Exploring Social Change in Israel

Posted: July 2, 2011 by danielsaat in Uncategorized

After my first year in the joint degree NYU Stern and Wagner MBA/MPA program, I am living and working in Israel, where my family is from.   I am interested in how those who care about social progress and innovation here go about their work and how can I potentially make a contribution.  I am fortunate to spend my these three months working with an amazing group of colleagues at the Reut Institute in Tel Aviv.

Reut tries to strengthen Israel and the Jewish world through policy analysis, advocacy, and strategic consulting on some of the most critical issues we face.  They work on issues like national security, economic development, “Jewish peoplehood”, the Palestinian crisis, etc.  Then they try to get the government, foundations, nonprofits, businesses, and the media to partner together and move in the right direction.

The organization has been really welcoming, all the people are extremely smart, I am learning a lot.  Their calendar is filled with fascinating policy discussions and meetings with leaders from across the public, private, and social sectors that I’m expected to join in on.  My project work is focused on financial strategy and impact measurement, I’m helping them build tools and processes for taking it all to the next level, and sharing a lot of my experience on data and systems, organizational development, and best practices from the US social sector.  The most challenging part of my job has got to be working in Israeli/Hebrew Excel, the columns go from right to left!
People in Tel Aviv know how to live life, and I’m enjoying all that the sea, markets, arts, night life have to offer.  And there’s nothing like enjoying a meal once per week with my family!  More updates to come, until next time.

IT IS cloudy again in Londontown…

Posted: July 2, 2011 by rhaberthomson in Uncategorized

As Wimbledon comes to a close, people open up an extra browser on their computers to watch who will be in the final on Sunday.  Aside from tennis talk, these past two weeks at Bridges Ventures in London have been as unpredictable as the first two – filled with excitement about the next new opportunity, or disappointment when a deal just days from closing, does not pan out.

Bridges is a social venture capital fund of about thirty people. They provide growth capital to businesses located in the most deprived 25% of the country as well as businesses in the education & training, environment or health sectors. I am working primarily in the Ventures team.  They expect the same financial returns a normal VC would, although every investment also requires there to be a social impact. Bridges has two other funds under management: a sustainable property fund and a social enterprise fund.  Bridges is often mentioned in impact investing publications, and the interesting history of Bridges can be found here.

From my first day I began to see first hand the process a VC undertakes when assessing a potential investment. Before turning on my email, I was already off to meet a passionate management team in soho to hear their business plan and how they will make a positive impact in the world. Later that same day, I attended the weekly pipeline meeting, where the whole team, from the associates to the CEO, review all the potential investments to assess the feasibility of investing in each opportunity.  Following that meeting, a renewable energy company came to the office to pitch their plan to the internal Bridges team.  This happens relatively early on in the investment process, giving the Bridges the opportunity to highlight both the positives and the risks of investing in that company. The team then makes a collective decision on whether or not to pursue the opportunity and begin with due diligence analysis.

The learning curve has been steep. A month in and I have met with several interesting prospects, found a few dead ends, researched industries I did not even know existed, attended board meetings of their portfolio businesses (to help them out with their strategic plans), dove deep into term sheets and deal structure, witnessed some difficult but interesting negotiations and had meetings all over London including inside a large electric mobility vehicle.

Until next time, as I anxiously wait for the sun to shine, and hope that at least one of the deals I am working on might come to a successful close…


Greetings from Bangalore, part one

Posted: July 1, 2011 by Matt in Uncategorized

Dear readers,

Greetings from Bangalore in southern India! My colleague Jennifer Tsai and I will be blogging throughout our summer here as SIIF Fellows. Before we delve into our work, we’ll each give a short introduction. Here’s mine:

Late last fall, during my first semester as a full-time MBA student at Stern, I attended an info session on a new class debuting in the spring of 2011. About two minutes into the presentation, I knew it was for me — experiences like this were exactly why I came to business school.

Allow me to back up a few more years. After graduating college I joined a start-up non-governmental organization (NGO) called Mapendo International (recently renamed RefugePoint). RefugePoint’s mission is to protect and rescue the most vulnerable refugees in Africa, and much of my work entailed travel to refugee camps and urban slums across the continent to assess conditions and conduct project feasibility assessments. RefugePoint’s work – like many NGOs – entails close collaboration with a miasma of NGOs, governments, and United Nations organizations, and through this work I was fortune to see first-hand the function and disfunction of the world’s humanitarian systems.

As I continued in the work, I became more and more interested in the efficacy of management structures and the role that the private sector could play in many of the post-conflict situations I found myself in. I came to  Stern to explore these interests further, knowing I would return to these themes after I completed my MBA. Fast forward to the info session: as I sat listening to Hans Taparia, co-founder and President of Preferred Brands International, speak about the newest course at Stern, Social Entrepreneurship Incubation, I was hooked.

About five weeks later, I found myself in Bangalore with a dozen other students from a number of NYU graduate schools: Stern, Gallatin, ITP, and Wagner. We had divided up into teams, and our mission was straightforward: spend the next several weeks learning as much as possible on the ground. When we returned to NYU, we would spend the spring semester developing for-profit social ventures that made a positive impact on society. My teammate Jenny Tsai, a fellow first-year Stern student, and I agreed to spend our time focused on maternal health.

With that I’ll give Jenny a chance to introduce herself…

more soon, dear readers!

all best, matt

Confession #1: Before I started my summer internship at DonorsChoose.org, I was nervous that after five years of trading on the buy-side, I would it find it strange to leave work not knowing where the Dow Jones closed. Yet after three weeks at DonorsChoose.org, I find it liberating to be connected to a different electronic marketplace.

Confession #2: DonorsChoose.org resembles a technology start-up more than a traditional non-profit. For those who knows the organization this comes as no surprise since DonorsChoose.org is an online platform connecting individual donors to classrooms in need. The online model provides individual donors with transparency, integrity and choice.  During the first two weeks in the office I felt the tech start-up vibe, but last week at the annual All Staff Conference this observation was confirmed. One of the conference highlights was an all-star panel featuring Jenn Hyman, Co-founder and CEO of Rent the Runway, Alex Rainert, Chief Product Officer at Foursquare and Kruti Patel Goyal, Director, Operations & Business Development of Etsy. The panelists discussed and shared insights about their innovative approaches to customer service, product & design and employee engagement.  Seeing the similarities between these leading technology companies and DC.org was amazing.

Confession #3: I knew DC.org was a notable organization, but I had no idea the extent of the distinct and remarkable work that 53 relentless full-time employees embark on everyday at DonorsChoose.org. DC.org was the only non-profit on Fast Company’s 50 Most Innovative Companies in 2011, and it also became self-sustaining this year, which is truly incredible.

Stayed tuned for more confessions of a Stern MBA at DonorsChoose.org as I embark on week 4.


Posted: June 19, 2011 by Matt in Uncategorized

Hi readers,

Welcome to the blog of the 2011 NYU Stern SIIF Fellows. Stay tuned for more…

– The 2011 SIIF Fellows