Maggie Stohler

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About Maggie Stohler

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So far has created 23 blog entries.
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Bruce Taylor on Impact Investments & the Impact Engine Community

Bruce Taylor is an investor in Impact Engine IV. He currently serves as the Vice Chairman of MB Financial Bank and as member of the governing commission of the Hillels of Illinois, board of governors of the Metropolitan Planning Council, Midwest trustees of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and is a director of MTL Insurance Company. Read more about what Bruce looks for in his impact investments and why he finds value in being a part of the Impact Engine community.

Tell us about how you first became involved with impact investing.

After we merged Cole Taylor Bank into MB Financial in 2014, I began the second chapter of my career. One of the interests I wanted to pursue was investing in closely held businesses through venture capital and private equity opportunities. I was introduced to Impact Engine by a longtime friend who knew about my passions for giving back and entrepreneurship in Chicago. It was the quality of the leadership and fellow investors that sealed the deal.

As an investor in Impact Engine’s portfolio companies, can you tell us about the strategies you use when evaluating investments? What are some of the key qualities you look for in the companies you invest in?

A few key questions I ask are:

Is the idea interesting?
Is the potential market, in terms of numbers of customers, large?
Most important, the quality of the people behind the venture. Are they passionate about what they are doing? Do they evidence high energy, willingness to persevere through inevitable obstacles and challenges, and are they resourceful?

I also seek the opportunity to collaborate with other […]

By |November 28, 2016|
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Zero Percent Launches SnackPass to Reduce Food Waste

Zero Percent is an online food donation marketplace that helps businesses move surplus, edible food to nearby soup kitchens and shelters, reducing both hunger and waste. They were part of our second accelerator class in 2014.  Zero Percent recently launched SnackPass, an app that provides delicious, nutritious snacks from a variety of local restaurants. We recently caught up with Rajesh Karmani, CEO and Founder, to learn more about SnackPass and the future of the company.

Tell us the story behind Zero Percent.

In 2012, I was a graduate student in computer science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I frequently visited a bagel shop between my home and my grad school office, where they baked everything fresh each morning. I learned that the shop could never perfectly predict how much food they would sell each day and always ended up with excess bagels. The shop owner Marc wanted to donate the extra food to a local nonprofit, but it was difficult for him to find out which nonprofit would need the food and how he could deliver it. I knew that technology marketplaces like eBay and Craigslist could effectively match supply and demand, so I thought, “Why wasn’t there an online food donation marketplace?” During a hackathon event hosted by the UIUC computer science department, I created Zero Percent.

What are some of the challenges you face building a food tech business and how have you overcome them?

The first big challenge was to understand the variables involved in matching excess food with a need in the community. Secondly, we needed to figure out how to rescue food in a large city like […]

By |November 18, 2016|
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Newest Players in the Chicago Impact Scene

In past blog posts, we’ve written about the next generation of social entrepreneurs in Chicago and why impact entrepreneurship is thriving in Chicago. We’re excited to highlight a few of the newest players in the field; we couldn’t be more excited to be a part of the growing community of Chicago impact entrepreneurs, mentors, investors, and champions of impact!

Ekistic Ventures

In September, David Spielfogel and Brett Goldstein announced the launch of Ekistic Ventures, a VC firm that plans to invest in startups that make cities more equitable and efficient. Spielfogel is one of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s former top advisors and Goldstein the ex-chief data officer for the city of Chicago. While working for the city, they noticed that young entrepreneurs building technology often lacked the urban strategy knowledge to turn their small scale ideas into big picture solutions. Ekistic Ventures has launched a $15 million fund that will invest in seed-stage companies bringing new solutions to critical urban problems. Ekistic takes a holistic approach to problem-solving, partnering with research institutions, big businesses, mayors, city government officials and entrepreneurs to tackle the most significant urban challenges.

INVEST Chicago

Launched in 2016 by Good City, INVEST Chicago is an initiative aimed at mobilizing individuals to give their time, talents and finances to social entrepreneurs and nonprofits making a difference in Chicago. They provide philanthropic grants and impact investment opportunities to nonprofits and social entrepreneurs to support strategic and sustainable ideas with strong leadership. INVEST Chicago works with foundations, corporate partners and the city of Chicago to identify and invest in projects serving the most under-resourced communities in Chicago. Their first portfolio, the Women’s Innovation Fund, […]

By |October 28, 2016|
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How ClassroomIQ improves grading

ClassroomIQ bridges the gap between pencil-and-paper assessments and the cloud by enabling teachers to grade assessments on any web-connected device. This platform automatically grades hand-written short answer and multiple-choice answers and also allows teachers to self-grade more complex open responses. We caught up with Steve Dillinger, founder of ClassroomIQ, to hear more about the platform and the future of the organization.

Tell us the story behind ClassroomIQ.

