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Emergence Impact Entrepreneurship Summit

Friday, June 2nd, 2023

Event Details:

Friday, June 2, 2023
9:00am - 2:00pm PDT


Stanford University
Stanford , CA 94305
United States


Why a For Profit Approach is Critical to Solve the World’s Biggest Challenges

On Friday, June 2nd over 150 impact investors, industry leaders, students, and academic change-makers came together at the first annual Emergence Impact Entrepreneurship Summit.

Emergence, a new initiative at Stanford has set out to inspire, educate, and support the next generation of innovators to improve health through impact entrepreneurship. The initiative is centered around the belief that the most scalable way to create organizations that can have long-lasting impact on the societal health challenges prevalent today is through innovation and profitable business models that attract talent and capital.  

At the Summit, impact founders echoed this belief and gave salient examples of how combining a mission driven innovation, with a scalable, self-sustaining business model allows important innovations to get into the hands of people who need them.

An Impact Founders Journey

Magi Richani
, Founder and CEO of Nobell Foods and a civil engineer by training, wanted to do something about the rapidly deteriorating environment. During her keynote at the Emergence Summit she shared the challenges of getting funding being a female entrepreneur that was looking for what she called “patient capital” where the VC cycle is extended to enable teams to focus on “hard problems that require extensive R&D.”

Richani understood that “food production is responsible for more than a quarter of green gas emissions” and set out to change the way food is made and to do it in a way that creates a product that people want and that can be sustained by a profit generating business model.

Cheese is a $50B market in the US alone. Richani recognized an opportunity to have a positive impact on planetary health and make real money if she could offer something that is both tasty and safer for the environment to produce.

She knows her mission is radical - dramatically reduce the production of environmentally harming cheese and make something delicious that people want in order to do so.

“I can’t think of a better way to create revolution than to take away pizza and cheeseburgers from everyone!” Richani joked. “We need a new way and better options than what is offered in the current food industry so that we can impact our planetary health,” she continued.

And she did just that, after bootstrapping for a period of time to prove out the science, Nobell Foods received over $100 million in venture investment from Breakthrough Energy, and Andreeson Horowitz among others, and is on its way to manufacturing delicious cheese that is good for our bodies and the planet.

Corporate Impact on Innovations for Health and Equity

Scott Mauvais led social impact partnerships at Microsoft and during his 22+ year career at the company realized the importance of aligning ESG efforts of corporations with their main business objectives. For example, he realized that improving tech literacy and access to technology will improve the market share for Microsoft products. When business incentives are aligned and synergistic with social impact incentives they amplify and sustain each other.  Mauvais joined a lively panel at the Emergence Summit, moderated by Matt Nash, Director of the Center for Social Innovation in the Stanford GSB, along with Juny Simpson, Head of Health Equity at Genentech and Tamu Green, CEO of the Equity and Wellness Institute. The panel discussed the importance of deep connection with communities in need and in putting community members in the driver’s seat when it comes to equity programs.

During the panel, Simpson described Genentech's expanding health equity initiatives. Simpson noted the importance of making the business case for inclusion, such as expanding the diversity of populations included in clinical trials. “I got no traction when I focused on just healthcare as a human right, but when I could bring the data forward on the economic impact of serving and including everyone, we created an initiative and got attention and resources across the company,” she explained.

Simpson discussed how Genentech's approach is community centric. “We focus on getting people to opt into healthcare and lock arms with local providers and communities to win trust from communities who don’t always seek healthcare," she said. The Genetech approach brings the community into the process with the goal of getting them the care they need, including critical therapies provided by Genentech and others often not accessible to lower income communities.

Catalyzing Capital for Impact

Professor Chuck Eesley from the Stanford Technology Venture Program led a discussion with a group of impact investors. The panel discussed how the world of investments needs to evolve to incorporate measures other than short term profits in investment decisions. Heidi Patel from Rethink Impact shared the investment case for backing female founders who go after big societal challenges. Hans Cobben from Summa Equity shared how longer term investment vehicles are needed for supporting impact driven ventures. Tom Higley, of X Genesis called on entrepreneurs to address "wicked problems" while Sophia Sunderji from the Global Impact Investing Network spoke to the challenges of quantifying impact, and the goal of including impact measures in all investments.

The Summit ended with presentations from students across Stanford who have set-out to solve the world’s biggest challenges and have done so through profit seeking approaches in order to have the capital to both build and scale solutions in critical areas. The student teams participated in the 6-month Emergence Accelerator program that supports a cohort of highly driven social and environmental student entrepreneurs each year from across campus with an impact entrepreneurship curriculum, industry mentorship, networking and exposure, and funding support.

Among them, OLEO focuses on deforestation-free alternatives to palm oil, which is the prevalent ingredient in most vegetable oils distributed globally; Reset, a mission driven fintech company, seeks to enable low income communities to access earned income without having to wait for the two-week pay cycle; Mi Tribu is improving maternal health in Spanish speaking populations by providing group-care and digital solutions, and Understory, leverages geospatial and AI to track, verify, and better manage natural resources. What they all have in common beyond being impact driven companies, is that they have designed business models that are self-sustaining. Their collective goal, impact the world through sustainable businesses that can be around for a long time so that they can do well, by doing good.



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