Learn about alternative startup models for impact-focused ventures: Venture Studios, Nonprofit Spin-Offs and Catalytic Investments

There is growing interest in investing in impactful ventures, especially with renewed attention on climate justice, racial equity and income inequality. Please join the Wharton Social Impact Group meeting on June 17th, to learn about and discuss the evolving impact-driven startup and investment landscape.

A panel of Wharton entrepreneur and investor alumni will share their experiences and perspectives on alternative startup models, including the venture studio, foundation spinoff and catalytic investments.

Our panel members will be:
  • Brent Chism: CEO, TaroWorks, a software-as-a-service spin-off of Grameen Foundation
  • Lauren Cochran: Managing Director, Blue Haven Initiative, a family office
  • Sherin Gobran (Moderator): Investment Advisor - Impact Investments & Emerging Markets
  • Suma Reddy: Co-Founder/CEO, Future Acres, part of Wavemaker Labs
Leslie Lichter, WSIG Chair and Interim Director and Consultant in the nonprofit and social enterprise sectors, will host the meeting and start us off. After our panel’s presentations and discussion, the program will continue for 30 minutes for additional questions specific to any one of the models and speakers.

You’ll be emailed the access link in advance. Our program will begin promptly at 12 noon. Log in a few minutes early so you don’t miss a thing! See registration details below.

  • Funders (pre-seed, seed, angel investors, family offices, high-net-worth) interested in learning about investing in new and creative impact asset classes.
  • Nonprofits, foundations interested in creating commercially sustainable initiatives.
  • Entrepreneurs interested in launching and growing companies that have social impact operating companies interested in social and environmental impact!
Discussion Topics:
  • What is a venture studio? How does it operate? What are the pros/cons of the venture studio model? How does the approach work on a for-profit basis? Can it work on a NFP basis?
  • What is a catalytic investment and how does it support early stage innovation? How are catalytic deals structured? Why and when would a family office invest in catalytic deals?
  • Can a nonprofit spin off a program as a stand-alone enterprise? What is required for success? How should we structure the organization to help build success?
  • Networking (5 min) networking with fellow Wharton alumni.
  • Opening Remarks (5 min)
  • Presentations (10 min each [5 minutes on model // 5 minutes on example]) (30 min total)
  • Questions (20 minutes)
  • Optional for audience - Q&A discussion (30 minutes)
Panel Bios:

Brent Chism (WG’01)
Brent is the CEO of TaroWorks, a for-profit software-as-a-service company making mobile tools to digitize last-mile operations in emerging markets. Brent also serves as the Executive Vice President of Grameen Foundation USA, an international nonprofit that enables the poor, especially women to create a world without poverty and hunger. Before joining Grameen and TaroWorks, Brent led the international market expansion for Kopo Kopo, a Nairobi-based fintech startup expanding the use of mobile money networks like M-PESA for merchant payments. Brent has worked in a variety of other technology sectors, including identity and information services, web hosting, and speech recognition.

Lauren Cochran (W’09)
Lauren Cochran is Managing Director at Blue Haven Initiative, an innovative, single-family office dedicated to investing for competitive returns as well as positive social and environmental change. Focusing on emerging- and frontier markets, Cochran leads strategy and execution for Blue Haven’s venture portfolio. As part of this work she spends more time in sub-Saharan Africa than anywhere else, sitting on the boards of several of Blue Haven’s portfolio companies, working with entrepreneurs, building the ecosystem and finding new investment opportunities.

Sherin Gobran
Sherin is a trusted advisor to asset owners, including foundations and HNW individuals on their impact assets and EM exposures. With deep background in equity research and portfolio management, she expanded coverage of geographies and industry sectors at Deutsche, Citi and Barclays. Prior to re-launching with JPMorgan, Sherin solved early-stage challenges during comprehensive engagements with impact entrepreneurs, tapping into private and government capital. Sherin has broad international experience across emerging and frontier countries with language capabilities in Arabic, French and Spanish. Her background includes graduate work at Wharton (MBA), as a Government Business Fellow, and Johns Hopkins-SAIS (MA).

Suma Reddy (W’09)
Suma is an entrepreneur, organizer and activist committed to centering innovation around justice to solve systemic problems. She’s currently CEO of Future Acres, an agricultural robotics company whose first product increases farm worker safety and farm efficiency. She is a 3x Ag Tech + Climate Tech founder, is active in inclusive tech communities (Women Who Hardware, Lesbians Who Tech, Republic), has been awarded the White House Champion of Change for her API queer advocacy work, is on the advisory board of Scale for ClimateTech and teaches Future of Food: Entrepreneurship as Activism at the NYC School of Visual Arts. She was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali and is a graduate of The Wharton School (MBA).

Thursday, June 17, 2021
12:00 PM ET - 1:30 PM ET

WCNY Supporting Members - $10 (WCNY supporting membership costs $95/yr at Join/Renew Membership)
Other Wharton Alumni & Alumni Guests - $20
Gold & Benefactor Members - $0

Meeting Access Information:
A link, accessible by personal computer, tablet or smartphone, will be emailed to all registered guests 24-48 hours prior to the event to the "Primary Email" address listed in your profile.  Please login to update your profile and confirm that the email address listed is correct.  We will attempt to provide the ability to ask questions at the end of the presentation and time permitting.

Pre-registration is required. Please register early as events can and do sell out quickly.
Registration is subject to availability and will close on Thursday, June 17th at 9:00am.

Registering from another Wharton alumni club? Click here for assistance.

Cancellations must be made at least 48-hours (business day) prior to the event date by sending an email to Gabriela Sanchez. Refunds or credits for future events are not available for any no-shows or late cancellations. Click here for full details.