A software that can help electricity operators monitor and maintain microgrids located in remote rural communities netted a first place win and $50,000 in funding at the second annual Invest for Impact Pitch Competition. The event was held virtually April 23.
The winning student team–Jack Kerby-Miller, Simon Greenberg, both MBA 21, Rachel Stinebaugh, and Michael Calderón, both MBA 22–secured equity investment for early-stage startup 60Hertz, a women-led startup aiming to provide a maintenance software to help local electricity operators manage microgrids in remote locations.
The competition is the culmination of a semester-long course called the Haas Impact Fund in which Haas student venture partners find existing social impact startups and help pitch their innovations to secure equity investment. Many of the startups that are selected for the Haas Impact Fund are in housing development, health, renewable energy, sustainable services and supply chain, and financial access industries.
Five student teams consisting of a total of 20 first-and-second-year MBA students, pitched ideas ranging from an online childcare marketplace to a fintech app that would help unbanked communities gain access to credit to a bluetooth-enabled sensor to better track packages.
“I am absolutely thrilled we were able to fund a women-founded startup that is working to support remote communities, many of which are indigenous communities in Alaska,” said Michael Calderón, MBA 22. “I also feel deeply honored to have worked with my teammates who all brought their expertise and experience to deliver a winning pitch.”
Rachel Stinebaugh, MBA 22, who previously worked with microgrid startups in Burundi before coming to Haas, said 60Hertz was a great fit for the Haas Impact Fund and “well-positioned to address rural electrification in Alaska and other remote locations.”
“I’m incredibly proud of all the students who presented today,” said Julia Sze who co-led the course with Bulbul Gupta, both of whom are professional faculty members at Haas. “This course provides a real and exciting opportunity for our students to learn how to invest in early-stage companies that are ready to have a big impact on the world.”
Competition attendees also heard from keynote speaker and UC Berkeley alum Kesha Cash, general partner of Impact America Fund, who gave a talk about how “systemic racism is the largest economic market inefficiency” and the importance of investing in social impact companies to create positive, long-lasting change.