New fund launches for social impact startups

Jorge Calderon, founder of the new Berkeley Haas Social Venture Fund, with Venture Fellow Jessie Tang, MBA 20,
Jorge Calderon, founder of the new Berkeley Haas Social Venture Fund, with Venture Fellow Jessie Tang, MBA 20. Photo: Jim Block.

Maggie Fried, MBA 19, spent years working for nonprofits before coming to Haas.

Now, Fried is getting a chance to make a different sort of impact as one of four Portfolio Fellows who are working to support social impact startups on campus through the new Berkeley Haas Social Venture Fund (BH-SVF).

Maggie Fried
Portfolio Fellow Maggie Fried

“I came to Haas to learn how to grow a business and provide strategic support,” said Fried, who is focused on food, water, and health-related startups. “To be able to put into play what I’ve been learning is so meaningful to me.”

The BH-SVF program’s mission is two-fold: it provides experiential learning opportunities for graduate students interested in impact investing, while also giving student-led social ventures financial support, mentoring, and resources.

Launched in spring 2018 by Haas entrepreneurship lecturer Jorge Calderon, the fund allots two types of awards: a resource award, which provides ventures with an expert network, mentoring from the Portfolio Fellows, and office space, among other benefits; and a financial award that grants up to $5,000 to social ventures developing businesses. Recipients also get three months of dedicated coaching from a network of advisors, who are primarily UC Berkeley and Haas alumni.

Fried is among four full-time MBA students who have been named Portfolio Fellows in the new program, which is an independent study course. She joins Stephanie Solove, MBA 19, who is focused on education and the workforce, Jessie Tang, MBA 20 (financial services and housing), and Sam Roth, MBA 19 (energy and the environment). Fellows are already experiencing the value of the new program. “I’m meeting people across Berkeley’s social entrepreneurship space, serving as an advocate, and supporting these entrepreneurs as they build out their ideas,” Tang said.

Portfolio Fellows conduct multiple rounds of due diligence and weigh in on financial award decisions made by the fund’s managing council, which includes Calderon as chair, and Haas Lecturer Julia Sze and Senior Lecturer Sara Beckman.

Jorge Calderon
Jorge Calderon says alumni will play a big role as mentors.

The first grant recipient is Pedi-Ed, a health education non-profit co-founded by Ahaana Singh, BS 19 (public health), Caroline McGuire, a senior majoring in integrative biology, and Boston University senior Adam DeAngelo. Pedi-Ed produces illustrated videos explaining severe health conditions to pediatric patients and their families. With their initial award, Singh said she hopes to hire full-time staff, increase outreach, and expand the range of medical topics in the startup’s video library.

Among the fund’s goals is to support 10 to 20 social venture startups per semester, said Calderon, who is also a social impact fellow at the Haas Institute for Business and Social Impact and a previous recipient of the Richard H. Holton Teaching Fellow Award.

“The fund addresses the growing interest Berkeley students and alumni have in pursuing careers that integrate positive social or environmental impact with business innovation,” he said. “BH-SVF joins a rich ecosystem of entrepreneurship and impact innovation, campus programs, clubs, and courses that are collectively preparing future leaders who go beyond themselves.”

Haas alumni play a critical role with the the new fund, Calderon added. “We are lucky that Berkeley alumni constantly offer to help our students,” he said. “The fund incorporates their interests by providing them with a unique way to be part of the learning process as not only donors, but mentors and advocates. ”

The fund’s first donor is the Sanaya Shah Memorial Fund, created by members of the Berkeley MBA for Executives class of 2017 in memory of the daughter of classmate Sumit Shah and his wife, Astha Shah. “They have been wonderful to work with on our shared vision and we appreciate their thoughtfulness and offer of support,” Calderon said.

In the future, there are plans to scale the program by partnering with additional alumni and others interested in expanding social entrepreneurship at Berkeley.

Startups interested in applying for a BH-SVF award must address a pressing social or environmental issue. Teams should include at least one current Berkeley student as a founder and should a demonstrate commitment to building their social venture.  The fund is open to both for-profit and nonprofit business models.