First-of-its-Kind Philanthropic Venture Fund to Invest in Social Impact-focused Entrepreneurs Selected through Solve’s Global Challenges
May 7, 2019 (CAMBRIDGE, MA)—At its annual meeting today, MIT Solve, an initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that advances lasting solutions from tech entrepreneurs to address the world's most pressing problems, announced the launch of the Solve Innovation Fund, a groundbreaking philanthropic venture fund that will direct catalytic investments in early-stage entrepreneurs solving global challenges. The Fund will raise $30 million over time from philanthropic donors who can contribute through tax-deductible gifts to MIT.
The Solve Innovation Fund will make debt and equity investments in for-profit Solver teams that are selected through Solve’s annual open innovation Global Challenges. Returns from Fund investments will be reinvested into future Solver teams, allowing donor money to be recycled several times through the Fund, and creating a pay-it-forward mechanism for Solver teams. The Fund will be set up as a Donor-Advised Fund (DAF), independent to and external to MIT, with MIT Solve acting as the donor-advisor. The Fund’s structure is innovative as a first-of-its-kind dedicated venture fund structured as a DAF, and will serve as a model to unlock significantly more capital towards early-stage social entrepreneurs globally.
Noubar Afeyan, Founder and CEO of Flagship Pioneering and MIT Corporation member, is the founding anchor of the Solve Innovation Fund, committing up to $3 million to the Fund. Since its founding in 2000, Flagship Pioneering, a unique life science innovation enterprise, has originated and grown more than 100 scientific ventures that have transformed human health and sustainability and created over $30 billion in aggregate value.
“I am happy to back the MIT Solve team helping launch the Solve Innovation Fund and providing critical funding for Solver teams addressing the world’s most pressing problems and the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” said Afeyan. “The Fund serves as a first-of-its-kind, innovative philanthropic vehicle for unlocking significantly more capital towards early stage social entrepreneurs everywhere.”
“Solve’s mission is to tackle global challenges by helping early-stage innovators from all around the world connect with each other, tap the strength of MIT's innovation ecosystem and, crucially, gain the resources to transform their ideas into impactful solutions. The Solve Innovation Fund is an inspiring step to providing Solver teams with the capital to deliver their solutions at scale,” said MIT President L. Rafael Reif. “As an MIT graduate and a pioneering leader in Greater Boston's biotech community, Noubar Afeyan has a remarkable record of translating promising ideas into serious impact. As Solve launches this novel approach to funding innovations to advance social good, we are profoundly grateful to have Noubar as a supporter, an ally, and an inspiration."
In the last two years, thanks to its partners, Solve has brokered commitments of over $12 million in funding for Solver teams and entrepreneurs, primarily in the form of grant capital, to address the funding gap for high-impact solutions. The Fund is the next evolution of this work, as it will provide investment financing for Solver teams, and thus help bridge the pioneering gap—providing critical capital for early-stage social entrepreneurs when they need it most.
“We are excited to announce the launch of the Solve Innovation Fund, a philanthropic investment vehicle designed to help address the early-stage innovation gap, and to grow the pipeline of investable, marketable solutions to pressing problems facing the world,” said Alex Amouyel, Executive Director of MIT Solve. “Thanks to the generous support from Noubar Afeyan—and we hope many others who will join—the Solve Innovation Fund will sustainably invest in Solver teams and their success.”
Donor-Advised Funds are a rapidly growing philanthropic giving mechanism, accounting for over $110 billion of capital across the US overall. Out of this $110 billion, a small percentage is estimated to be invested for impact and even less of this capital is being allocated to venture impact investing. The Solve Innovation Fund, led by MIT Solve Principal Casey van der Stricht, will serve as a model to unlock more DAF capital towards early-stage innovation to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
About MIT Solve:
MIT Solve is an initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that advances lasting solutions from tech entrepreneurs to address the world's most pressing problems. Solve issues four Global Challenges each year to find the most promising Solver teams who will drive transformational change. Solve then deploys its global community of private, public, and nonprofit leaders to form the partnerships these Solver teams need to scale their impact. Solve’s current open Challenges are open until July 1 and include: (1) Circular Economy, (2) Community-Driven Innovation, (3) Early Childhood Development, and (4) Healthy Cities. In the last two years, Solve and its partners have brokered commitments of over $12 million in funding to tech entrepreneurs, in addition to in-kind support and resources.