As in previous years, the LSE was again represented by its students at the Turner MIINT competition. Professor Stephan Chambers, along with the team at the Marshall Institute, mentored and supported six School of Public Policy (SPP) students in their journey to find a startup idea focused on impact investing, which led them up to a final stage! Read about their experience and reflections below.
The Turner MIINT: A Rewarding Experience
Our team of six School of Public Policy (SPP) students embarked on a seven-month journey competing with business and public policy schools around the world to pitch impactful startups at Turner MIINT 2021. We had an enriching and rewarding experience, reaching the finals as the only public policy school among six other business school finalists, competing against over 100 teams from universities around the world. We were proud to represent the LSE, and pitch Wenu Work, a Chilean-based startup that tackles climate change through its smart meter and software solution, helping businesses reduce energy consumption by up to 20%.
We had the daunting task of finding a venture that generated positive social or environmental impact that was in lockstep with business and financial success. Once identified, we’d have to conduct financial and impact due diligence, and pitch to a panel of judges across global impact investors at the competition, hosted by Bridges Fund Management and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Working on a live case and competing for a $50,000 investment into the company being pitched added to the excitement and inherent challenge. But while the competition and the chance to represent the LSE was an exhilarating experience, the learnings and advice we gathered along the way were invaluable. It’s even in the name; MIINT stands for the MBA Impact Investing Network & Training, and there is a strong focus on the networking and training aspect at each stage of the competition. As a set of Master of Public Policy (MPP) and Master of Public Administration (MPA) students, we consciously brought our edge to a competition initially designed for MBA students.
Besides the classes and material, the actual process of finding the right startup to invest in was a very interesting learning experience. Contacting Venture Capitals and entrepreneurs, calling strangers and posting on social media were among our first tools to start contacting the potential candidates. Then, refining our target, but dealing with the reality out there was fascinating training. Trying to balance our motivations, with the objective KPIs and the startup maturity was quite demanding, certainly not an easy one. Even having to question the term sheet with the main investor and raise issues that we know would be a deal-breaker for our judging panel, was without a doubt a highlight worth mentioning.
Building our impact investing toolkit: Collectively, our team had diverse experience in sustainable development, international organisations, and consulting and entrepreneurship across Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe. However, the programme was important in strengthening the set of two skills required to be an impact investor. First came the invaluable guidance of our mentor Stephan Chambers and his team at the Marshall Institute, who provided insight and advice throughout our process that solidified our learning. Second were engagements with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, both in London and globally, on the impact investing ecosystem and how to best go about our search and assessments. Last but not least was the online course module that MIINT provides, which served as an extra class throughout our year that provided the technicalities and requirements of sourcing a venture, gradually building up the due diligence.
On top of the fundamentals, the experience of building a team on the run and facing the pressure of learning to work together and adjusting in multiple ways was a central takeaway. Working on something real and applying the knowledge we were gaining in the classroom is something very valuable. Combined with having to find our ways across the global entrepreneurial ecosystem, it was worth it. In that process of asking, knocking on doors and assessing different startups, we were able to build relationships and networks that will stay with us for the future. Finally, it was great to work alongside some classmates that became friends. Long working sessions and interesting discussions were great tools to build relationships and get to know amazing people that sometimes you miss the chance to know better.
Our whole team gained insights, skills and a network that we will carry with us into our careers in many forms. The learnings have been especially relevant for those interested in impact investing, venture capital and sustainable development financing, but have applications for those moving into public sector work, among other areas. It was a great tasting of a new world for most of us. It also encouraged us to keep learning about public-private schemes and mechanisms that could help overcome the current social and environmental challenges we as humanity are facing. We recommend future SPP cohorts to make the most of MIINT, as it will solidify your time at the LSE and be an experience you will carry with you far beyond.
Written by Tatiana Bahous, Henry Dehe, Paulo Barbieri Kennedy, Yomna Gaafar, Tomas Sanchez Valenzuela and Yohann Sequeira