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Investing and Competing with Impact

Drawing on diverse backgrounds and experiences, a team of Oregon MBA students enjoyed a unique educational opportunity that culminated in late March 2021: Pitching to a group of venture capitalists an opportunity to make an impact investment in UpClusion, a privately-held, female-founded company based in Washington State offering inclusion and diversity solutions to the tech industry.

Among a handful of elite universities from across the country like Yale, Northwestern, and Harvard, the team from the University of Oregon were participating in the Turner MIINT competition, or MBA Impact Investing Network and Training, a collaboration between Bridges Impact Foundation and the Wharton Social Impact Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania.

Through the year-long curriculum from Wharton, MIINT trains the next generation to think like impact investors, diligently sourcing and analyzing early-stage impact investment opportunities by putting measurable social and environmental impact on equal-footing with the possible financial return.

Using market research and financial modeling, among other factors, such as cold-calling companies and interviewing CEOs and other executives, the team from Oregon selected UpClusion through a year-long process, presenting in March to an expert judging committee with stakes as high as a $50,000 investment in the company.

Emily Watts, a second-year MBA student with a sports business specialization, was part of this year’s UO team. She described her experience in the competition like many other investment competitions and processes—except there is extra focus on companies trying to make the world better.

Employing impact investing principles, MIINT teams completed modules alongside auditors, who were first-year MBA students assisting in the process of due diligence. Topics covered in the curriculum modules include an introduction to impact investing, formulating an investment thesis, and sourcing early-stage impact investments.

The teams then compiled a list of profitable companies that are not only good investment opportunities, but also companies promising the most social and environmental impact.

Although Watts’s background is outside finance, she said she “dove right in” to the MIINT process thanks to her teammates.

“Learning and working with them has been an incredible experience,” she said, “Working so closely together has been extremely valuable. I’ve learned a lot.”

Joining Watts on this year’s MIINT team were second-year Oregon MBA students Tyler Jaglowski, Traven Joseph, and Gloria Foxman, with first-year MBA students Ashley Lyons, Jordon Guess, Bunty Drewitt, Olivia Padilla, and Daniel Boulos serving as auditors. The team also received support from UO faculty representative, including associate professor of finance and Inman Research Scholar Stephen McKeon and John Lundquist, program manager for the Cameron Center for Finance and Securities Analysis.

The entire MIINT team speaks positively of the experience with Jaglowski noting, “Prior to competing, I had very limited knowledge about impact investing or venture capital.”

“Through the rigorous curriculum, I gained hands-on impact investing experience. Additionally, MIINT provided an opportunity to work with new classmates whom I now consider my close friends," he said. “Participating in the MIINT competition was the highlight of my UO MBA experience.”

Of the unique opportunity afforded Oregon MBA students, Lundquist College instructor and program manager for the Center for Sustainable Business Practices Ryan Cabinte said, “MIINT has a unique reputation for attracting the very best business schools in the world.”

“Given our strengths in finance and sustainability,” Cabinte continued, “it’s natural for our MBA students to want to compete.”

—William Kennedy