Yale Team Wins Impact Investing Competition for Second Straight Year
The winning team, composed of Vincent Caruso ’20, John Palfreyman ’20, Emma Broderick ’21, Leah Yablonka FES ’19, and Martha Deeds ’20, pitched and won a $50,000 investment in EVmatch, a peer-to-peer electric vehicle charging app.
For the second consecutive year, a team of Yale students took the top prize at the MBA Impact Investing Network & Training (MIINT) competition, hosted by the Wharton Social Impact Initiative and the Bridges Impact Foundation. The winning team, composed of Vincent Caruso ’20, John Palfreyman ’20, Emma Broderick ’21, Leah Yablonka FES ’19, and Martha Deeds ’20, pitched and won a $50,000 investment in EVmatch, a peer-to-peer electric vehicle charging app.
The Yale victory came after five months of intensive preparation. Two second-year MBA students, Susannah Burrage ’19 and Jake Harris ’19, led the effort. Starting in September, Burrage and Harris reviewed more than 50 applications and selected five teams of five people each to participate in the training program. Participants met weekly to discuss the fundamentals of impact investing and to hear from practitioners in the field. Each team also developed an investment thesis, researched companies, and performed due diligence. To decide which team would go to the global competition held at Wharton, the group convened a Yale SOM pitch-off on February 20, where each team presented its idea in front of a panel of impact investors, entrepreneurs, and Yale SOM faculty.
“The presentations at Yale were amazing, and frankly I think all of them would have been very competitive at the Wharton competition. The judges did not have an easy time deciding,” said Burrage.
The final selection was made based on which idea seemed to have the best potential for strong financial returns and scalable impact. The winning team argued that EVmatch could increase the adoption of electric cars by making more charging stations available to more people. EVmatch provides financial incentives for owners of residential and commercial charging stations to make them available to the public. Through the app, hosts generate income by renting their chargers when not in use, and drivers can easily find, reserve, and pay for the service using these stations.
At the global MIINT competition in Philadelphia, the Yale squad faced teams from more than 30 other business schools. The team advanced into the final round on April 13, alongside Oxford Saïd, Wharton, London Business School, Chicago Booth, and UCLA Anderson.
Bo Hopkins ’86, an investor and consultant who teaches social enterprise at Yale and was the MIINT team’s faculty advisor, served as a judge in the first round and watched the Yale team compete in the final. While he said that the “competition was fierce,” he noted that the Yale team stood out during the Q&A for its depth of preparation and confidence. “They had done significant prep work through the diligence process, and it paid off both in the presentation itself and later in the final award deliberations. They deserved to win.”
Burrage and Harris pointed to another strength of the team: its interdisciplinary composition. The Yale team included full-time MBAs (Vincent Caruso and John Palfreyman), an executive MBA student (Martha Deeds), a joint degree student (Emma Broderick), and a second-year student at the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (Leah Yablonka).
Team member Leah Yablonka ’19, an MEM candidate at the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, described working on such a diverse team as the highlight of her MIINT experience. “We took it as an opportunity for shared learning, where we learned as much from the MIINT curriculum as we did from each other,” she said. John Palfreyman ’20, another team member, also cited the diversity of backgrounds on the team but noted that all of its members shared “a passion for businesses with sustainable impact.”
Vincent Caruso ’20 credited the Yale MIINT program run by Harris and Burrage for preparing the team to excel. “Weekly meetings included guest speakers from VC firms around the country, who would tell us about their approach to the same investing tasks we were working on in MIINT. Most importantly, by the time we got to the final competition at Wharton, we’d already pitched in front of a large audience and VC panel during the Yale MIINT Competition at SOM, so we felt confident going into our presentation.”
Burrage was impressed by the effort put in by all the Yale participants in the MIINT program. “I think it’s really powerful that this program has been developed and sustained by SOM students. Students have taken it upon themselves to explore the field of impact investing in all sorts of ways and it’s exciting to see their hard work recognized in competitions like this,” said Burrage.
Yablonka said she expected the benefits of participating in the MIINT competition to extend beyond her school experience. “As someone who believes in finding market-based solutions for solving the greatest challenges we face today, MIINT taught me how to critically evaluate and pitch an investment that has potential to change the world while meeting a threshold for market viability.”
Burrage and Harris emphasized that interest in impact investing at SOM has been growing rapidly. The second annual Impact Investing Conference was held earlier this year and drew leaders in the field to Evans Hall. The subject has also appeared in classes and cases, including in a new course called Private Capital and Impact Investing. “The back-to-back wins squarely place SOM as a leader in impact investing at the MBA level,” said Harris. “It is incredible to see the success that students are having in this competition, new course offerings, and alumni and recent grads leading the way in field. The ethos of impact investing is something that has been embodied in the culture of SOM for a long time and is a terrific representation of the school’s mission to educate leaders for business and society.”
While Yale SOM’s 2019 MIINT champions celebrate, next year’s leaders, Kathy Julik-Heine ’20 and Aungar Chatterjee ’20, are laying the groundwork for a “three-peat.”