Do we build a strong case in our presentation for the short- and long-term social impact of this app?
Do we clearly state the incredible market opportunity?
These were some of the questions we were asking each other on the last night before the MIINT competition, where we would deliver our final pitch in front of an investment committee.
This impact investment journey started in September 2014, when our six-member team (female strong!) was selected to represent Kellogg in MIINT: Duda Cardoso ’16, Ashley Luse ’15, Jamie Lu ’16, Blair Pircon ’16, Rebecca Sholiton ’16 and Alexandra Korijn ’15. MIINT is a program hosted by Bridges Ventures and the Wharton Social Impact Initiative to educate the next generation of impact investors.
Our first task was to develop our own investment thesis, which would help guide us through the sourcing and due diligence phase. Through several team discussions, and the guidance of our mentor Tasha Seitz, chief investment officer of Impact Engine, our team decided to target:
- Early stage social enterprises that have a scalable model and could achieve measurable social impact and financial returns.
- Enterprises that targeted underserved communities in the United States.
- Teams based in the Chicago area to facilitate frequent in-person interactions, with the goal of increasing the quality of our diligence.
The next step was to create a sourcing strategy in order to find companies that aligned with this investment thesis. Collectively, we created a long list of organizations and contacts to reach out to. To find out whether these organizations aligned with our investment thesis, we set up meetings with them over the phone or (preferably) in person. This process helped us narrow down our 30+ list of social enterprises to a shortlist of three high-potential candidates.
Our internal discussions to get from our shortlist of three to one were really interesting and fun. Each of us had unique prior experiences working in the finance, consulting and social enterprises space, and so the discussions brought up many interesting dimensions to consider. We challenged each other’s assumptions on the business models, the market potential, and the social and financial returns.
At the end, we unanimously voted for one: Infiniteach.
Infiniteach was truly impressive. Infiniteach’s team collectively had more than 40 years of experience in the autism education space. The co-founders, Katie Hench and Christopher Flint, had spent many hours providing one-on-one therapy for children with autism, but they realized that these services were not scalable and were a huge cost burden on families. By creating an app with evidence-based interventions, they believed they could bring these proven solutions to all families at an affordable cost.
The Infiniteach team tested this hypothesis with its ‘first gen’ product, which taught 10 skills to children with autism. Infiniteach received overwhelmingly positive feedback from parents and educators and were encouraged to develop the ‘second gen’ product: Prismatic.
With the second generation product ready for launch, Infiniteach was raising funds in order to hire additional technology and business development professionals. Infiniteach already had $270,000 committed from various angel investors by mid-April, but an additional $50,000 investment from MIINT would provide a meaningful contribution to the company’s growth and development.
After months of in-depth due diligence, we only became more convinced of Infiniteach’s potential. Now we just had to convince the MIINT investment committee.
In order to practice, many fellow Kellogg students and professors were prepared to listen to our pitch and ask us difficult questions. These practice sessions were incredibly valuable in helping us refine our story, particularly since we were almost ‘insiders’ after seven months on the project.
April 28 was the final day of the competition. There were a total of 10 business schools presenting that day, so we got to see many great pitches, ranging from clean water solutions in developing counties to sustainable food solutions in Europe.
After we all presented, the 10-member investment committee asked four groups to advance to the final round, which consisted of 15 minutes of Q&A with the committee.
We were extremely excited when they announced soon after the final round that we won the ‘best impact investment.’ We were even more excited to call Infiniteach with the great news.
Overall, it was a very rewarding experience to stand in the position of an impact investment fund and experience the full process of sourcing, due diligence and investment. It was equally rewarding to be a part of such a strong team of women in social finance.
We can’t wait to see what the future of Infiniteach looks like.
Alexandra Korijn ’16 is a student in Kellogg’s Two-Year MBA Program and active in the Net Impact Club, Board Fellows and European Business Club. After completing her Bachelors at Cornell University, Alexandra spent three years working at Dasra, India’s leading strategic philanthropy organization.