Social venture competition attracts MBAs nationwide

By Ute Frey, Haas School of Business

14 March 2001 | In the current business climate, entrepreneurship fever has died down. Despite that, the second annual Social Venture Competition now under way at the Haas School of Business has attracted passionate and serious aspiring social venture entrepreneurs.

Six finalists were named last week from the 33 participating teams from 15 business schools, including Cornell, Columbia, Kellogg, Michigan, Stanford and Yale. Finalists will make their final presentations to the judges on Saturday, April 14. The winners will be announced at a celebration dinner that evening.

To compete successfully, a business plan must show profit potential, have a quantifiable social or environmental bottom line, and promise a greater social impact than do existing firms in the industry. In addition, each team must include at least one MBA student from an accredited business school.

“The Haas Social Venture Competition represents the cutting edge of the emerging industry of early-stage social investing,” said Cathy Clark, managing director of Flatiron Future Fund and a competition judge. “It is the only competition in the country where social investors and the new generation of business talent can come together to create businesses that measurably impact today’s social problems.”
This year’s plans focus heavily on the environment and health, followed by human capital development, capital development, and education. Information about the Finalists include the following:

• Aprotea Biochips aims to be the premier provider of rapid and easy-to-use protein measurement systems to enhance drug discovery in the biotechnology research markets.

• Este World Ltd. recovers previously cut logs from the bottom of six Amazon tributaries to sell for commercial purposes.

• Ethic Invest gives investors the information they need to align financial investing goals with their personal values through a trusted financial adviser.

• Prisma MicroFinance provides loans in small amounts to businesses in the developing world to increase access to capital that is often denied by traditional financial institutions.

• Sea Power & Associates is a research and development corporation focused on bringing to market a new prototype technology that harnesses electric power from ocean waves.
• Wise Toad is a software development company that uses handheld technology and curriculum materials to address the problem of adult literacy.

This year’s teams will compete for a $10,000 first prize. Second- and third-prize winners will get $2,000 each. All three winners will have their plans circulated to 150 “social angel investors” that belong to the Investor’s Circle. All competing teams will receive written feedback from the judges at the semifinal and final rounds of the competition.

The 2001 competition started with a rules forum in November. Six leading social venture investors and entrepreneurs from across the United States participated in the forum to develop the rigor of the criteria by which the Social Venture Competition judges will measure social impact.

The competition organizers – all MBA students at the Haas School – have secured top social venture investors, philanthropists, venture capitalists, and social venture practitioners to judge the business plans.


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