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Why we launched a student-led social venture fund
14 October 2020
Earlier this month the School of Business and Management at Queen Mary University of London launched a student-led social impact venture fund focusing on “start-ups for good” – a new breed of student managed investment fund aiming to support long-term social change. The fund empowers students and recent graduate entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing society today such as reducing carbon emissions, waste and promoting diversity & inclusion in education.
The fund is the first student-led venture capital fund investing in student-led social enterprises in the UK. Built by students, for students, the fund provides them with opportunities to develop their entrepreneurial knowledge and skills with support from industry mentors as well as from fellow academics. Student investors will advise and invest in real-life early-stage start-ups with a social mission. There are many successful student enterprises. A notable example is ‘Too good to go’ a social enterprise co-founded by Queen Mary graduate Jamie Crummie in 2016. The app enables restaurants with unused food to sell it to customers at a reduced price. It has become the world’s largest B2C marketplace for surplus food, saving 50 million meals across 14 countries.
It takes start-ups of all shapes and sizes to tackle the challenges in our society today. Yet, diversity and inclusion remain a barrier to success in the start-up world. For instance, recent research shows that only 17% of women and 29% of men of founders and employees of European tech start-ups agree that the ecosystem provides equal opportunity for people of all demographics, backgrounds, and experiences. The good news is a social impact investing ecosystem is being built from the bottom up. In particular, young entrepreneurs are driving the “tech for good” movement. There is no better place to start shaping the future and empowering the next generation of social entrepreneurs and investors from diverse backgrounds, and that is why I am proud to launch the fund with our amazing student investor team.
Our fund aims to promote diversity and inclusion from both sides of the table — our student investors from diverse backgrounds are keen to identify those social challenges and solutions that may not be fleshed out by mainstream investors. We are thrilled to be working with the Creator Fund, a leading VC fund investing in student start-ups across the UK and Europe, and they strongly believe in the potential that universities have to create world leading technology businesses as well as tackle major societal challenges.
The initiative is part of Queen Mary’s Student Knowledge Exchange Through Community Hubs (SKETCH) programme in which students provide pro bono consultancy and venture capital services to East London local communities, start-ups, third sector organisations and beyond. The social venture fund builds on Queen Mary’s School of Business and Management’s Entrepreneurship programmes, as well as Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship which is specifically designed for the social sector. The programme, the first of its kind in the UK, allows enterprising students to earn, learn and change the world.
Today, Queen Mary University of London remains true to that belief in opening the doors of opportunity for anyone with the potential to succeed and helping to build a future we can all be proud of.