Students from Yale School of Management, the Wharton School, and Oxford Saïd Business School claimed victory at the 8th annual MIINT (MBA Impact Investing Network & Training) competition on Saturday, April 13, securing a total of $100,000 in impact investments for the three companies they pitched.
A collaboration between Bridges Impact Foundation and Wharton Social Impact, the MIINT is a year-long experiential program designed to give students at business and graduate schools a hands-on education in impact investing. Students learn about integrating social and environmental impact into the investment process as they assess early-stage impact venture capital deals. The MIINT is supported by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the Moelis Family Foundation, and Liquidnet for Good.
The program culminates with a high-stakes competition, and this year, over 150 students from 30 business schools around the world traveled to Wharton to compete. One team from each participating school pitched the impact company they sourced to a panel of expert judges for the chance to win a $25k-$50k investment into that same company. Finalist judges included Surya Kolluri, WG’92, of Bank of America Merrill Lynch; Brian Walsh of Liquidnet for Good; Phoenix Wang of Spring Point Partners; Tasha Seitz of Impact Engine; and Brian Trelstad of Bridges Fund Management. There were also 10 additional industry experts judging the semifinals round.
The competition was particularly special to semifinalist judges Preeti Bhattacha of the Heron Foundation, Jesse Simmons of Align Impact, and McKenzie Smith of Luminate (part of the Omidyar Group), who are all MIINT alumni.
“The MIINT competition was a highlight of my time in grad school — the program offers impact investing experience that’s difficult to replicate in the classroom, and I’ve even stayed in touch with a few peers that I met at the competition,” said McKenzie Smith. “This year, I was thrilled to come back as a judge. The impact investing field needs more investment professionals who can bring the same level of rigor to the impact analysis as they do to the investment side of a transaction. The MIINT is a great training ground for that talent, and I look forward to seeing how the teams at Wharton Social Impact and Bridges Impact Foundation continue to grow the program in the future.”
Winning Teams and Finalists
The winner of the 2019 competition was a team from Yale School of Management—claiming their second consecutive title. The students (Emma Broderick, Vinnie Caruso, Martha Deeds, John Palfreyman, and Leah Yablonka) presented EVmatch, a peer-to-peer electric vehicle charging app that they believe could increase the adoption of electric cars. Their win gives EVmatch the opportunity to receive a $50,000 investment from outside investors*.
One runner-up team was from Wharton. Students Deborah Chu (WG’19), Juan Zavala (WG’19), and Jenny Pikman (WG’19) presented OKO, a company that provides crop insurance in emerging markets. The company aims to stop the economic devastation that uninsured smallholder farmers experience when weather systems and natural disasters — fires, floods, droughts — destroy their crops. It was the first time in several years Wharton has made it to the finals of the competition. Wharton’s finish gives OKO the opportunity to receive a $25,000 investment from outside investors.*
“All our hard work paid off!” said Deborah Chu. “We were as comprehensive as we could practically be in our diligence. We were really excited to be able to tell our entrepreneur the good news!”
Finally, the other runner-up team was from Oxford’s Saïd Business School. The students (Nick Andreou, Alma Gutierrez, Emma Karanja, Aiasha Khalid, and Alex Wankel) presented BanaPads, an innovative company that makes sustainable feminine hygiene products while providing employment opportunities for Ugandan women. Their win gives BanaPads the opportunity to receive a $25,000 investment from outside investors.*
Teams from London Business School, Chicago Booth, and UCLA Anderson School of Management were also selected as finalists. A team from Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan won the award for Best Diligence.
Judges deliberated for over an hour as they looked for a number of factors in choosing winners—a compelling and scalable impact proposition, rigorous diligence, and a demonstrated potential for strong financial returns.
“When choosing winners, I looked for passion for the social cause, understanding of unintended consequences (since social issues are deeply interconnected), and depth of financial analysis,” said judge Surya Kolluri, WG’92.
Brian Trelstad, another judge, added: “The stronger investment memos were ones that made a concerted effort to dig deeper into the potential impact of the investment, making it clear what impact was being delivered, who would benefit, and how much they would benefit.”
“What stood out most was the energy the students bring to MIINT — the chemistry between the team members and across the whole MIINT body of students. The quality of impact analysis has been improving steadily every year that I have seen the teams in action. Soon they will overtake us as the judges, I am sure,” said Kolluri.
*Note: all investments into winning companies are pending further independent review by the investors.
2019 Trends and Observations
This year, student teams pitched companies from the fintech and financial inclusion sectors more than any other sector — 11 of 30 presentations. Steven Rogers, a student at IE Business School in Spain, believes this trend might be a result of the number of companies coming to market in this sector. His team pitched Mosabi, an app that seeks to unlock financial opportunities for underserved populations through innovative learning. “We liked how devoted the Mosabi team was to their mission, how interested they were in the MIINT, and how their solution could easily scale and expand to new markets,” said Rogers.
There were also many presentations of companies that address needs in emerging markets, including Mali, Ghana, and Rwanda. “I think there is a lot of compelling innovation and ingenuity going on in emerging markets currently, perhaps more so than in the United States,” said Chloe Tirabasso, a University of Oregon MBA student whose team pitched Oze, a tech service to help small businesses in Ghana. “We were impressed with Oze precisely because they were tapping into the innovation already prevalent in Ghanaians; they have essentially built an app that capitalizes on the strengths of Ghanaian small businesses and helps them build on successes they had already begun to achieve independently. From the beginning, we were interested in companies that saw themselves as partners instead of aid-givers. Luckily, there are a high number of social enterprises with this mentality in the emerging markets space.”
Outside of competing, students enjoyed several learning opportunities throughout the day. With a strong focus on impact investing careers, the MIINT provided one-to-one career discussions with judges and a number of other leading impact investors, in addition to a speaker panel during the competition. There were also numerous opportunities for the students to network.
Nick Ashburn, senior director of Wharton Social Impact, is enthusiastic about the MIINT’s future. “Not only do we continue to see growing interest in impact investing training from schools around the world, but we also see a growing desire for like-minded students to connect with each other through the program,” he said. “I look forward to enhancing the network of the MIINT even more in the coming years.”
Disclaimer: The information in this article is intended solely to provide information on an educational program — the MBA Impact Investing Network & Training (MIINT) program — at the Wharton Social Impact Initiative. Neither the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Bridges Impact Foundation, nor the MIINT’s sponsors provide any endorsement, either implied or explicit, in companies that participate with MIINT.
For more information on the program, its process, or participating schools and judges, visit themiint.org.
– Nisa Nejadi
Posted: April 24, 2019