By Trevor Fay ‘15
During the MBA application process, I learned about a growing group of people interested in something called “impact investing.” The industry struck a chord with me. Ever since I saw the poverty of rural Brazil during my Fulbright, I had stubbornly stuck to the dream that I could learn how to combine the power of the market with my social sector experience to make a sustainable impact in the lives of people in poverty.
I decided that Booth’s rigorous quantitative training would be the best way to complement my previous experience. However, I worried that choosing Booth would mean losing the camaraderie and well-worn path I might have enjoyed at business schools which have historically focused on social issues.
But then, just a month into my first quarter, I found myself sitting in an impact investing seminar put on by Booth’s Social Enterprise Initiative and Polsky Center with more than 40 other students who cared enough about impact investing to add an extra 3-hour non-credit class on top of packed first-quarter business school schedules.
In that first class, instructor Brian Axelrad, ’09, chief investment officer at Beyond Capital Fund (an impact investment fund focused on India and East Africa), laid out the structure of the seminar and how the curriculum would complement MIINT, the annual impact investing competition bringing together students from business schools across the US. To compete in MIINT, we formed seven teams, each of which focus on various verticals in the impact investing space (financial services, agriculture, health, education, etc.).
Each team works together to identify a number of companies seeking to create both financial returns and social impact. We would then choose and work with one company to perform a full due diligence on.
In the end, my team chose the financial services vertical. Then, through conversations over winter break with social entrepreneurs and some preliminary research, we found an amazing company to work with—LendSquare, based in Chicago. LendSquare’s founder Sebastian Villarreal is an extremely passionate entrepreneur, who is as excited to be working with us as we are with him. He is building upon LendSquare’s previous successes to provide a new product that will help drive job creation by refinancing loans to offer lower interest to small businesses desperately in need of credit.
On February 24, all seven teams will compete at Booth’s MIINT semi-finals in a pitching competition. The Booth team with the strongest presentation, best investment strategy, and most in-depth due diligence will go on to finals at Wharton in the spring.
I couldn’t be happier with the breadth of experience, demographics, and passion that our team brings: Arno (a successful Swedish entrepreneur), Cristina (Colombian World Bank associate), Chris (strategic finance manager), Natalie (actuarial consultant), and Yoni (community activist and deep thinker). Everyone has proven to be passionate, and for those who didn’t already know each other, have all become fast friends and comrades in arms. It makes me smile to have found my tribe at Booth.
The Social Enterprise Initiative with the Polsky Center of Entrepreneurship and Innovation this fall launched a new seminar series on impact investing. The seminar is run in conjunction with the nationwide MBA Impact Investing Network and Training (MIINT) competition, an experiential learning opportunity during which MBA student teams source and conduct diligence on early-stage impact investments.