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Higher Education Thought Leadership

Student-run Peachtree Minority Venture Fund makes first investments

Goizueta Business School students (L-R) Alexia Brown, Jack Semrau, Dylan Cowley, Miguel Vergara and Humza Mirza confer as part of the student-run Peachtree Minority Venture Fund.

By Michelle Hiskey

Peachtree Minority Venture Fund

After a semester of research and analysis, the 24 students in Goizueta Business School’s Venture Capital and Minority Entrepreneurship class announced the first three investments for the Peachtree Minority Venture Fund (PMVF). This student-run venture fund is the first of its kind to make equity investments for U.S.-based and underrepresented Black, Latinx and 

An integral part of The Roberto C. Goizueta Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, the $1 million fund recently announced its first round of capital opportunities.

Funding unique ventures

An award of $25,000 was granted to CommunityX, a mobile-first social app that unites like-minded change-makers around shared causes. The app leverages traditional social media algorithmic thinking to be able to connect people and calls to action, such as petitions, events, donations and more. CommunityX also has received funding from TechStars

Chloe Cheyenne, founder and CEO of CommunityX

“When our team found out that we were going to be a part of the Peachtree Minority Venture Fund portfolio, we were very excited for all the obvious reasons,” says founder and CEO Chloë Cheyenne, who describes herself as a multiracial young woman with Chicago, Illinois, roots. “Hearing firsthand from all of the Goizueta staff, students and founders about how much thought and intention went into building this fund, we are totally humbled to be a part of this community.”

Ecotone Renewables of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, earned a $15,000 award and is the maker of Soil Sauce, a liquid plant fertilizer organically produced from food waste. By making sustainable food and agriculture systems more accessible and prevalent outside the industrial scale, Ecotone is dedicated to building the tools necessary to empower communities to redevelop and grow through sustainable food practices.

Elliott Bennett, CFO of Ecotone Renewables

“We produce renewable energy through the extraction of biomass, as well as an organic, sustainable fertilizer,” said Ecotone Renewables CFO Elliott Bennett. “That fertilizer is our main focus as we look to empower communities. This is part of a sustainable form of agriculture because it allows new plants to grow. And really, it gives people the ability to be sustainable in the way that they plant, whether it’s on a farm or the garden.”

An award of $15,000 also went to Atlanta-based FundStory, which helps finance teams access and manage nondilutive capital. This type of capital does not require a business owner to give up equity or ownership and is often essential to launching a startup. FundStory offers all-in-one workflow management software to help finance teams evaluate risk, automate funding options and manage financing into maturity.

“I’m really appreciative for the opportunity and the commitment, and we’re excited,” FundStory CEO and co-founder Bobby Gilbert says. “We like to think of it as the operating system for not a lot of capital. Entrepreneurs don’t wake up and decide they’re going to go into debt. Prior to funding through us, they have to map out a plan, choose the right partner and manage financing into maturity. We set out to build a FundStory with a thesis of helping founders for each stage of their journey.” 

Reflecting on key takeaways

Bobby Gilbert, CEO and co-founder of FundStory

The three entrepreneurs spoke at a reception for Goizueta Business School alumni, faculty, administration, staff and the students who operated the fund as managing partners and associates. The reception was hosted by the five managing partners who operate the fund alongside teams of senior associates and analysts.

“We went through a lot of debate, and at the end of the day we made the most informed decisions we could,” says Humza Mirza, an MBA graduate and the fund’s managing partner for marketing and recruiting. “Did we get the right answer? Only time will tell. We are all taking a lot of learnings from getting the Peachtree Minority Venture Fund started.”

The class is part of a new diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) concentration for full-time MBA students, focusing on understanding factors that contribute to the gap in venture capital funding to underrepresented minority entrepreneurs and how this challenge might best be addressed. Students split into six teams, each assigned to find minority-owned startups in one sector: consumer products and goods, energy, fintech, health care technology, information technology and manufacturing.

“Each of our teams worked tirelessly to make sure we have a strong pipeline going forward,” says Jack Semrau, an Evening MBA student and the fund’s managing partner for deal sourcing and portfolio management.

“We worked through a very traditional process of what you see in other VC firms, to make sure that we find exceptional founders who showcased their know-how and their specific industry and product so that we could proceed to actually make an investment,” Semrau continues. “We couldn’t be happier to make the first round of investments that are part of the Peachtree Minority Venture Fund.”

Goizueta Business School students handle the Peachtree Minority Venture Fund, the first of its kind to make equity investments for U.S.-based and underrepresented Black, Latinx and Indigenous entrepreneurs. Managing partners—and Goizueta students—Alexia Brown (from left), Jack Semrau, Dylan Cowley, Miguel Vergara and Humza Mirza celebrate awarding funds to the inaugural recipients.

The fund grew from the work of Goizueta alumni who learned from local underrepresented entrepreneurs that access to capital was a major pain point and wanted to do something about it.

But “As students, you can only do so much; you have to have a faculty or staff member that really believes in the idea,” says Goizueta alumnus Willie Sullivan. He joined the current MBA students in thanking supporters “who really believed in this and believed in our ability to make this happen.”

One of those supporters is Robert Kazanjian, academic director of The Roberto C. Goizueta Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. 

“We are really good at finding interesting ways to take what might be a straight theoretical issue in the classroom and then having students experience it in a real setting,” Kazanjian says. “This is a big challenge for professional schools, how to manage that tension between theory and practice. I see this venture fund as absolutely working and think this is a great example of what Goizueta does well.”


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