The University of Texas at Austin Takes Top Prize in First Ever Virtual MIINT 2019-2020
In the MIINT’s ninth annual (and first virtual) competition, MBA student teams from around the globe presented their pitches in hopes to secure up to $50K in impact investments for high-impact ventures.
Students from McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin, University of Cambridge Judge Business School, and INSEAD claimed victory at the ninth annual MIINT (MBA Impact Investing Network & Training) competition on Saturday, April 4, securing a total of $100,000 in impact investments for three real-world companies they researched, analyzed, and pitched.
A collaboration between Bridges Impact Foundation and Wharton Social Impact, the MIINT is a year-long experiential learning program designed to give students at business and graduate schools around the world a hands-on education in impact investing. Students learn about integrating social and environmental impact into the investment process as they source and assess early-stage impact venture capital deals. In short, the MIINT program trains students to think like impact investors.
The program culminates with a high-stakes competition, an event that students look forward to all year long. Typically, students travel to Wharton’s Philadelphia campus to compete in the semifinals and final competition. This year, of course, travel wasn’t possible, but that didn’t stop student passion and enthusiasm for the program — so for the first time ever, the MIINT went virtual.
Despite the impact that the COVID pandemic had and is having on so many dimensions of life, the resilience from the program team and the student participants was incredible. Thirty schools participated with 138 students joining from Los Angeles to Milan to Singapore.
“The MIINT remains the preeminent impact investing educational program in the world,” said Brian Trelstad of Bridges Impact Foundation. “Despite the challenges students have faced over the last few months, MIINT teams have been persistently diligencing companies and executing their final presentations.”
Tyler Hoffman and Adwoa Asare from Wharton Social Impact and Bridges Impact Foundation, respectively, run the MIINT program operations. They acted swiftly and meticulously to turn the massive conference into a smooth virtual experience.
“When we realized how serious the impact of the coronavirus would be for the world and for our students, we knew we had to make a change,” said Tyler Hoffman, Associate Program Manager at Wharton Social Impact. “Going virtual was the only way. It took strong organization and collaboration, but it was all worth it to ensure we could provide students with the amazing experience they’ve all been looking forward to.”
In preparation for the culminating event, students credited frequent Zoom calls and WhatsApp messages in helping them prepare. As for the competition itself, the virtual MIINT worked similarly to an in-person MIINT competition, with a few tweaks. A key difference was spreading out the semi-finals and finals across several days, given different time zones and availability of participants.
On April 1 and 2 for the semifinals, all MIINT teams virtually pitched an impactful company of their choosing to an Investment Committee, a panel of expert judges. Seven teams were selected to continue to the virtual global finals on April 4, where they pitched to a new Investment Committee. As with a typical in-person MIINT, the winning team of this year’s virtual competition will still have the chance to receive a $50,000 investment into the company they pitch*, capturing a real impact investment for this company they’ve come to know and recommend. Two runner-up teams each have the chance to receive a $25,000 investment into the companies they pitched.*
Another key difference in this virtual event was that for the first time ever, the schools remained anonymous through all rounds of presentation and judging. “We added this dimension to remove the potential for unconscious bias that might be associated with a school name. It was very successful and also added an element of suspense and excitement to the virtual competition that we did not anticipate,” said Adwoa Asare, Program Manager of the MIINT.
Judges for the 2020 MIINT finals included: Katherine Klein, Vice Dean of Wharton Social Impact Initiative and Professor of Management at Wharton; Eduardo Medeiros, President of 11 1/2 Holdings; Ron Moelis, Founding Partner of L+M Development Partners; Sarah Morgenstern, WG’11, Principal of US Investment at Flourish; Tasha Seitz, Partner at Impact Engine and Adjunct Professor of Social Enterprise at the Kellogg School of Management; Brian Trelstad, MIINT Founder and Partner at Bridges Fund Management; and Brian Walsh, Head of Impact at LiquidNet.
There were also 20 additional industry experts judging the semifinals round.
