This week, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania announced a new partnership to provide students with world-class experiential training in impact investment through an online crowdfunding platform, and to greatly expand the student-run Wharton Social Venture Fund (WSVF), a flagship program operated under the Wharton Social Impact Initiative.
Wharton Social Impact Initiative (WSII), the School’s hub for social impact activities, research, and opportunities, will lead the collaboration with OurCrowd, an equity-based online crowdfunding platform, and investment firm Locust Walk Impact Partners.
This development makes Wharton’s offering the largest and most active student-run impact investing fund in the world.
In this unique model, WSII trains and supervises MBA and select Wharton undergraduates who staff the Wharton Social Venture Fund. These students then work with Locust Walk Impact Partners to identify genuine investment opportunities; capital for these investments will come through a dedicated social impact channel on the OurCrowd crowd-funding platform.
“We are delighted that our students are getting real-life, experiential education in impact investing,” says WSII Senior Director Jacob Gray, who oversees the Wharton Social Venture Fund. “It was important for WSII to maintain our focus squarely on the educational opportunity for students. This way Locust Walk can focus on doing great deals, OurCrowd brings a platform for investors, and Wharton brings the best students in the world.”
Founded in 2007, the WSVF portfolio has included strategy and co-investment projects, with an approach focused on companies in education, energy, health and wellness, food and nutrition, environmental sustainability, and financial inclusion. The group also annually competes in the MBA Impact Investing Network & Training Program (MIINT) and has won the competition two of the last three years.
As the largest and most active equity-funding crowd platform, OurCrowd is disrupting and democratizing the traditional Angel and Venture Capital funding models.
“Crowdfunding is a perfect way to raise funds for impact investing,” says OurCrowd CEO and Founder, Jonathan Medved. “We have already invested in companies that are changing the world in diverse areas such as disabilities, gun safety, food security, malaria diagnostics, tsunami warning, prescription drug assurance, and more. By working together with Locust Walk and the Wharton Social Venture Fund, we will dramatically expand the impact investing ecosystem.”
Locust Walk Impact Partners is led by Rob Fioretti, who received both his undergraduate and MBA degree from Wharton. The investment firm is staffed entirely by MBAs trained by the Wharton Social Venture Fund.
“Combining the talents of some of the best and brightest business minds in the world with the leading crowdfunding site in the world is a natural fit,” says Fioretti, “And we are thrilled that we will be able to offer individuals the opportunity to invest and participate in the growth of these select companies.”
The collaboration will take effect immediately. The first deals are expected to launch on the Our Crowd platform in Q2 2015.