Maggie Stohler

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So far has created 41 blog entries.

Great Pitch! Can We See the Product?

By Roger Liew

After a positive initial pitch to Impact Engine, the next step typically involves asking for a product demo, because we love seeing the vision in your presentation come to life. You should put as much thought and preparation into the demo as you did into the pitch deck. Think of it as a continuation of that compelling story about your product and company that hooked us during the initial pitch.

During your demo, I’m interested in the features that deliver the product’s key value drivers, and form the basis of your company’s competitive advantage. Ideally, we walk out of the demo with a clear understanding of your secret sauce, and how your product solves a big social or environmental challenge. Be prepared for lots of questions during the demo process. We love to engage deeply with our companies, and the starting point for us is always to ask lots and lots of questions.

Begin the demo by setting the stage for what we’re about to see. Call out the most critical components of your product, explain why they are important and focus on showing those features to us. However, begin the demo by typing in the URL for the system we will see. Starting right from the beginning with something as simple as login demonstrates care and thoroughness and a complete product. I prefer to see the experience from the perspective of a user rather than an admin, and regular users tend to receive a more refined experience.

Let’s explore a specific […]

By |July 2, 2018|

Mind the Gaps: What’s Missing in Impact Investing Markets?

By Priya Parrish

When my former colleagues at the environment, social and governance (ESG) research pioneer, KLD Research & Analytics, launched the bellwether Domini Social Index in 1990, one purpose was to measure what socially responsible investing was going to cost an investor in terms of financial returns. The index, along with numerous academic studies, proved that ESG factor integration does not have to negatively impact financial performance. The evidence drove client demand and product proliferation across every asset class, sector, geography, and investment strategy. During this time, I led the effort to catalyze the creation of Northern Trust’s ESG fund offerings and witnessed nearly every other major asset manager roll out ESG strategies. Today, over 20% of professionally managed assets in the U.S. incorporates ESG factors in investment decision-making.

Impact investing, which has an explicit intention of generating a measurable social and financial return, is going through a similar transformation right now. Early evidence suggests the same conclusion: that all else being equal, impact investors do not give up returns. While impact investing can apply to a wide range of asset classes and investment strategies, its most common product offering (by number of products) is venture capital funds. As it gains traction among all investor types, the need for impact investment products across every asset class and strategy will be essential to meeting the growing demand.

My vantage point comes from the roles I have played as a family office Chief Investment Officer and personal impact investor. Having managed a multi-asset class portfolio across global private and public markets, […]

By |June 1, 2018|

The Bot Ate My Homework: How Technology is Changing Education and Work

By Elizabeth Coston McCluskey

It has been a busy couple of months on conference circuit, in particular on the topics of edtech and workforce development. I recently attended the Lumina Foundation’s LIFTed Convening, ASU/GSV’s annual Summit, and Axios’“Future of Work” panel. The crowd at each event was slightly different, enabling me to get perspectives and have conversations with educators, investors, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and economists — not to mention John Legend and former president George W. Bush.

One of the prevailing themes was the rise of automation and AI, and whether it presents a threat or an opportunity. Numerous speakers and panelists cited a report from Oxford University that posited 47% of US employment is at risk due to “computerization.” While the report came out in 2013, it seems that conversation about the reality of this possibility is reaching a fever pitch in 2018. One of the report’s conclusions is that lower wage jobs that require less education will be the most susceptible to tech outsourcing.

However, the message of many was that all is not lost. Vanguard’s chief economist made an important distinction between tasks and jobs. He suggested that while up to half of a given person’s tasks may be automated, it will not eliminate their job but rather change the nature of it. Reducing mundane tasks should enable them shift to more “uniquely human” ones that involve skills like creativity and empathy. This thought was repeated by an ASU/GSV panelist who talked about the increasing importance of “human literacy”: being competent in communication, teamwork, empathy, and cultural agility. I also heard this message […]

By |April 30, 2018|

Impact Investing is Growing in Chicago — Here’s Why It Matters

By Jessica Droste Yagan

On Tuesday, January 30th, Impact Engine hosted the Chicago Impact Investing Showcase sponsored by MacArthur Foundation. We gathered to highlight our work and the work of Benefit Chicago, a fund that invests for both financial and social return, as well as a handful of investments that demonstrate this focus on dual return. We were happy to welcome over 300 people who are learning about, celebrating, and advancing impact investing in Chicago. This rising tide of interest in impact investing is incredibly exciting. In case you missed it, we’ve drafted some key takeaways about how impact investing is growing in Chicago and why that matters.

