Media Mentions

Fortune: “Impact Investing Takes Hold on Business School Campuses”

 MBAs participating in a student discussion panel during the 2016 MIINT competition.

MBAs participating in a student discussion panel during the 2016 MIINT competition.

Originally published on socialimpact.wharton.upenn.edu on July 12, 2016.

This April, Wharton was honored to host the fifth annual MIINT competition at the University of Pennsylvania's campus, where hundreds of students came to network, learn, and present their best impact investment pitches.

Impact investing sits squarely at the intersection of Wharton’s renowned financial expertise and its commitment to social impact. As interest in the industry has grown, so too has the demand for impact investing courses, programs, and activities here at Wharton, among both students and alumni.

The movement recently made its way to Fortunein a feature that highlights the growing popularity among business schools, with perspectives from WSII’s Senior Director for Impact Investing, Jacob Gray.

“The likes of Harvard and Wharton are teaching investing for both financial and social benefit.
…Indeed, in the past few years the idea of garnering both financial andl and social returns on investment has moved from the fringe to the mainstream — while also moving toward the mainstream of elite business school curricula.
At the same time, Reed was beginning her business training in Northern California, a new course on impact investing was created at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. Three years later, Jacob Gray, director of the Wharton Social Impact Initiative, says the course’s enrollment tops the school’s traditional investing course. “It’s become extremely popular,” Gray says.
It may seem as if do-gooder investors are taking over elite B-schools. But ask any top-shelf finance prof and he or she will pump their chests telling you how this is nothing new and they’ve been doing some form of impact investment instruction since the 1950s, when sustainable, responsible, and impact investing (SRI) was first conceived. Everyone wants to be first. In the ’60s and ’70s, amid the United States’ political and social upheaval, environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing came to the fore. Not until recently, however, have significant curricular and extra-curricular resources in MBA programs been pumped into the phenomenon that many are still trying to properly define. As human rights issues continue to arise in the 21st century, the timing of it all certainly makes sense.”

The piece gives the example of the Wharton Impact Investment Partners (formerly WSVF), a student-run fund created six years ago. Currently more than 60 students are involved in what Gray says has grown into the most “popular and selective” club on Wharton’s campus.

“If there is a guiding force for impact investing at business schools, it’s the MBA Impact Investing and Training Network (MIINT). Founded in 2011 by Bridges Ventures and the Wharton Social Impact Initiative, the program now has a network of more than 25 of the world’s strongest business schools. Each year, students or teams pick a startup and develop an investment pitch. Judges include Bridges Ventures partners and higher-ups from Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, and Goldman Sachs. Last year, more than 600 students from around the globe competed.”

Read the full feature on Fortune.com

To learn more about the MIINT program, watch the video below.

From WSJ: Raise Labs Scores $4.5M to Help Students ‘Unlock’ Scholarship Money

College-bound high-school students in the U.S. typically don’t know what scholarships they may qualify for until they are already applying to schools, or have been admitted and are looking for financial aid. But one San Francisco company called Raise Labs Inc. wants to help them “unlock” scholarship dollars each week starting as early as ninth grade, well before they decide where to apply.

According to the startup’s co-founder and Chief Executive Preston Silverman, Raise Labs, also known as Raise.me, just attained $4.5 million in Series A funding to take the company’s scholarship-discovery platform to a wide range of high schools, colleges and universities in the U.S.

Owl Ventures led the round joined by First Round Capital, SJF Ventures and individual angel investors including Deborah Quazzo, Mark Goines, Paul Freedman and Thomas D. Lehrman.

The Raise.me app asks high-school students to create a profile–a process they are usually comfortable with based on their use of other social media apps like Facebook or Snapchat–including details about who they are, where they are from and about their academic and extracurricular achievements. The app gives them prompts about what details to include.

For higher-education professionals typically in admissions, financial aid or enrollment departments, Raise.me represents a new way to get the word out about their schools and scholarships. It also allows them to connect with and attract a more diverse range of prospective students, including from populations that are underrepresented on their campuses.

Students at about 7,000 schools across the U.S. and in seven U.S. territories already use Raise.me. The company partners with colleges in 26 states so far to ensure scholarships are available to them.

Pennsylvania State University is among these institutions. According to Jacqueline Edmondson, associate vice president and associate dean for undergraduate education, the university promised scholarship money via Raise.me to those who, among other things, had a perfect attendance record, studied the same language for more than two or three years, took advanced course work, had high GPAs, or participated in a team sport.

So far, Penn State has committed $164,000 to 77 students (or about $4,000 each) who were admitted to the university after initially connecting via Raise.me.

Beyond helping kids attain scholarship money, Southwest High School Counselor Beatriz Zayas says the app has additional positive effects. Her high school in El Centro, Calif., has a population that is mostly Latino, she says, with some 600 seniors graduating in a typical year. A large percentage of her students will be the first to attend college in their families.

Because of this, she says, many wouldn’t have known about how the college admissions process works, or even the names of credible colleges and universities, beyond a few they hear about in pop culture. Raise.me helps them learn about all of this from an early point in their high-school education.

