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Empowering the Next Generation of Changemakers & Building a Diverse Talent Pipeline for Venture Capital

How the Venture Capital & Impact Investing Internship Program at Sorenson Impact Institute Prepares Students for Successful and Impactful Careers

Hands-on, real-world experience is integral to preparing students for life after higher education. It provides opportunities for students to make connections, determine their desired career path, and gain valuable skills they can apply in future roles. The Sorenson Impact Institute at the University of Utah offers a variety of unparalleled internship opportunities for students with an impact lens. Training and empowering the next generation of changemakers is at the forefront of the institute’s mission to achieve a just and sustainable future.

Among the Institute’s internship opportunities for students is the one-of-a-kind Venture Capital & Impact Investing Internship Program, which is open to both undergraduate and graduate students. Since 2013, more than 500 student interns have helped to deploy over $70M+ into early-stage companies and funds in both the impact and traditional tech sectors.

“Our alumni often tell us that their experience at Sorenson was a key differentiator in preparing them to be successful in their job searches and early career roles,“ says Eliza Roady, Managing Director of Impact Investing at Sorenson Impact Institute.

The Impact Investing program aims to create greater access to careers in investing and business for students from diverse backgrounds by providing a differentiated experiential learning opportunity, all with a lens of impact that will help shape students’ world views and professional trajectories. “We see our mission as empowering students to launch their careers with differentiated skills and experience and sending young professionals into the world with an understanding of how they can leverage their roles and power for positive impact regardless of their professional path,” Roady says.

The impact investing program also drives impact through the capital it helps allocate. It guides partners to invest in high-potential and high-impact companies and entrepreneurs building solutions to challenging problems across the impact and traditional tech ecosystems.

 

A Hands-On Impact Investing Experience

The Venture Capital & Impact Investing apprenticeship program is open to students from all majors and universities. Students in the program engage across the full spectrum of investing responsibilities, from finding companies to leading due diligence, preparing investment memos, and ultimately making recommendations to investment committees. Students work alongside the Institute’s full-time investment staff to source and evaluate investment opportunities. The program primarily focuses on early-stage venture deals, with some exposure to innovative fund investing.

“One thing that sets Sorenson’s investing activity apart from other programs is the breadth of company type and geography that students will engage with,” Roady says. “Our funds are industry and business-model agnostic, meaning students will gain experience across a broad range of industries including fintech, edtech, health tech, cleantech, justice tech, and others, and develop an understanding of different business models and customer types depending on whether a company is selling directly to end users, to other companies, or to government entities.”

Through the capital that the Impact Investing program manages, students also have the opportunity to work on investments both domestically and globally, providing the unique opportunity to focus on emerging markets one day and a company just down the street the next.

Alumni of the Impact Investing program have gone on to launch careers across a broad range of areas, including venture capital, private equity, investment banking, consulting, and entrepreneurship. One example is Devon Gethers, Co-Founder & Managing Partner at SectionX Capital, a Utah-based seed-stage venture fund that invests in impact tech entrepreneurs. Of his experience as a student analyst, Gethers said, “The Sorenson Impact Institute helped me realize that one can return capital to its investors while also doing social good in the world. My time at the Institute provided the best education and preparation for real-world application.”

Students are put at the forefront of the investing experience throughout their time in the program, learning valuable hard and soft skills they can take into their careers, Roady notes. “For example, on the diligence side, students gain many repetitions looking at and analyzing business models and go-to-market strategies, conducting primary customer research, and engaging with founders and CEOs,” she says. Students who remain in the program for extended periods can grow into increasingly senior roles on the team. The most advanced students become Senior Associates where they assume a direct role in leading student deal teams, honing both project management and people management skills, in addition to investing skills.

Meghan Williams, a Senior Analyst at Mercato Partners, credits her experience as a student intern on the Impact Investing team for the career path she’s on today. “The Sorenson Impact Institute helped me develop foundational skills to put on my resume and valuable experience that I could discuss in interviews,” she said.

 

One of the First Student-Run Venture Funds

In 2001, students at the University of Utah seeking venture capital experience launched the University Venture Fund (UVF). It was one of the first student-run venture funds in the country, and it provided an unparalleled experience. In 2013, Jim Sorenson endowed the Sorenson Impact Institute to provide additional structure and support to the UVF experience. This marked the birth of the Impact Investing program as it exists today.

Since 2013, the Impact Investing program has provided support to the Sorenson Impact Foundation to advance their pioneering deployment of program-related investment (PRI) capital to support the growth of early-stage, high-impact business models tackling challenges of poverty around the globe. Each year, the Impact Investing program helps the Sorenson Impact Foundation deploy several million dollars into companies and innovative funds creating meaningful impact in the lives of very low-income populations in both the U.S. and emerging markets.

UVF II, a successor fund to UVF, was raised and launched in 2017. Alongside other work, this fund provided capital for the impact investing program to deploy, with a focus on high-growth impact companies. UVF II was fully deployed by the end of 2022 and is currently in its holding period (where investments are held and returns are harvested).

The impact investing program also manages the Joan and Tim Fenton Founders Fund, a $5M fund that was established and launched in 2022. This fund was established at the Eccles School of Business to provide more hands-on learning experiences for students while catalyzing the UT tech ecosystem and investing in companies coming out of educational settings with a focus on the University of Utah’s Masters in Business Creation program.

 

Providing Greater Access to Careers in Investing and Impact

The Impact Investing program is now focused on expanding its reach and impact by ensuring the program is accessible to students from all backgrounds, with a focus on growing the number of women, students of color, and first-generation college students in the program. Among other efforts focused on recruitment, support, and compensation, the program is seeking to partner with minority-serving academic institutions. “This expansion will advance our goal of providing greater access to careers in venture capital and investing and diversifying the talent pipeline going into these fields,” Roady says. “We are taking this proven training tool and intentionally leveraging it to increase access to investing careers for students from all backgrounds.”

By intentionally expanding its reach to create access for more underrepresented individuals, the program aims to create a diverse talent pipeline that produces best-in-class new talent for employers and drives more interest and access for diverse young professionals to pursue roles in the capital allocation ecosystem. “This is how we change the face of capital allocation,” Roady says, “which will change how and where investment capital flows to create a more inclusive capital system.”

Interested in getting involved? Apply for an internship with the Sorenson Impact Institute! Interested students are encouraged to reach out to Shannon Meyer (shannon.meyer@sorensonimpact.com) on the Impact Investing team for the most current information on application cycles.

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