At the beginning of January, I joined an interdisciplinary team of ten other Vanderbilt graduate students on a Social Venture Trek to Seattle to learn more about social enterprise and impact investing. We met with a series of organizations, businesses, and executives and talked with them about the state of the field.
Seattle is a hub for the "do good by doing well" ethos that ties social entrepreneurship and impact investing together. On the social enterprise side, we met with Impact Hub Seattle, the largest of the global impact hubs, to have lunch with members of the socially-minded co-working space and talk about the Hub's impact on Seattle through its physical location in the Pioneer Square neighborhood. Similarly, we visited University of Washington's Startup Hall--a tech-focused co-working space that grew out of partnerships between UW and Seattle tech leaders.
While social entrepreneurship is the topic that drew me to apply for the trek, the social impact investing portions of the trip were highly instructive for me, and I learned so much from our interactions with TONIIC and the Threshold Group as well as from my colleagues from the business school who focus on the financial and investment side of the trek.
On top of these two foci, we got the opportunity to meet with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and visit the headquarters of Rover.com to talk with two Vanderbilt alums about startups. It was an excellent trip and a great chance to see how some of the issues that are relevant to my research play out in the business world.