Launched at Michigan Ross, First-Ever Student Led Social Investing Fund Celebrates 10 Years of Impact
Launched at Michigan Ross in 2009, the Social Venture Fund was the first student-led impact investing fund in the country. The goal of the fund is to invest in and support innovative companies that have an emphasis on social and environmental impact in their business models.
Ten years later, the students who manage the fund are reflecting on a decade of impact, and sharing the lessons they’ve learned in a recently released 10th anniversary report.
The Social Venture Fund makes early-stage investments of up to $100,000 in sustainable, innovative, for-profit organizations that deliver financial returns, while placing social impact at the heart of their mission.
And since its launch, the SVF has invested in nine early stage companies across four areas of focus: food systems and the environment, healthcare, education, and urban revitalization.
Groups of Michigan Ross MBA and BBA students manage all aspects of the fund’s operations — sourcing applicant deals, initial screening analysis, due diligence, investment negotiation, and monitoring of the investment portfolio — while Ross professor Gautam Kaul serves as faculty advisor, and an engaged board member committed to the educational mission of the fund.
After exploring many different models of measuring impact during the due diligence phase, leadership of the fund eventually created their own framework.
Before an investment is made, a team of students performs in-depth due diligence investigating the outputs, outcomes, and impacts of a potential investment, including potential financial return. The 10th anniversary report shares the major learnings from some of those investigations and the impact made by the SVF’s first decade of investments.
Monika Johnson, MBA/MS ‘19 and most recent director of portfolio for the Social Venture Fund, said the report is being released at an important time in the investment industry.
“There is a larger conversation happening right now among investors on the best way to measure impact, debating the effectiveness models like social return on investment and impact multiplier of money,” Johnson said. “SVF is taking an active role in this dialogue, adding our opinions and strategies based on 10 years of experience. Joining SVF is an opportunity for students to be a part of this conversation.”
The Social Venture Fund, housed within the Zell Lurie Institute, is just one of the many student-led investment funds at Michigan Ross. There are more student-led funds at Ross than any other business school, and they collectively manage more than $10 million in funds.
Read the full report here [PDF] and learn more about the Social Venture Fund and their portfolio companies below.
Food Systems and The Environment
Chirps (Six Foods)
Six Foods uses crickets milled into a flour to make high protein tortilla chips (Chirps). The goal is to substitute animal protein with insect protein. By doing so, Six Foods seeks to dramatically reduce the land and water usage and greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of animal proteins.
Powerhouse Dynamics analyzes the electricity consumption of equipment, helping owners of small, commercial facilities reduce their operating costs by delivering the intelligence required for effective energy management and cost savings. The reduced energy usage leads to reduced carbon emissions and air pollution.
Dryade’s Public Market
Dryade’s Public Market provides high quality, safe, and affordable fresh foods from regional farmers and fisheries to schools, universities, hospitals, and underserved communities in New Orleans.
Using the Loveland Technologies app, property data can be easily collected with smartphones and tablets and shared through a centralized platform, enabling governments, municipalities, philanthropic organizations, and public-private partnerships to address city blight in a more comprehensive and community-focused method than before. Using Loveland’s technology, the City of Detroit has completed the first city-wide blight survey.
Matterhorn provides online dispute resolution to courts. Its 24/7 access and education component empowers defendants to work with the court to resolve minor violations informally and at a convenient time. Matterhorn-enabled courts handle many high-volume infractions completely online, saving the public and courts both time and money.
Conversa’s main product is a health IT solution called “Digital Checkups.” The solution allows organizations to monitor and engage patients between visits with their providers. The platform provides hospital systems and payers an automated way to bridge the gap in communication between visits, helping care teams stay informed and manage populations, while ensuring that patients stay on track with their care plans.
Mytonomy is a video-based social network designed to bring alumni advice to high school students. Mytonomy helps young people ages 14–25 make better decisions about life choices, and inspires them about what their future can become. The company’s goal is to improve student outcomes and save time and money for schools.
Querium offers a virtual tutoring solution that helps students master critical STEM skills, preparing them for college and beyond. Their platform delivers personalized, bite-sized lessons with expert, step-by-step assistance that motivates students to succeed.
LearnZillion was the first investment made by the Social Venture Fund back in 2012. The company provides resources for educators to share best practices and collaborate. The SVF contributed to an initial $2.4 million funding round for LearnZillion, and a subsequent round of capital has brought the sum total of VC financing for the company to $9.4 million.