Maggie Stohler

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  • chicago

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|
  • socap16

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|
  • SNVC 2016

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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Why Priya Parrish Started Impact Investing

Priya Parrish is an investor in Impact Engine IV and an active impact investor. She has been involved with impact investing both personally and professionally. She currently serves as the Chief Investment Officer for the Schwartz Capital Group, a Chicago family office. Priya also sits on the investment committee for Social Venture Partners Chicago. Read more about Priya’s journey into impact investing and what she looks for in her investments.

You have spent your career in traditional asset management and wealth management. How did you learn about impact investing and become an active impact investor? How is it similar or different to traditional investing?

I began my career at a firm that provided ESG research to investors. At the time, I was fascinated with the connection between financial performance and social impact, but over time grew discouraged by the lack of impact that screen-based investment strategies in public markets could produce. As my career evolved into hedge funds and asset management more broadly, I noticed the growth in impact investing in private markets. It seemed to offer the direct impact that initially attracted me to the field, while also providing the opportunity to earn solid investment returns.

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?

Evaluating impact investments is similar to evaluating traditional investments. I try to assess the team, product or service offering, business model, and industry dynamic to determine whether the company will be successful in generating strong financial and non-financial returns. Many of […]

By |August 30, 2016|
  • habitnu

How Prana is Changing Diabetes Prevention & Management

Prana Diabetes provides HabitNu, a scalable, evidence-based diabetes prevention and management program combining education, peer support and state of the art mobile technology. The program enables simple phone-based monitoring and recording of key health parameters while also leveraging a patient’s personal support network. Prana Diabetes graduated from Impact Engine’s former accelerator program in 2015. We caught up with Sindhu Rajan, founder and CEO of Prana Diabetes, to hear more about HabitNu and the future of the organization.

Tell us about HabitNu and the benefits of a support community when managing Type II Diabetes.

We know that Diabetes Self Management Education and Support (DSMES) programs are successful, and that 83% of those with access attend.  However, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), only 7% of the 30 million people with diabetes actually have access. Classroom-based programs are simply not scalable and they don’t fit the needs of a working population. HabitNu is a 16-week diabetes prevention or management program that is based closely on CDC’s successful classroom based Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), but delivered to smartphones and tablets. It includes a comprehensive program with a toolbox for managing diet and exercise, weekly 5-minute interactive videos and text messages, and a system that allows you to link in your support network. Peer support is an integral component of successful chronic disease management. Research studies demonstrate that people with diabetes want support from an empathetic source. HabitNu has a private social network platform for participants where they are encouraged to talk about successes, challenges and failures.

You were recently one of six companies recognized by the ADA for your efforts to stop diabetes. Why do […]

By |August 24, 2016|

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