This year, the Sustainable and Impact Finance initiative launched the Haas Impact Fund, where MBA students pitch impact-driven startups for an equity investment of up to $50,000. On Friday April 19, the Haas Impact Fund virtually held its first ever Investing for Impact Pitch Competition.

The team that came in first place was MBA students Priscilla Luu, Mihir Mehan, and Lloyd Johnson who represented Leaf, a financial technology company that provides virtual banking beyond borders. The company enables cross-border mobile banking opportunities for the 70+ million forcibly displaced people in the world today, as well as broader 2+ billion unbanked globally.

Students, who took part in the Spring semester course taught by Professor Adair Morse and Julia Sze, divided into teams and were each tasked with sourcing and pitching a promising early-stage startup from one of the following impact areas:

  • Workforce and Financial Inclusion: Facilitating meaningful work opportunities and providing access to vital financial services for all.
  • Health and Wellbeing: Promoting healthy lives and wellbeing for all at all ages.
  • Renewable Energy: Investing in technology to utilize or accelerate the use of energy from sources that are not depleted when used.
  • Food and Water: Ending hunger, achieving food security, nutrition, and sustainable agriculture and improving access to clean water and sustainable water management.
  • Sustainable Products: Utilizing or designing products that lessen or eliminate the negative environmental cost during their entire life cycle, from extraction to waste disposal.

The judges at the Investing for Impact Pitch Competition were Adrianna Alterman from Salesforce Ventures, Eric Desai from Greenhouse Capital, Geoff Eisenberg from Ecosystem Integrity Fund, Lewam Kefala from VilCap Investments, and Renee Cheung from New Island Capital. The judging criteria for the competition was based on business viability of each company, as well as its impact potential.

Priscilla Luu, a member of the team representing Leaf said about the competition: “If I walk away with only one accomplishment and take away from my Haas MBA, it would be this past semester’s experience with HIF. I learned how to source and diligence companies, talk to amazing founders, write an investment memo, pitch a company, structure term sheets, and much more! I came to Haas with the goal of “exploring impact investing” and was able to accomplish just that through HIF – all while thoroughly enjoying the entire process!”

Photo by Dan Luscher – Competition participants and audience

Second place was awarded to the renewable energy team which represented Shyft, a iot-based distributed energy management solution provider aiming to provide clean, reliable and affordable energy to all, starting with Nigeria. The team included MBA students Paula Moren, Daisy Huang, and Owen Teach.

Owen Teach, a member of the team representing Shyft said: “All the way from sourcing and diligence to preparation for the pitch day, the Fund ended up with a number of exciting investment opportunities that will hopefully set the tone for a strong future!”

The other companies represented in the competition included Root Applied Sciences, Acari, and Dispatch Goods.

Since the inception of the Haas Sustainable Investment Fund in 2008, Berkeley Haas has been an institution at the forefront of impact investing education. Student interest in impact investing has soared over the past decade, and Haas continues to innovate new ways that students can gain real-life experience in the industry.

“We are incredibly proud of the inaugural student partners of the Haas Impact Fund. This new fund and pitch competition represent an exciting evolution of impact investing education here at Berkeley Haas, equipping students and the social enterprises they invest in with skills and capital to create positive impact for our future.” Kat Baird, Program Director Sustainable and Impact Finance.

Update written by Katie Chiou, Sustainable and Impact Finance Assistant