Winning Teams and Finalists
MCCOMBS SCHOOL OF BUSINESS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN
Once the finalist judges made their decision, the anonymity of the schools was lifted. The winner of the 2020 competition was a team from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin. The students James Alvarez, Amie Harris, Allison Napier, Connor Taylor, and Charlotte Thomas presented EQO, a company that provides diagnostic and treatment services to tackle invasive species in aquatic ecosystems. Their win gives EQO the opportunity to receive a $50,000 investment from outside investors.*
UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE JUDGE BUSINESS SCHOOL
One runner-up team was from University of Cambridge Judge Business School. Julian Payne, Yuanyuan Gong, Ahmed Raafat, Daewon Lee, and Nareewat Kurjareevanich presented OXWASH, a sustainable laundry cleaning service that aims for zero net carbon emissions from collection to washing to delivery. Cambridge’s finish gives OXWASH the opportunity to receive a $25,000 investment from outside investors.*
Finally, the other runner-up team was from INSEAD. The students Daniele Packard, Erik Urosa, Eva Perrett, Henk Peterse, and Flora Xu presented Simusolar, a company that finances accessible, affordable, and energy-efficient appliances for off-grid homes and businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa. Their win gives Simusolar the opportunity to receive a $25,000 investment from outside investors.*
Teams from McGill University Desautels Faculty of Management, UCLA Anderson School of Management, University of Toronto Rotman School of Management, and Yale School of Management were also selected as finalists. A team from MIT Sloan won the award for “Best Diligence.” This award can go to any MIINT team (not just finalist teams) to celebrate strong diligence work even if the company pitched ultimately isn’t being recommended for investment.
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.
“In addition to evaluating the depth and rigor of the financial analysis and due diligence, I really sought out a strong case for social or environmental impact—what was the impact, and would it make a difference?” asked judge Katherine Klein, Vice Dean of the Wharton Social Impact Initiative. Acknowledging the unique challenges students faced this year in preparation for the competition, she said, “I appreciated the adaptability of all teams involved, and was thrilled with the quality and thoroughness of the 2020 MIINT pitches.”
This year, judges noticed that a significant number of presentations centered on renewable energy, water waste reduction, and clean air companies. In light of the COVID-19 crisis, teams revised their presentations to discuss how the companies they pitched are adapting and responding to the outbreak. It will be interesting to see, in the 2021 MIINT competition, how and/or if the COVID-19 crisis influences the companies the students choose to pitch.
*Note: all investments into winning companies are pending further independent review by the investors.
Reflecting on the 2020 MIINT Competition
While students were certainly disappointed to not travel to Philadelphia and pitch in-person, they nevertheless appreciated the experiential learning opportunity the MIINT provided.
Here’s what some of the teams had to say:
MIT Sloan team: “Throughout this process, we’ve learned a ton about the incredible work of social entrepreneurs working towards closing opportunity gaps across the country. Especially in times like these, they make us optimistic about the future of inclusive economic development across the U.S.”
Oxford Said Business School team: “The year has been a global roller coaster which has shed light on ‘essential’ products and services that positively impact people’s lives. Through the MIINT, we are proud to support the impact entrepreneurs who are tirelessly driving those solutions. The MIINT taught us new tools and ways of collaboration to draw on as we take our impact careers forward. It has been one of our MBA highlights!”
McCombs School of Business at UT Austin team: “The MIINT program allowed us to have a mutual relationship with an impressive entrepreneur. During the due diligence process, we were able to lend our business knowledge and learn more about this highly technical and impactful industry. Though it was unfortunate that we couldn’t meet the rest of the teams and judges in person this year, we were thrilled to be able to compete virtually with schools from across the globe.”
University of Cambridge Judge Business School team: “This has been a tough but extremely rewarding journey for us. We got to see how experienced impact investors think about social ventures and learn from their unique angles. The hands-on experience in impact investing that we had through MIINT was unparalleled. We plan to take the learnings forward to have impactful careers.”
The Wharton School team: “The best part about participating in MIINT was the ability to work closely with mission-driven entrepreneurs working on innovative ways to solve critical development issues. We presented on behalf of a fintech company that has come up with an innovative way to expand access to financial services to some of the world’s most vulnerable populations. Though we weren’t able to meet in person in the days leading up to the competition, we were able to connect virtually on video calls and a team WhatsApp group.”
Sandi Maro Hunt, Wharton Social Impact’s Managing Director, said, “Necessity is, indeed, the mother of invention: the COVID crisis forced the program to go virtual in an instant and we have learned a lot from that experience. The innovations from this year’s program will enhance the learning experience in years to come, and help grow the program in ways we hadn’t imagined. Bravo to all for their nimbleness and creativity.”
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