Recent Penn graduates Max Strickberger, Sam Strickberger, Niko Simpkins, and Seungkwon Son received the 2022 Penn President’s Engagement Prize for their startup College Green Ventures, which aims to be “a national hub for social impact on college campuses.”
Branded as “a one-stop shop for supporting impact entrepreneurs and creating more of them,” the company supports startups in their early stages that have the potential for social impact. The company already has scouting teams at Penn and Columbia University, and features the startups they support in a weekly newsletter.
“The founders of impact companies are having a harder time raising capital and measuring and scaling their impact,” co-founder Max Strickberger told The Daily Pennsylvanian. “There’s a gap in what young people are creating companies around, and the help that they’re receiving.”
College Green Ventures aims to solve this problem. After finding social impact startups, the company will provide them with the “publicity, talent, and, eventually, funding” they need to grow. The company sprung from an idea to make others aware of social impact startups that Strickberger had several years prior.
“From high school, I had this deep interest in social entrepreneurship and how you can combine the creativity that comes with business and a goal of doing good in the world, combining purpose with profit,” Strickberger said. “I came to Penn and joined the Turner Social Impact Society…I was looking to combine business with how I could contribute to the world.”
After meeting Tyler Wry, an associate professor of management at Wharton, and learning about his social entrepreneurship research, Strickberger realized he would be a great advisor and mentor.
“[Max and I] were talking about impact and enterprise, and we had this idea to put something together that would shine a light on exciting social ventures that we saw bubbling up, both at Penn and beyond,” Wry told the DP. “That was the impetus for College Green.”
Soon after, the other co-founders joined Strickberger to help grow the venture, including Niko Simpkins, former president of the Underrepresented Student Advisory Board in Engineering, who became a self-described “cultural engineer.”
“Max came with the idea of College Green Ventures,” Niko Simpkins told the DP. “While Max handled a lot of the organizational [aspects], I was looking at the day-to-day level of how we were running the pilot group. How are we composing our teams? How are we making our teams work together? How do we make it something that people are excited about and want to spend time doing? I thought it was a really cool task, and it builds on some of the work that I did for the Underrepresented Student Advisory Board in Engineering, which is also based heavily around community and community building,” he said.
The team started out by interviewing founders at Penn, but expanded to Columbia University before applying for the President’s Engagement Prize, an award that would provide $100,000 of funding for their startup, as well as a $50,000 living stipend for each founding team member.
“Winning the award made us feel that [our passion for social impact] was recognized as something that was valuable,” Simpkins said. “It was a crazy experience to be recognized by the university, especially because I know how talented a lot of the other people were that applied and won. In short, it was a big honor.”
In addition to the College Green Ventures team, Rowana Miller and Manoj Simha won the President's Engagement Prize for Cosmic Writers.
This fall, College Green Ventures will start touring two types of colleges: colleges that traditionally receive a lot of attention from venture capitalists as well as those that are often overlooked, including historically Black colleges and universities.
“With College Green Ventures, we’re not just looking to create impact through the ideas we elevate, but also the people. We’re designing our hub to include historically underrepresented leaders,” Simpkins said to Penn Today.
The company is also creating a program that will “educate students about up-and-coming impact ventures, connect students with jobs and internships, and feature pitch competitions” for those who want to get involved in social impact but are unsure where to start.
“College Green Ventures showcases the forethought and social consciousness of our dynamic students and of Generation Z,” former interim Penn President Wendell Pritchett said to Penn Today. “Their work will do much good here at Penn and at universities across the country.”