In 2010, I organized a grassroots movement to improve the low-performing elementary school in my Chicago neighborhood. Through my work with the school, I was exposed to education at all levels- from teachers in their classrooms to administrators in the central office. I was struck by the lack of technology available to teachers for improving their own workflow. I found that too much time was spent on administrative tasks, time that could be better spent helping students. I believed I could leverage my experience developing productivity tools for the financial industry to develop productivity tools for teachers, so I started developing ClassroomIQ.

Besides faster grading, what other aspects of your platform have led to teacher and student satisfaction?

Ask a non-teacher to explain what grading is and they will typically describe scoring- assigning a point value to a student answer. While teachers using our platform report much faster scoring times (up to 100% faster when using our auto-scoring technology), the real benefit comes from the other component of grading – student feedback.

Classroom-level assessment is not an end in itself. There is tremendous value in providing feedback to students addressing the concepts they do not grasp.  Unfortunately, due to time constraints, feedback is often terse and returned to […]

By |October 26, 2016|
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Investing in Better Health Panel & Showcase

Chicago is a hotbed of innovation in the healthcare industry, yet many healthcare startups lack access to investment capital at the seed stage. This intersection of healthcare and impact investing was the focus of the Investing in Better Health Panel & Showcase on Thursday, October 6th. Impact Engine co-hosted the discussion with MATTER and Furthur Fund, bringing together members of the healthcare and impact investing communities for an afternoon of discussion and demonstration.

The event began with remarks from Steve Collens, CEO of MATTER, and a panel over lunch with Jessica Droste Yagan (CEO, Impact Engine), Tasha Seitz (CIO, Impact Engine), Jordan Dolin (Co-Founder, Emmi Solutions), and David Cohn (CEO, Regroup Therapy). The panel focused on trends in healthcare and impact investing, and strategies for making a great return on investment while improving the healthcare system. Below are key takeaways from the panel.

Macro Trends in Healthcare

Jordan began by giving an overview of the macro-level trends seen in today’s healthcare industry. Money is a big motivator and a growing trend has been the transition from fee-for-service models to fee-for-value service models. The US healthcare system is globally ranked as one of the most expensive service models, spending nearly $10,000/person each year. And yet the system still suffers from the “Innovation Gap”, which means there is a growing need for fast, quality care and a large market, yet an increasing number of barriers to innovation. The system struggles to balance making money and creating a product that fixes modern issues at a reasonable cost.

Macro Trends in Impact Investing

Impact investing is a fast-growing practice in Chicago and beyond. Investors want to align their […]

By |October 14, 2016|
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Impact Investing Bootcamp

This month, Impact Engine, Arabella Advisors, and Forefront hosted an Impact Investing Bootcamp to educate and equip people to begin impact investing in their or their clients’ portfolios. Participants ranged from family offices and foundations to philanthropic and wealth advisers. They came with varying degrees of experience in impact investing, but all shared a common interest and commitment to action.

The day began with Tasha Seitz, Chief Investment Office of Impact Engine, and Julia Sze, Managing Director of Impact Investing at Arabella, running the group through an overview of impact investing and a discussion around the investment spectrum. They highlighted how each part of the spectrum might be relevant for different types of investor, and a debate unfolded around maximizing returns versus maximizing impact and where there are opportunities to have both. They shared the example of the KL Felicitas Foundation, which made a pledge to transform its portfolio into an impact portfolio a number of years ago. Since then, the foundation has reported on its track record and its specific investments and has demonstrated that a portfolio that considers impact can deliver market rate returns.  

Tasha and Julia also outlined three potential approaches to implementing an impact investing strategy in one’s own portfolio. The “Learn By Doing” approach entails making early stage direct investments and “seeing what sticks.” It is a good approach for those who are comfortable with risk, enjoy being up close and personal when working with entrepreneurs, and want to learn by doing and getting personally engaged. The “Assess and Upgrade” approach encourages investors to take stock of their public equity and debt portfolio, and to […]

By |September 30, 2016|
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Impact Engine Reflects on SOCAP16

SOCAP (Social Capital Markets), the world’s largest conference on social enterprise and impact investing, took place at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, California this week. Jessica Droste Yagan and Tasha Seitz of Impact Engine both attended #SOCAP16 to speak on a few panels and connect with others in the impact investing field. Earlier this month, Tasha and Jessica wrote an article on the SOCAP blog, sharing Impact Engine’s model and their thoughts on the state of impact investing in Chicago and beyond. Below, they’ve shared a recap and their thoughts on this year’s conference.

It was so great to attend SOCAP16 in San Francisco, surrounded by the energy and excitement of the SOCAP community. As veteran attendees (this is Jessica’s third and Tasha’s fifth conference), we are always energized to be around smart people who are passionate about the potential of the intersection of impact and markets. We even crossed paths with two of our own portfolio companies (Develop Link and Sokowatch).

