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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Making it Real – Seeing First Hand the Impact of Your Work

By Alex Levy, MBA 17

Alex Levy MBA 17

Alex Levy

I’ll admit it. When I woke up to the sound of my alarm and driving rain early on a Saturday morning, I had a strong urge to hit snooze and roll over. I was scheduled to be at Bay Leaf kitchen, the non-profit where I’ve been serving as a non-voting board member for the past few months, in an hour to volunteer at one of their cooking classes.

As I lay in my bed, I realized that it wasn’t just my grogginess and the dread of rain keeping me under the covers. I was nervous. I was planning on driving to an unknown part of SF that people often say is dangerous. I was going to be working directly with kids during a cooking class and helping shape their relationship with food. I was stepping into an uncertain situation, and my half-awake brain searched for excuses.

Despite the rain and the uncertainty, I was able to wrest myself from bed and make the drive over to the Bayview. I would be helping out with the Roots class, which is a weekend class taught by Bay Leaf Kitchen to help 3-5 year olds learn cooking basics and develop a love for food early. The underlying rationale is that if these kids develop a connection with their food from a young age, they are much less likely to eat processed foods and develop metabolic disorders.

“I was blown away by how curious and excited these pre-kindergarteners were about carrots and grapes.” Alex Levy re @BayLeafKitchenTwitter Icon

The class was a remarkable, eye-opening, and fun experience. I was blown away by how curious and excited these pre-kindergarteners were about carrots and grapes. One student, Becks, had developed a particular affinity for chard, and set about creating a chard salad with lime and sesame seed dressing. The result honestly tasted like something you’d be proud to serve to houseguests, if not something you’d be served in a New American restaurant. As the students shuttled between the cooking area and garden, seeking out particular vegetables and herbs, I couldn’t help but be excited by these kids’ enthusiasm for healthy and fresh food.

Bay Leaf Kitchen

Jr. Chef Helpers via BayLeafKitchen

The 3-5 year olds were assisted by another group of students, which Bay Leaf refers to as Junior Chef Helpers. This group of middle-schoolers has been through other Bay Leaf programming, and came to the Saturday classes to mentor the younger group. These Junior Chef Helpers were amazingly patient and thoughtful in guiding and instructing their young mentees, and they were clearly excited to cook and create an awesome, nutritious lunch. It was plain to see how this type of mentorship could create a virtuous cycle; the Junior Chef Helpers gained further confidence and excitement, and the younger “Roots” looked up to this group, who in turn reaffirmed their budding love for cooking and fresh produce.

After the Chard salad and cauliflower stew, the fried potatoes and cauliflower grape dessert had been cooked and consumed, and the makeshift kitchen cleaned and packed away, I was incredibly recharged about the Bay Leaf mission. I had always believed that cooking education could positively impact health, wellness, and nutrition in children, but seeing the impact on individual 4-year-olds made it real.

One of my goals when I started at Berkeley-Haas was to develop a lifelong habit of community service. I joined Bay Leaf’s board through the Berkeley Board Fellows program to work towards this goal. Previously, I had done plenty of community service on a one-off basis, volunteering in soup kitchens, food banks, and nursing homes. I had trouble sustaining this involvement, so I thought that getting involved at the strategic levels of a non-profit might be a great way to develop personal investment and long-term involvement. What I realized was that to truly feel invested and involved, I need both. I enjoy being part of the board-level discussions, but also felt tremendous satisfaction helping a small group of 4-year-olds for two hours on a Saturday morning.

I’m ecstatic that I got out of bed that Saturday. I feel a renewed sense of engagement with Bay Leaf, and got some great chard salad too (thanks Becks!).

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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Community Partner Spotlight – Project Open Hand

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Founded in 1985, Project Open Hand  is a nonprofit organization that provides meals with love to critically ill neighbors and seniors to fulfill their mission to nourish and engage their community.

Every day, more than 125 Project Open Hand volunteers prepare 2,500 nutritious meals and provide 200 bags of healthy groceries to help sustain their clients, as they battle serious illnesses, isolation, or the health challenges of old age in San Francisco and Alameda Counties.

For Seniors and Adults with Disabilities: The organization provides warm, nutritious lunch to seniors (age 60+) and adults with disabilities (age 18-59) at locations throughout San Francisco.

Project Open hand photo 2

Courtesy of Project Open Hand

For People Living with Critical Illness: Through Project Open Hand’s Wellness Programs, they provide nutritious, medically-tailored meals and groceries for pick up in San Francisco and Alameda Counties. Home-delivered meals for clients who are homebound are offered as well. Registered dietitians support and counsel clients to help them feel better by eating right.

