Student-run Michigan Climate Venture Invests in Companies Focused on Climate Change
The Michigan Climate Venture fund (MCV) was announced in September as the first climate-focused, University of Michigan student-run venture fund focused entirely on supporting businesses with a focus on decarbonization efforts. The fund seeks to advance three climate-focused themes: food and agriculture, materials and waste, and transportation and mobility.
Housed in the School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS), the fund was created by SEAS dual-degree students with the U-M Ross School of Business under the supervision of Professor Gautam Kaul, the Robert G. Rodkey Collegiate Professor of Business.
Now that the work of setting up the fund has been largely completed, students are turning their focus to researching and vetting companies that fit the parameters of their investment themes. Students also have begun developing connections with other professionally managed investment funds to build a pipeline for investments and future career opportunities.
Sam Buck, a dual-degree student at SEAS and the Ross School of Business, assisted with the logistics of starting the MCV fund. “We are getting a taste of how real venture funds operate from end to end,” said Buck, Director of Recruiting and Culture for MCV. “We’re learning to source startups, screen them based on the criteria laid out in our investment thesis, create models to project potential returns, and ultimately make impactful investment decisions with real dollars behind us. It’s designed to lean as far into action-based learning as possible.”
The MCV fund is structurally similar to other funds that exist at Ross, but differs in its focus and priorities; the MCV is only concerned with companies that make climate change a central focus of their business. “At Ross, cases and classes are largely built around how large, old companies deal with and manage their problems,” said Buck. “Many of the most exciting companies addressing our climate crisis are small, early-stage startups. How they approach challenges will be fundamentally different from the companies we are learning about in most classes.”
Students working on the fund will vet businesses they are interested in investing in, as well as strengthen ties to other venture capitalists focused on climate. Buck noted that “small startups are often at odds with larger, established incumbents. Startups aren’t interested in perpetuating the status quo. Startups are aiming to disrupt our way of life. With MCV, we’re looking to help scale startups that will fundamentally reduce our dependence on a carbon-based economy. With all of the media attention on climate change, there’s a huge tailwind behind us. Now, we need to seize this opportunity and never look back.”
The MCV is located at SEAS, “a school we feel is 100 percent mission-aligned with MCV,” Buck added. “We also have a goal of ensuring that this initiative is as multidisciplinary as possible. We know that we need all the pieces of the puzzle to stymie climate change, and we’re looking for businesses and students involved in ecology, business, policy, engineering, data science, and more.”