One of the highlights of the conference was hearing from the many entrepreneurs building solutions to important problems. Tasha had the opportunity to speak with the 2016 SOCAP Scholarship Recipients, close to 150 entrepreneurs from 35+ countries, about how to get the most out of their conference experience. A key piece of advice — which applies to all entrepreneurs at all times — was to always be ready with a set of “asks” related to business support and introductions, and focus on building and nurturing existing relationships as well as making valuable new connections.

This year we also noticed a growing interest in direct investing among the investor community. […]

By |September 27, 2016|
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Booth’s Christina Hachikian Bullish on Impact Opportunities for MBAs

The University of Chicago Booth School of Business has been a partner to Impact Engine since the beginning: Linda Darragh was the Director of Entrepreneurship Programs at Booth when she co-founded Impact Engine.  Much like Impact Engine, the Booth School of Business has seen tremendous growth in opportunity and action at the intersection of the public and private sector. Today, the Booth Social Enterprise Initiative (SEI) provides educational opportunities and support to Booth students and alumni to impact societal issues and further research on how business institutions help solve social problems. We asked SEI Executive Director Christina Hachikian to share her thoughts on the changing landscape of the social enterprise sector and how Booth’s programs are reflecting this change.

“I’m going to run this country like a business.” Heard this before? In this election cycle, a certain self-professed billionaire has made it the cornerstone of his campaign. She said it too. And so did he.

While this makes for appealing rhetoric, there are many arguments against turning the president into a CEO who needs to maximize profits first.  A more interesting exercise is to think about political campaigns as a mirror in which some of our changing ideas about leadership and governance are reflected back at us.  

Traditionally, we have seen the private sector as the primary economic driver and looked to the government to address social problems. Increasingly, innovation today emanates not from one side or the other, but from the overlap of the two.  At the intersection of the nonprofit, private, and public sectors is the social impact sector. Here, social enterprise flourishes, with its hybrid models and double […]

By |September 22, 2016|
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Impact Engine at SOCAP16: Midweek Recap

SOCAP (Social Capital Markets), the world’s largest conference on social enterprise and impact investing, is taking place at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, California this week. We’re excited that Jessica Droste Yagan and Tasha Seitz of Impact Engine are both at #SOCAP16 connecting with others in the impact investing field. Earlier this month, Tasha and Jessica wrote an article on the SOCAP blog, sharing Impact Engine’s model and their thoughts on the state of impact investing in Chicago and beyond. Below, they’ve shared a dispatch from the conference after Day 3.

“It’s so great be in San Francisco at SOCAP16, surrounded by the energy and excitement of the SOCAP community. As veteran attendees (this is Jessica’s third and Tasha’s fifth conference), we are always energized to be around smart people who are passionate about the potential of the intersection of impact and markets. We’ve had the chance to hear from many entrepreneurs building solutions to important problems, and were happy to cross paths with two Impact Engine portfolio companies (Develop Link and Sokowatch). We’ve noticed a growing interest in direct investing among the investor community: yesterday Tasha spoke on a panel about direct investing, sharing what she has learned working with emerging funds and angel investors. We’ve found that even groups like community development financial institution (CDFIs) who have long been impact investing are still learning and growing in this space. This gathering is an excellent reminder just how much this movement and opportunity has grown over the years!”

Did you like this post? Sign up for our community newsletter and we’ll send you the latest Impact Engine […]

By |September 20, 2016|
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Impact Investing Evangelists

On the blog this week, we feature a guest post from Andrew Segal, a rising senior at Bates College who recently wrapped up a summer internship with Impact Engine. Andrew, a religious studies major, shares his thoughts on the intersection between religion and impact investing.

People and institutions choose to make impact investments for many reasons. Most often, impact investors understand the value that a safer, cleaner, and more egalitarian world will have on society, and they believe that they have an individual moral responsibility to help build a more perfect society. Today, an increasing number of religious institutions have been introducing their members to the concept of impact investing. Pope Francis himself recognizes the power that technology has in empowering the undeveloped world through social impact. By understanding the historical values and actions of these groups, it’s easy to see why these institutions have been championing a movement that is just beginning to gain widespread recognition.

Religious groups were some of the first organizations to think about the social impact of their investments. In 1758 at the Quaker Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, members of the Religious Society of Friends were prohibited from participating in the slave trade because they believed that buying and selling humans was morally wrong. The Quakers considered both the financial return and social impact of their capital expenditures to be moral imperatives rooted in their personal religious beliefs.

An early adopter and advocate of socially responsible investing (SRI) was John Wesley (1703–1791), one of the founders of Methodism. Wesley’s sermon “The Use of Money” outlined his basic tenets of social investing: not to harm your neighbor through your business […]

By |August 31, 2016|

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