even a transportation stipend. Students are attracted to the full package; an interesting project, a strong organization, a unique experience, leadership development opportunities, work aligned with their passion, as well as pay and benefits.

The first step is creating a strong job description to market your project and organization. Some things to remember when creating a job description for MBAs:

  • Put the impact of your work and/or the strength of your organization front and center.
  • Link the expected outcomes of the work/project to the impact and mission of the organization.
  • What experiences will the candidate gain from the position that are unique or valuable?
  • Does the role create an experience with something new or innovative?

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Social Impact Consulting Panel

Social Impact Consulting Panel

Jennifer Kawar and Laura Tilghman

Photo by Bruce Cook

November 9, 2015

The annual Social Impact Consulting Career Panel broke our own speaker series attendance record this year! It is always a popular event, and this year more than 100 people filled the room to hear the perspectives of the accomplished panel members. The all female panel was made up of distinct leaders in the social impact space and moderated by Kimberly Wright-Violich, the co-founder and managing partner of Tideline.

2015 Panelists:

  • Alison Colwell, Associate Director, Advisory Services, BSR
  • Jennifer Kawar, Chief Investment Officer, Nonprofit Finance Fund
  • Willa Seldon, Partner, Bridgespan Group
  • Laura Tilghman, Senior Consultant, FSG

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Zach Friedman, Director of Vaccination and Immunization at LIGTT

Photo_ZachFriedmanWhen Zach Friedman was hired on as Director of Vaccination and Immunization at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies, his first project was not a small one. He immediately jumped in to developing the “50 Breakthroughs” report. As he described, it the report was “a study that identified high-impact scientific and technological breakthroughs required for global sustainable development.”

“We took a problem-oriented approach,” Zach said, “starting with high level issues like global health and digital inclusion, and unpacked those issues to identify the major underlying drivers and then identify where new breakthroughs were or were not a critical part of the solution.” With the belief that the number of truly transformative technologies is much more than just a handful, the report set about discovering what those were – not just the big, buzzworthy, of-the-moment ideas, but the ones that are game-changing, scalable, and can make a substantial and long-lasting impact in developing countries. Completed in 2014, the full study took over two years to conduct and has since been used by major funding entities like USAID and the Lemelson Foundation to help guide their strategy. Continue reading

Alumni Spotlight – Jennifer Kawar, Director, Nonprofit Finance Fund

Jennifer Kawar

Jennifer Kawar, BS 82

Jennifer Kawar, Haas BS 82, admits that working for the social sector wasn’t her focus while obtaining her undergraduate degree from Haas and her MBA from Columbia University Graduate School of Business.

It was after 14 years of experience in the “mainstream” of financial services, working in  business development, underwriting, portfolio management and credit administration for financial institutions like TIAA-CREF, GE Capital and Bank of America, while devoting her energies to family and community, that Jennifer reflected on how she could better use her business education and experience to effect change in the social sector.

Her move into the social sector.

“People with training in accounting and finance have largely been deployed to Wall Street or corporate America, toward managing assets for individuals or corporations that have accumulated wealth,” she said. “I wondered what might be possible if we re-deployed some of that talent to help those who don’t have ready access to capital and financial advice.”

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Today, dog collars. Tomorrow, hibiscus leaves. Kory Caro’s impactful summer.

kory-caro-hsif

Kory Caro learns about winemaking at Brooks Winery in rural Oregon. Courtesy of the Haas Achieves blog.

Few MBAs get to deep-dive into winemaking, dog collars, running a tea bar, and a subscription box service, all in one summer. This is the challenge that Kory Caro, MBA 15, is taking on with his internship with MBAs Across America, a nonprofit startup that sends teams of business students around the country to connect with entrepreneurs for week-long consulting projects. Why this internship and not one with a big brand name attached to it?

“It doesn’t seem fair that [most MBA] education doesn’t go to help small businesses, which are the lifeblood of jobs in this country,” Kory explains.

MBAs Across America gives business students the opportunity to work with small business owners while learning more about the realities of running a company. Kory’s journey has brought him and his teammates to Brooks Winery in rural Oregon, Sola Cafe and Red Tractor Pizza in Montana, Bold Lead Designs in Colorado, Ellis Island Tea in Michigan, and Batch in Tennessee (so far). All of these are chronicled through the team’s blog posts.

Kory and his teammates at Ellis Island Tea in Detroit, MI. Courtesy of MBAs Across America.

Kory and his teammates at Ellis Island Tea in Detroit, MI. Courtesy of MBAs Across America.

Kory was selected as one of our Haas Social Impact Fund Fellows for 2014 due to his commitment to using his business education to have a positive social impact. “Our team particularly wanted to focus on women and minorities,” he says. “I was a small business owner … so this is an opportunity to combine the tools that Haas has given me with real-life experiences to help people who are just like me.” Every year, the Haas Social Impact Fund selects students interested in using their internships to work with nonprofit and social enterprises or public agencies. The program is funded mostly by current Haas MBA students, who divert a small part of their summer salaries to support their classmates.

Find out more about how to get involved in the Haas Social Impact Fund.

Learn more about Kory’s adventure across the states at the Haas Achieves blog.