After a semester of research and analysis, the 24 students in Goizueta Business School’s Venture Capital and Minority Entrepreneurship class announced the first three investments for the Peachtree Minority Venture Fund (PMVF). This student-run venture fund is the first of its kind to make equity investments for U.S.-based and underrepresented Black, Latinx, and Native American entrepreneurs.
An integral part of The Roberto C. Goizueta Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, the $1 million fund recently announced its first round of capital opportunities.
An award of $25,000 was granted to CommunityX, a mobile-first social app that unites like-minded change-makers around shared causes. The app leverages traditional social media algorithmic thinking to be able to connect people and calls to action, such as petitions, events, donations, and more. CommunityX also has received funding from TechStars.
“When our team found out that we were going to be a part of the Peachtree Minority Venture Fund portfolio, we were very excited for all the obvious reasons,” said founder and CEO Chloë Cheyenne, who describes herself as a multiracial young woman with Chicago, Ill. roots.
Hearing firsthand from all of the Goizueta staff, students, and founders about how much thought and intention went into building this fund, we are totally humbled to be a part of this community.Chloë Cheyenne, CEO of CommunityX
Ecotone Renewables of Pittsburgh, Pa. earned a $15,000 award and is the maker of Soil Sauce, a liquid plant fertilizer organically produced from food waste. By making sustainable food and agriculture systems more accessible and prevalent outside the industrial scale, Ecotone is dedicated to building the tools necessary to empower communities to redevelop and grow through sustainable food practices.
“We produce renewable energy through the extraction of biomass, as well as an organic, sustainable fertilizer,” said Ecotone Renewables CFO Elliott Bennett. “That fertilizer is our main focus as we look to empower communities. This is part of a sustainable form of agriculture because it allows new plants to grow. And really, it gives people the ability to be sustainable in the way that they plant, whether it’s on a farm or the garden.”Elliott Bennett, CFO of Ecotone Renewables
An award of $15,000 went to Atlanta-based FundStory, which helps finance teams access and manage non-dilutive capital. This type of capital does not require a business owner to give up equity or ownership and is often essential to launching a startup. FundStory offers all-in-one workflow management software to help finance teams evaluate risk, automate funding options, and manage financing into maturity.
“I’m really appreciative for the opportunity and the commitment, and we’re excited,” FundStory CEO and co-founder Bobby Gilbert said. “We like to think of it as the operating system for not a lot of capital. Entrepreneurs don’t wake up and decide they’re going to go into debt. It’s a process from start to finish. Prior to funding through us, they have to map out a plan, choose the right partner and manage financing into maturity. We set out to build a FundStory with a thesis of helping founders for each stage of their journey.”Bobby Gilbert, CEO and co-founder of FundStory
Students Reflect on Experiential Learning and Key Takeaways from Funding Award Process
The three entrepreneurs spoke at an April 20 reception to an audience of Goizueta Business School alumni, faculty, administration, staff, and the students who operated the fund as managing partners and associates. The reception was hosted by the five managing partners who operate the fund alongside teams of senior associates and analysts.
“We went through a lot of debate, and at the end of the day we made the most informed decisions we could,” said Humza Mirza 22MBA, the fund’s managing partner for marketing and recruiting. “Did we get the right answer? Only time will tell. We are all taking a lot of learnings from getting the Peachtree Minority Venture Fund started.”
The 24 participating MBA, EvMBA, BBA, and Law School students received academic credit for their work in the semester-long class. The course, part of a new DEI concentration for full-time MBA students, focuses on understanding factors that contribute to the gap in venture capital funding to underrepresented minority entrepreneurs and how this challenge might best be addressed.
The students formed into six teams, each assigned to find minority-owned startups in one sector: consumer products and goods, energy, fintech, healthcare technology, information technology, and manufacturing.
“Each of our teams worked tirelessly to make sure we have a strong pipeline going forward,” said Jack Semrau 23EvMBA, the fund’s managing partner for deal sourcing and portfolio management.
“We worked through a very traditional process of what you see in other VC firms, to make sure that we find exceptional founders who showcased their know-how and their specific industry and product so that we could proceed to actually make an investment,” Semrau continued. “We couldn’t be happier to make the first round of investments that are part of the Peachtree Minority Venture Fund.”
The fund grew from the work of Brianna Davis 20MBA, Kristen Little 21MBA, Chis Anen 21MBA, Alan Quigley 21MBA, and Willie Sullivan 21MBA, who learned from local underrepresented entrepreneurs that access to capital was a major pain point, and they wanted to do something about it.
“As students, you can only do so much; you really have to have a faculty or staff member that really believes in the idea,” Sullivan said in reflection as the first three investments were announced.
Sullivan joined the current MBA students in thanking supporters “who really believed in this and believed in our ability to make this happen,” including but not limited to Professor in the Practice of Finance J.B. Kurish, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Accounting and Interim John H. Harland Dean Karen Sedatole, The Roberto C. Goizueta Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation Director Amelia Schaffner, and Asa Griggs Candler Chair and professor in Organization & Management Robert Kazanjian.
Kazanjian pointed out that the Peachtree Minority Venture Fund is one example of the school’s continuing commitment to DEI, which is one of its four strategic priorities. He noted that new opportunities await the incoming managing partners and associates, such as identifying resources for startups that are strong investment targets but did not yet receive funding.
We are really good at finding interesting ways to take what might be a straight theoretical issue in the classroom, and then having students experience it in a real setting. This is a big challenge for professional schools, how to manage that tension between theory and practice. I see this venture fund as absolutely working and think this is a great example of what Goizueta does well.Robert Kazanjian, academic director of The Roberto C. Goizueta Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation
For more information and to get involved, visit the Peachtree Minority Venture Fund website. Learn more about Goizueta’s commitment to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion.