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Education Innovation Ventures: Director's Message

August 03, 2022

By Jessica Haselton, Director, Program-Related Investments

During the Great Recession, I worked at a small family foundation that was part of a funders’ collaborative. Many of our members struggled during the economic downturn and consequently, so did our grantees. I felt compelled to think about alternative models for helping nonprofits and for-profit companies driving social change become more sustainable.

Ten years later, I joined ECMC Foundation and soon after helped launch Education Innovation Ventures (EIV). We provide capital to seed early stage companies and nonprofits utilizing an equity lens to improve postsecondary educational outcomes and economic mobility among learners and jobseekers from systemically disadvantaged backgrounds. In addition to student outcomes, we focus on underserved entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders from marginalized backgrounds. Their organizations — both for-profit and nonprofit — need risk capital to thrive, and that’s where ECMC Foundation comes in. We believe that closing funding gaps for women and people of color-led companies early leads to more equitable outcomes for those companies and the students they aim to serve in the long term.

Through direct investments, fund investments and our donor-advised fund, we make catalytic contributions — equity, debt and guarantees — to innovators. We use a simple five-point model for our investment criteria:

  1. Impact: A measurable strategy for driving educational outcomes and economic mobility for students from underserved backgrounds and markets; a commitment to building systemic change and sharing lessons learned with the greater education sector
  2. Risk and Innovation: Early-stage ventures with transformative and disruptive products and services that address an unmet market need, and whose success will grow with EIV investment
  3. Scalability: Ventures with sustainable business models using market-based approaches that need access to patient capital to achieve scale
  4. Leverage: Ventures that test new and bold ideas with the potential to attract additional sources of capital to grow impact
  5. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Intentionality around building a diverse and inclusive body of leadership and practicing strong internal social governance; gender and ethnic diversity among founding team

Our unique position gives us a level of flexibility with our capital that other investment funds don’t have. The results speak for themselves.

I’ve been heartened to see startups like Onramp and Edquity thrive through our partnership, right alongside nonprofit investees like Better Future Forward, where our blended financing of grant and program-related investment support has helped it balance growth capital alongside essential costs like administrative overhead.

As we grow our portfolio, we plan to continue our emphasis on persistence and completion, career navigation and exploration, alternative student financing and expand on a nascent but growing practice in improving educational equity across the healthcare workforce in the US.

Learn more about our portfolio companies, innovative financial models and investment approach on our website — and consider joining us as an investment partner to keep expanding our multisector impact on higher education and career success.


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