UM’s student-run investment fund targets start-up climate technology companies


University of Michigan students and faculty have launched a student-run investment fund targeting start-up climate technology companies that aim to make a real difference on climate change.

The fund is the centerpiece of the Michigan Climate Venture, a one-of-a-kind multidisciplinary program at the intersection of climate technology and venture capital at UM. The program is designed to provide a hands-on learning experience that will prepare students for impactful careers in the fight against climate change.

It was developed by professors and MBA students from the Ross School of Business in partnership with UM’s School for the Environment and Sustainability and Erb Institute.

“MCV seeks to be a distinctive educational experience at a leading public research university: problem-oriented and action-oriented, rigorous and data-driven, multidisciplinary, enhanced by technology, and co-created and managed by students “, said Gautam Kaul, the fund’s faculty director and professor of finance and professor Robert G. Rodkey Collegiate of Ross Business Administration.

“MCV is based on the success of the Social Venture and International Investment funds, which I also oversee at Michigan Ross, and is in partnership with the Erb Institute and SEAS, and focuses on the most pressing and most pressing global societal issue. challenge we face: climate change. “

Based at SEAS, the MCV fund is the first student-run fund outside of Michigan Ross at UM, Kaul said. It is open to full-time graduate students from schools across campus to take advantage of the expertise that can be found at the university. The fund also adopts the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion in its recruitment, experience and operations.

This year, approximately 20 students have been accepted into the fund, including full-time MBA students from Ross as well as those from SEAS and the College of Engineering. Throughout the academic year, members will collaborate to research, select, control and ultimately invest and support agreements aligned with the fund’s mission.

The founding management team of the fund consists of seven full-time Ross MBA students who are also double degree students at the Erb Institute: Sam Buck, Laura Dyer, Janet Genser, Chelsea Parker, John Pontillo, Olivia Rath and Colleen Sain. Two Michigan Ross alumni, Joe Garcia and Leah Gustafson, also worked with Kaul to conceptualize and recruit members to start the fund, and dual degree student Celia Bravard helped create the impact assessment framework. of the fund during the summer.

“Michigan Ross, and UM at large, are distinguished by their focus on creating positive impact, strong action-based learning opportunities and a vibrant learning community,” said Rath, who co-leads the education component of the fund.

“MCV embodies each of these elements: it combines students with a wide range of personal and professional experiences, perspectives and lived experiences to embark on shared learning and practical experience of assessment and investment in technologies and solutions to help mitigate global climate change. “

Genser said the team spent the last year defining and refining the fund’s investment thesis, the group’s culture, the fund’s operations and the role they wanted the fund to play at university. and in the broader climate technology venture capital landscape.

“We hope to be the ‘hub’ for climate on campus, which means we are connected to most student groups, climate research labs and climate-focused events on campus,” a- she declared. “We have a vision that perhaps one day MCV will also become an incubator for climate technology startups, and we hope to be the first of many university climate funds.”

Pontillo said he thinks MCV is important for many reasons, starting with the possibility for students to have hope for the future of the planet.

“We all face an uncertain future in which lives around the world will be affected by the increasingly serious consequences of climate change. We must devise a method to face and combat this challenge in a sustainable and hopeful way, ”he said. “MCV does just that, while allowing students to teach and learn together, so they can use what they have learned in MCV and incorporate it into their careers to expand their anti-change efforts.” climate. “

Sain, who has a background in startups and software engineering, said she joined MCV because she felt it was a perfect way to make an impact now, while also gaining the skills she will need. long-term.

“Having worked in startups at different stages, both before and during graduate school, I have witnessed firsthand the power to inject capital into the bold visions of a passionate founder,” Sain said. “Considering our world’s most pressing problem, the creation of MCV aimed to harness UM’s excellence in entrepreneurship studies and the history of student-run impact funds to meet the needs of entrepreneurs. in sustainable development that innovate in the area of ​​decarbonization. “

After being a member of the Social Venture Fund for two years, Buck also said that leading MCV fits well with his career goals.

“I came to UM to develop a skill set that would allow me to step out of the sidelines and become an active contributor to finding creative solutions,” he said. “MCV provides students with the tools and experience to dive head first into climate space and make a real impact today. Students will be ready to go as soon as they graduate.

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