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Educating and Cultivating the Next Global Generation of Impact Investors

The 2015-2016 academic year marks the first time that the Yale School of Management participated in the MBA Impact Investing Network & Training (MIINT)  program. Bridges Impact, in collaboration with the Wharton Social Impact Initiative, came together to found MIINT in 2011. Started in large part by student interest, MIINT aims to provide a comprehensive overview of how to approach early stage impact investing from both an impact (achieving positive social and/or environmental returns) and financial perspective.

MIINT’s goal is to provide experiential hands-on training to students, build bridges between different members of the impact investing space, and ultimately create a vibrant network of professionals inspired to do well by doing good. Representing Yale SOM at the finals this year to compete against 25 other business schools from around the world is a team consisting of Maggie Chau ’17, Hilary Gridley ’17, Alex Romano ’16, Sarah Toomey ’17, and Logan Yonavjak MF/MBA ’16.

Over the past 12 months, the impact investing space has witnessed events such as Goldman Sachs’ acquisition of Imprint Capital Advisors, and Bain Capital’s initiation of a social impact fund. At business schools, greater numbers of students are preparing for a career path to impact investing and, as a result, MIINT has seen the highest level of participation since inception at 600 students from across the globe.

As part of the eight-month curriculum, students learn from weekly modules covering topics such as the evolution of the impact investing field, formulation of an investment thesis, sourcing of seed stage ventures, impact measurement, due diligence considerations, seed stage valuation, and deal structuring. MIINT advisors, who are professionals in the industry, are assigned to each school and accessible to provide guidance along the way. The annual pitch competition in April gathers participating MBA programs to vie for an investment from MIINT into the most scalable and impactful early stage venture, judged by leaders in impact investing and VC sectors across the country.

After a challenging and extensive sourcing process to form a short list of 19 companies, our team had to find a company whose fundraising needs and timing matched those of MIINT’s investment in addition to meeting our investment thesis for both financial and impact outcomes. Ultimately, we selected a company with an innovative water-purification technology that can reduce toxins to never-before-seen trace levels. Another exciting factor is that the environmental footprint of this product—from manufacturing to consumption—is far lower than existing alternatives. The technology can be applied to various industries and has the potential to produce very attractive financial returns, predicated on successful commercialization, due to a flexible and scalable business model.

Compared to our team members’ previous professional lives, due diligence was relatively novel to most of us, not to mention evaluating an early stage venture through both an impact and financial lens. One of the most salient lessons we learned was the necessity of trust and reliance on the management team since uncertainly was pervasive at such an early stage. We also learned the importance of gaining comfort on the ultimate commerciality of the product early on in the sourcing process. While we were not selected to participate in the finals, our judges provided us with extremely valuable feedback that we hope to pass on to future Yale SOM students.

For those interested in impact investing, participating in MIINT during the upcoming school year is highly recommended. Aside from gaining hands-on experience in the performance of sourcing and due diligence, we were afforded a taste of a career in impact investing in a safe and supportive environment. As evidenced at Yale SOM over the last several years with the emergence of the Low-Carbon Portfolio Case Competition, the Responsible Investing Group, and Net Impact, interest in impact investing as a career has grown significantly. Of course, this is no surprise since impact investing is not only an exciting and challenging field, but it explicitly weaves together both business and society.

Students interested in MIINT during the 2016-2017 school year should reach out to the leaders, Jessel Patel and Sarah Toomey.