There is a lot of variation on how to execute impact investing, all with great potential to achieve different types of impact and different levels of financial return. At our showcase, the presenting companies represented an amazing range of examples of impact investing, everything from low-interest loans through LISC to market-leading telehealth providers like Regroup. We did a quick survey of impact investing funds in Chicago and found 21 funds which are all based here, intentionally investing for both financial and social return, and measuring both.  Some of these have been around for decades, doing impact investing before impact investing was a thing. Others are very new, and there are still more in formation that will be added to our growing list.

The growth of the impact investing ecosystem in Chicago is so exciting because it matters. When we make progress as a society, it’s because we question the status quo. In January, over 1 million people across the country attended the women’s march. Some […]

By |February 28, 2018|

2017 In Review

By Maggie Stohler

On behalf of everyone at Impact Engine, we want to wish you happy holidays! Before we look ahead to the new year, we paused for a moment to reflect on 2017. Impact Engine has had a strong year of growth and evolution as we continue to invest in companies driving social and financial returns. Below we’ve recapped a few of the highlights from the year.

We kicked off 2017 with our Community Showcase in January which featured Chicago funds that invest for both financial and social return, as well as presentations from their investees. The event brought together over 275 people to hear about the inspiring work happening at Benefit Chicago, Clean Energy Trust, Energy Foundry, Ekistic Ventures, Furthur Fund and SLoFIG. In his Forbes write up of our event, John Carpenter remarked, “Not only do companies keep popping up with the dual aim of fixing some social ill while at the same time banking cash, but the pool of investor money willing to stake them seems to be growing.” It’s no surprise to us that Chicago was named the social entrepreneurship capital of the world, and this event was a testament to the exciting energy surrounding impact investing in the city. (Our next showcase is coming up January 30, 2018 – hope to see you there!)

Throughout the year we stayed busy, adding seven new investments to our portfolio (ConsejoSano, Kaizen Health, CoInspect, First Access, Book Nook, Measurabl, and Viridis), as well as three follow-on investments (Regroup Therapy, ThinkCERCA and Edovo). We explained why we made some of these investments and what we look for across our impact focus […]

By |December 21, 2017|

Why We’re Thankful for Our Investors

By Jessica Droste Yagan

November is a month of reflection and giving thanks. At Impact Engine, we are especially grateful for our incredible investors. We launched our first accelerator in 2012 and our first venture fund in 2015 thanks to a dedicated group of experienced entrepreneurs and angel investors, philanthropists, and senior executives who believe in investing for both financial return as well as social impact. Many of them have also put their time with their money, supporting us and our portfolio with their expertise and networks. But we’re also incredibly proud of our investors for the work they do outside of Impact Engine, helping to lead the way for more impact. Below we’ve profiled just a few of our many investors who are linking business and social good in their own work.

The Entrepreneurs

Nicole Chavas

Nicole Chavas is CEO and Co-Founder of Fresh Coast Capital, an urban revitalization firm that develops green stormwater infrastructure as a vehicle to deliver social, environmental, and economic impact to the communities that need the most support toward achieving equitable climate resiliency. Since inception, Fresh Coast, a certified B-Corp, has raised over $3M in capital from across the impact investment spectrum, including equity, convertible debt and grant capital, from investors and funders such as the Kresge Foundation and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Mike Evans

Founder of GrubHub, Mike Evans, started Fixer to get stuff fixed, easily, on his own schedule. Fixer is a same-day and scheduled handyperson app that makes it easy for clients to schedule a prompt, competent professional to fix stuff around the house. “Fixers” are full time employees with benefits who are given extensive […]

By |November 30, 2017|

Impact Engine’s 2017 Holiday Reading List

By Elizabeth Coston McCluskey

It’s time for Impact Engine’s third annual Holiday Reading List. For 2017, we decided to tackle the who-where-why-and-how of impact investing over the course of the year. We hope that during the holiday season, you are able to spend time with family and friends, and to reflect on the ways in which you’ve had impact this year. We encourage you to click through to the reports we’ve included in this list, as we hope that they inspire you to make new resolutions for impact in 2018.

The rationale

When we meet with entrepreneurs, we are interested in their solutions and whether they are innovative and scalable. However, a crucial part of our process is evaluating whether they have a deep understanding of the problem they are addressing. So while there is much to be celebrated in terms of progress this year, it is important to start with understanding why impact investing is so critical today. The issues our society faces are broad and deep. CFSI’s report on employee financial health outlines just how financially stressed people are these days. Earlier this year, the RAND Corporation detailed the rising prevalence and cost of chronic health conditions and the toll they take on individuals and society. And Stanford published a report on the state of racial and ethnic inequalities in education, housing, wealth, and a number of other arenas.

