Featuring Neha Kukreja
Amongst all the challenges that came with Summer 2020, the Mosaic Fellowship was definitely a highlight. TLDR: If I could apply to intern as a Mosaic Fellow via ICM once again, I would.
Before speaking to my summer experience, I think a little context would be helpful: prior to business school, I was a strategy consultant at The Bridgespan Group, advising both nonprofits and philanthropies across the globe. During the last few months of my time at Bridgespan, I became fascinated with the “Impact Multiples of Money” (IMM) methodology we were using to support both impact-PE firms and philanthropy clients.
And so began my enchantment with impact investing, which fortunately coincided with my start of B-School. I entered the ecosystem with some IMM experience under my belt, but I lacked the required technical finance skills. (This time, I am referring to IMM as “impact measurement and management,” not to be confused with the specific “Impact Multiple of Money” methodology above.) I latched onto the Finance track at MIT, and I wanted to spend the summer using these finance skills in practice, while also offering my IMM experience. The Mosaic Fellowship was the perfect opportunity for me to do both these things.
Fund placement and working with TSEF
As a Mosaic Fellow, I was lucky to be placed at TSEF ( The Social Entrepreneurs Fund ). TSEF invests in software and services designed to help low-income communities across three verticals: financial inclusion, health tech, and human services, which also includes workforce development.
Relative to other funds in the ICM network, TSEF is much smaller in terms of headcount, which should not be mistaken for a lack of opportunities. Because every member of our small team had many responsibilities , my colleagues at TSEF allowed me to wear different hats and gain exposure to a variety of different functions. For example:
- I conducted 10+ calls with Founders whose companies I thought would be a good fit for TSEF’s investment thesis; TSEF is considering an investment in one of these companies today
- We worked as a team to consistently break-down the portfolio-level financial tracker to understand how TSEF is performing over time
- I helped create pitch materials for a potential new institutional investor, getting first-hand experience in the fundraising process
- I joined board calls for 3 of our portfolio companies to understand strategic pivots due to COVID and investor expectations for the future
Every morning, we met as a team to discuss the day’s priorities, and I would participate in one or more of the types of activities listed above, in addition to working on the projects that I owned.
“My” projects: Over the 10-week internship period, I was responsible for two key deliverables:
- Workforce development ecosystem mapping: As TSEF expands into workforce development, I was tasked with developing a framework to categorize our potential investment opportunities, and then source potential opportunities to map against this framework. To scan the field for investments and build confidence in my framework, I attended webinars, virtual conferences, and pitch competitions related to workforce development. I also reached out to expert practitioners in the future of work and consulted peers who were working at VC funds with similar investment theses.
- Impact reporting: Impact is at the heart of TSEF’s investment thesis, as well as my own. While this can sound fluffy, I’d argue that it’s not, as TSEF has proven that impact can move in lockstep with a company’s revenue. Therefore, understanding each company’s impact, how it grows over time, and strategies to improve impact can also lead to higher returns. (My own thinking goes something like this: “higher” impact = happier LPs, more investment dollars, and more cost savings to society if you need to make the financial case for why impact matters.)
For these impact reports, I worked with each of TSEF’s active portfolio companies to quantify their 2019 impact monetarily-e.g., dollars saved from prevented emergency room visits or reduction in carbon emissions, average increase in incomes from using POS inventory management systems, etc. Quantifying each impact required analyzing data from the portfolio companies, consulting secondary research, and devising innovative ways to monetize the output even when there was no clear answer.
We want to use these impact reports in future fundraising materials, as well in the annual reports published by our portfolio companies. One of the portfolio companies is even toying with how to bake our impact methodology into their software for ongoing impact measurement!
Finally, in addition to my work at TSEF, the Mosaic programming provided a host of other opportunities outside of our placement funds; this was truly the icing on the cake.
- Workshops: Every 2–3 weeks, leadership at various ICM funds hosted different workshops, including an introduction to impact investing, overview of impact measurement and management, and how to navigate a career path in impact investing. Throughout these workshops, I enjoyed the opportunity to learn from leadership at other funds and build relationships with them. The last session especially reinforced how different each person’s pathway into impact investing was, and how there are still so many unanswered (albeit exciting) questions in this still-nascent field.
- ICM Mentor: Each of the fellows were paired up with a mentor to meet with throughout the summer to discuss our progress, answer any questions, and also gain additional advice/ guidance as we navigate our paths forward. I was paired with a Partner from New U Venture Partners, and my mentor was incredibly helpful in helping me think through what type of impact I hope to have in my career, especially coming from both a business and policy background. He similarly shares an appreciation for bringing a policy lens to his work in VC and gave me examples of how this plays out in practice, especially for B2G sales.
Overall, the Mosaic Fellowship significantly increased my interest in impact investing, while also providing me an opportunity to put the technical skills from my Finance courses into practice. I am excited to continue exploring this ecosystem throughout my next two years of graduate school, and am thankful to have both the ICM and Mosaic community to continue guiding me along the way.