Owl Ventures’ co-founder and partner Jed Smith said that his firm expects Raise.me to work with hundreds of additional colleges and universities in the next year, while maintaining a high level of engagement and user-growth among high-school students.

Colleges and universities already spend millions of dollars on marketing outreach, he said, so they are easily willing to pay Raise.me a predictable, monthly fee for a direct connection to students who would be strong additions to their communities, he said.

Companies like Raise.me may eventually curb skyrocketing student debt and delinquency on student loans, the investor said.

Outstanding student loan balances in the U.S. stood at $1.16 trillion as of February 2015, according to reports from the New York Fed’s Consumer Credit Panel.

Prior to raising its Series A funding, Raise Labs attained $1 million in angel funding, as well as non-dilutive cash awards totaling $200,000 from education tech and business plan competitions including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s College Knowledge challenge, and others, Mr. Silverman said.

Originally published in The Wall Street Journal on April 22, 2015 by Lora Kolodny.

Daily Pennsylvanian: "Wharton Social Venture Fund teaches students to be investors"

Published April 4, 2015, by Bryn Ferguson for The Daily Pennsylvanian

The Wharton Social Venture Fund is showing off Wharton’s social impact side — by becoming the largest student-run platform in the world for investing in socially minded companies.

A few weeks ago, the WSVF, which operates under the Wharton Social Impact Initiative, announced collaborations with Jerusalem-based crowd-funding platform OurCrowdand investment firm Locust Walk Impact Partners.

WSVF is composed of 36 students — primarily MBA students, along with three undergraduates — who are divided into six investment sectors. This is the first year that undergraduates have taken part.

Similar to a venture capital firm, students go through the entire investment process from start to finish. Each of the sectors researches companies and pitches them to the investment committee, which then conducts further screening of the companies.

The WSVF started eight years ago as a strategic consulting group. “We are now one of the most attractive organizations for students to join. 15 percent of first year MBAs went to info sessions and a bit under 10 percent applied,” Co-President and second year MBA Jayson Tischler said.

“At the WSVF we have a dual mission,” Co-President and second-year MBA Eddie Nie said. “To support the social impact community as a whole by providing investments to social entrepreneurs across the U.S. and the world and to provide our students with experiential learning in impact investing.”

“I’m always looking to get more involved in the social impact space,” Wharton and College junior Anderson Tien said. “I absolutely love it. I’m on the health care team with six to seven other MBAs and they treat me like an equal.”

Prior to the new collaborations, the WSVF got its funds from the MBA Impact Investing Network and Training competition — which it won the past 2 out of 3 years — in order to invest $50,000 in the company it had selected. After placing as a runner-up in MIINT last year, the WSVF was still able to invest in a company after receiving funds from an alumni investor.

Through OurCrowd and Locust Walk Impact Partners, WSVF will now be able to invest in between two and four companies per year, providing them with at least $250,000 each.

Nie said that the relationship with OurCrowd is beneficial. "A big part of the learning process is engaging with entrepreneurs and the people in the industry," he said. "When you actually have the capital, students can have a different conversation with entrepreneurs.”

Nie added that the WSVF had been looking to grow its presence in the social impact space, which it can now achieve with the additional capital brought about by the partnership.

The idea for the partnerships came from 1991 Wharton graduate and 1999 Wharton MBA graduate Robert Fioretti, who “thought that combing the efforts of the Wharton community and the WSVF with the capabilities and reach of a platform like OurCrowd is a perfect marriage.”

OurCrowd had been looking for new channel partners that would do the sourcing and due diligence on potential companies that it could present to its investor platform.

“We were looking for partners that are … really focused on social impact. The match with the WSVF was natural,” CTO at OurCrowd Gadi Mazor said.

Mazor emphasized how beneficial the partnership would be for the companies invested in by OurCrowd following pitches by the WSVF. “A platform like ours can significantly enlarge the sum [of money] to create a much larger impact for the social impact projects,” he said. “Collectively we have about 8,000 investors. Currently the OurCrowd [investing] rounds are never less than 1 million.”

Fioretti echoed the beneficial nature of the collaboration, adding that that, “the partnership is enhancing the experiences of the students who are working so hard on the WSVF initiative, just by further professionalizing a process that they had already done an incredible job of establishing.”

Senior Director of WSII Jacob Gray clarified in a statement that Wharton has no formal or legal partnership with either Locust Walk Impact Partners or OurCrowd.

“Wharton’s goal in working with these groups is to provide a world-class experiential education in impact investing,” he said. “We want every student in the Wharton Social Venture Fund to have the chance to source and [apply] due diligence on a real, live impact deal. And we found that the best way to do this was to work with real, live venture investors like Locust Walk Impact Partners, which has access to capital through OurCrowd.”

Both Nie and Tischler have “high hopes” for the partnership with OurCrowd, which they hope to deepen in the future.

Tien said that the new opportunities are amazing. “Everyone has something to give back to the community. [At Penn], I think it is our minds. It is a greater impact that comes from these types of projects — not just a small scale."