The players

The good news is that the list of people who are focusing on these issues and investing in solutions to address them is growing broader. 2017 saw everyone from tech companies to celebrities entering the impact investing fold. Salesforce announced the […]

By |November 20, 2017|

The Rise of Impact Seed Funds

By Tasha Seitz

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending SOCAP (Social Capital Markets), the world’s largest conference on social enterprise and impact investing, at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, California. As a veteran attendee (this is my sixth SOCAP conference), I am always energized to be around smart people who are passionate about the potential of the intersection of impact and markets. At the conference, I spoke on a panel called “The Rise of Impact Seed Funds” with Wes Selke from Better Ventures, Shauntel Poulson from Reach Capital, Brian Dixon from Kapor Capital and Julie Lein from the Urban Innovation Fund. We discussed the evolution of seed-stage funds and talked about specific investment strategies, and how our focus on impact boosts performance. Below, I’ve recapped some of the key takeaways from our panel discussion (feel free to check out a video recording here).

Defining and measuring impact as an impact fund

Social impact is a loaded word and means different things to different people. While each fund on the panel considers themselves an impact fund, we each define it very differently. Brian Dixon from Kapor Capital shared that, “when we’re making an investment we’re not only thinking about whether this investment will get us a 3x return of the fund, but also how does this actually make a difference.” At Reach Capital, “we invest in missionaries, not mercenaries” said Shauntel Poulson. When it comes to impact, they focus on three things: a user base that targets underserved and under-resourced populations, usage penetration in terms of depth of usage and user satisfaction, and long-term improvement in student outcomes and achievement. […]

By |November 16, 2017|

Impact Tech Opportunity Series (Pt. 4): Health

By Tasha Seitz and Chris Wu

As active impact investors, we’ve had the privilege of meeting hundreds of entrepreneurs doing incredible work across each of our four areas of focus: education, health, economic empowerment and resource efficiency. We’ve learned a lot about what opportunities exist to leverage technology for good and how various companies are solving these problems. As we celebrate our five year anniversary, we thought it would be valuable to share some of our observations with the broader impact investing field.

Part four in the series is an overview of what we’ve seen in the world of digital health. US healthcare spending overall represents 18% of GDP, and improving healthcare utilization by disadvantaged communities is an enormous opportunity to reduce costs and improve patient outcomes. The trend towards accountable care is driving investment in technology innovation, and we see many attractive and impactful investment opportunities in this space. We have observed four broad themes in the health sector.


The timely use of health services plays an important role in achieving the best patient outcomes. However, patients face many barriers to accessing services, including high costs, lack of insurance coverage, and lack of available services. Inadequate access to care can result in unmet physical and mental health needs, increased financial burdens, and preventable hospitalizations. Unfortunately, disparities in access persist along race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and geographic lines.

One of our portfolio companies, ConsejoSano, is deeply committed to breaking down barriers to adequate preventative and primary healthcare services for the 41 million native Spanish speakers in […]

By |October 26, 2017|

5 Questions You Need to Ask Before You Start Hiring

By Lindsay Verstegen

Last month at Impact Engine, we celebrated our five-year anniversary with a celebration and showcase event with our investors, mentors, and portfolio companies. The following day, we continued the celebration with a gathering of our portfolio company CEOs. We were grateful to have Lindsay Verstegen, VP of Talent at ShopRunner, speak to our CEOs about recruiting and hiring, including the five questions to ask before hiring, below.

Hiring is a highly personal process, one that should be very specific to you and your company. It’s important to approach the hiring process with enough of a game plan that you’re organized, but also with agility that allows for feedback to shape the process as it plays out. I’ve outlined five key questions that get at guidelines to the hiring process that every organization should consider when expanding their team. (Keep in mind, these are not hard-and-fast rules, but rather tips that should guide you!)

1. Who are you?

Before you begin the hiring process, it is important to go inward and answer some crucial questions to understand who you are as a company. This is a time for self-reflection. Ask yourself who you are and what you value. Remember that Sigmund Freud once said: “Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise.” It’s an especially good exercise when hiring. You should also ask customers and existing employees how they see you, and synthesize that information to determine your “true north.” If you’re not headed in the direction you want to be, this is the […]

By |October 26, 2017|

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