Investing in Inclusion Pitch Competition

By Jennifer Wells

uilding on the momentum of last year’s inaugural “Investing in Inclusion” pitch competition, the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership (EGAL) welcomed six teams, from four MBA programs, to Berkeley Haas on March 8th to pitch early stage ventures in front of a live audience of community members, students, and esteemed judges.

The Investing in Inclusion Pitch Competition debuted in Spring 2018 to create a new avenue for business students and their teams to apply innovative problem-solving to issues of exclusion and marginalization. EGAL is uniquely positioned to promote the dual values of inclusion and innovation. As a business school long centered on innovation in all areas of business and society, Haas has a strong reputation for questioning the status quo, and this competition builds on the school’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts.

This year’s panel of judges included social entrepreneurs, educators, and investors across the Bay Area. Anisha Mudaliar (Manager, Access to Capital at Endeavor), Charu Sharma (Co-Founder and CEO at NextPlay.ai), Greg Bennett (Investment Associate at Kapor Capital), Jorge Calderon (Entrepreneur, Founder, and Lecturer at Berkeley Haas), Kamal Haasin (Director, Early Stage Practice at Silicon Valley Bank), and Vivienne Hsu (Founder and CEO at LENDonate, inc.) brought a wealth of knowledge and perspective to the team evaluations. The ventures were judged on business potential, social impact potential, and likelihood of success.

The six teams presented solutions, ranging from: removing bias in informational interviews and employee performance reviews, to virtual reality D&I training, to virtual evaluations and support for learning differences, to online and offline networks for black women, to a venture fund committed to advancing women’s sexual wellbeing. Each team had 10 minutes to present, followed by 5 minutes of Q&A from the judges.

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The Winning Teams | Photo by Jim Block

After the judges deliberation, three teams received $13,000 in total to support the continued growth of their ventures. The 2019 winning teams were Thrive Education, Dear Black Women, and Rewrite Ventures.

Thrive Education provides comprehensive video evaluations and follow-up support for learning differences such as dyslexia, autism, and ADHD from expert educational specialists, giving parents the tools they need to help their children thrive. Dear Black Women is an affirmation movement and network where black women heal, connect, and grow. They specialize in curating offline and online spaces that create community and increase the social capital of black women. Rewrite Ventures is the first investment fund committed to advancing women’s sexual wellbeing, and to ushering in intimacy justice, focusing on sex education, women’s pleasure, and preventing pain during sex.

In a follow-up email to EGAL, one of the winning teams said:

“Getting to pitch in this program was an invaluable experience. This was our first time pitching this idea (in an actual pitch format), and our first time sharing a deck with anyone (no one else saw the deck beforehand besides our graphic designer), and it was phenomenal practice to get to share our ideas while fresh and to engage in such valuable dialogue about them.”

We are honored to provide a platform for these entrepreneurs to share their ideas and contribute to helping them launch their companies. We look forward to tracking their continued success. Our next Investing in Inclusion Pitch Competition will take place in Spring 2020. Please contact egal@berkeley.edu if your organization is interested in sponsoring or getting involved with the event.

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Photos by Jim Block

At the heart of UC Berkeley's Business School, the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership educates equity-fluent leaders to ignite and accelerate change.

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