Involvement with the Center

“As we have expanded our services over the past several years, Nora Silver, Ben Mangan, and Jay Stowsky have served as strategic thought partners and an invaluable source of guidance,” said Hannah Levinson, a Development Officer for Project Open Hand. “We look forward to continuing our involvement on a larger scale through Social Sector Solutions!” Continue reading

Students Helping Students Helping the Community

Every year, the Haas Social Impact Fund (HSIF) awards fellowships to first year full-time Haas MBA students taking summer internships at organizations in the non-profit or social sectors as well as for-profit social enterprises that have specific social impact goals. “The HSIF allows students to put their MBA skills toward great organizations and great causes without internship salary factoring as much into their decision,” said Robbie Heath (MBA16). Robbie is the MBA Association (MBAA) VP of Community, a position that traditionally leads the fundraising and award process. He got involved due to a desire to contribute: “I believe that a focus on social impact is something quite unique to the Haas culture. It is reflected in how we carry ourselves in our classes, conversations, clubs, events, etc., and the HSIF is just one way of ensuring that tradition of social focus continues.”

When students contribute to the HSIF, they are not directing their donation to specific organizations or causes. Rather, they are supporting classmates whose internships in the social sector offer a salary that is below average for MBA students. As Robbie explained, “Contributing to the HSIF is completely voluntary and allows classmates to support an entire portfolio of great candidates and projects that will really make a difference to these organizations and to the world.” Last year, there were 12 HSIF Fellows. Read about some of their experiences on the CSSL blog. Continue reading

Extending Learning Beyond the Classroom

Measuring 3 eggsThose of us working with businesses aiming to have a social impact have long promoted the idea that purpose and profit are not mutually exclusive. More recently, a companion idea has emerged. Like so many things at Berkeley-Haas, it was driven by students. This is the idea that you don’t have to wait until you graduate to apply your learning in meaningful ways. At the Center for Social Sector Leadership, we work hard to keep up with the student drive to have an impact, even before receiving their MBA degrees.

Enter Social Impact Metrics, a new MBA course that is offered in partnership with Amgen. The course is designed to advance nonprofit organizations’ ability to measure their programs’ effectiveness. The four participating organizations won a competition out of 16 applicants. Throughout the semester, teams of students will work with each organization to figure out a meaningful way to define and quantify hard-to-measure impact. Continue reading

A National Network of MBAs Working for Impact

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The MBA experience is made richer through the networks students are able to create with other socially minded peers. To facilitate these networks, on Thursday, June 25, 2015, Berkeley-Haas’ Center for Social Sector Leadership (CSSL) and Center for Responsible Business (CRB) partnered with IDEO to bring together current MBA students from around the country who are interning in the San Francisco Bay Area. We provided them a chance to meet, spark conversation, and maybe build connections that would uncover the next idea or collaboration in social impact.

The partnership with IDEO furthers our strong connection with the innovation company. Tom Kelley, MBA 83, was Berkeley-Haas’ first Executive Fellow and returns to campus to speak to students, faculty, and staff through the flagship Dean’s Speaker Series.

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Haas students recognize 3 Center faculty for teaching excellence

The fall semester course surveys are in, and three of the Center’s faculty have been recognized by their students for their excellent teaching. Students evaluate their courses on a 1-7 scale, a key metric used by Haas to measure the teaching performance of its instructors. Based on these written evaluations from students in all degree programs, the instructors who receive a rating of 6.0+ are recognized as part of the “Club Six” ranking.

Last semester, Brent Copen, another one of the Center’s faculty, was also recognized for his outstanding teaching. Read more about Brent here.

Berkeley Board Fellows alum shares his experience

The Berkeley Board Fellows provides a connection between students and boards that, in some cases, last longer than just the designated program year. Cal Blake, a past Fellow who continues to be involved in Planned Parenthood Northern California whose board he served through BBF, discusses his personal experience of being a Fellow.

CalCal Blake, MBA/MPH ’15

Currently works with the Governance Committee of Planned Parenthood Northern California

1. What factored into your decision to stay involved with Planned Parenthood Northern California?
Planned Parenthood Northern California aligns with my interests in many ways, so it was an obvious choice to stay on. I’m learning how a clinical services organization works; I’m involved in strategic decision-making at the Board level during a major shift in American healthcare; and I’m giving back to my community through a venerable nonprofit.
2. How was BBF a part of your experience at Haas?
It was fantastic – looking back on it, I wish I’d allocated more time to this during my first year. Haas is good at giving us many compelling ways to spend our time, and my classmates and I feel like we’re always over-committed. Seeing things from the board level of a major nonprofit, this was one of the most constructive experiences for me, mostly because it concretely applied what I learned in the classroom – accounting, strategy, healthcare policy, operations, etc.
It also showed me how important Haas is to the Bay Area and Northern California. I got to see the alumni network in action, and not just in the context of looking for internships or jobs. Haas grads are everywhere!
3. What made BBF a success for you?
It was a true experiential learning experience for me – seeing the ACA implementation firsthand; working on a talent and supporter pipeline for a prestigious organization; thinking and acting holistically across finance, accounting, operations, and strategy issues. Such a broad scope of experience is rare, even for MBA students. I think it also helped me build long-term personal connections in healthcare, outside of Haas, in the Bay Area. And of course, it’s a pleasure to be working for a mission that I believe in!