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New UBC investment fund has big social impact

Published on Thursday, March 01, 2018

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Mar 1, 2018    |   For more information, contact Thandi Fletcher

A new investment fund at the University of British Columbia is boosting ventures that are tackling the world’s biggest social and environmental problems.

The UBC Impact Fund invests seed-stage capital in UBC-created ventures that deliver measurable positive impacts alongside financial returns.

“A key part of UBC’s innovation strategy is supporting ventures and activities that make significant societal contributions,” said Gail Murphy, vice-president, research and innovation at UBC. “This new fund gives donors an innovative opportunity to support entrepreneurship at UBC and has a tremendous ripple effect as returns are continuously re-invested into new ventures.”

The first two ventures to receive support through the fund are Vancouver-based startups Brighter Investment and Wize Monkey.

Brighter Investment provides students in the developing world with funding for post-secondary education. Despite the benefits of higher education, many students in the developing world don’t have access to loans or scholarships. The company finances high potential students pursuing degrees with the best career prospects. After graduation, students repay a percentage of their income to investors.

Brighter Investment

Brighter Investment founder and CEO Thijs Marthot (right) with Richard Adarkwah, who runs the company’s program in Ghana. Thanks to investment from the UBC Impact Fund, Brighter Investment provides students in the developing world with funding for post-secondary education. Credit: Brighter Investment

“Our company wouldn’t be where it is today without support from the UBC Impact Fund,” said Thijs Mathot, co-founder and CEO of Brighter Investment. “Our first students have graduated and started repaying, proving on a small scale that our investment model works. These positive first results will attract more investors to back the next generation of doctors, engineers, and scientists and share in the created value.”

For Wize Monkey, UBC Impact Fund investment has helped the company provide more than 100 jobs to coffee growers in Matagalpa, Nicaragua. The company, which sells tea products made from coffee plant leaves, helps growers earn income during the off-season when leaves are typically discarded.

“Support from the UBC Impact Fund is helping us revolutionize the coffee industry for the better,” said Max Rivest, co-founder and CEO of Wize Monkey. “By harvesting the coffee plant leaf, we are able to provide jobs to workers even after the harvest season is over, helping them earn a more stable income to support their families.”

The UBC Impact Fund— which was created from two $500,000 grants from the David and Dorothy Lam Foundation and the J. W. McConnell Family Foundation— is part of UBC’s range of support for social entrepreneurship and innovation, including Sauder’s Centre for Social Innovation & Impact Investing and the impact stream of entrepreneurship@UBC, which offers programs and support for all stages of venture creation. It complements the UBC Seed Fund, which provides early stage risk capital for other high-potential businesses in the entrepreneurship@UBC ecosystem.

To be eligible for investment, ventures must include at least one founder or key manager who is a current UBC student, faculty, staff member or an alumni who has graduated in the past five years. Ventures based on research undertaken at UBC are also eligible.

To learn more about the UBC Impact Fund, visit entrepreneurship.ubc.ca/impact-fund