Wharton Impact Venture Associates (WIVA) is an experiential education program that gives a cohort of Wharton undergraduate and graduate students, along with other Penn students, hands-on, real-world experience in impact investing.

The WIVA team sources early-stage companies that have both a compelling business model and the potential for significant social or environmental impact.
With guidance and training from ESG Initiative staff, WIVA students conduct research based on rigorous investment and impact criteria. If we identify a promising company, WIVA then connects the company founders to crowdfunding platforms.
Key Figures:
  • WIVA has spurred $2M in impact investments
  • Over 1,500 Companies Sourced
  • 64 WIVA Associates (students) and Alumni

Learn More About WIVA

Students: Join WIVA

  • Through a competitive application process each year, the ESG Initiative selects several Wharton and Penn undergraduate, graduate, and PhD students to join WIVA.
  • You will join a best-in-class impact investing educational program that mirrors typical investment fund activities.
  • You will also learn cutting-edge impact management and measurement practices, hear from industry experts, and attend networking opportunities throughout the impact investing community.

Entrepreneurs: Get in Touch

  • The WIVA team seeks compelling early-stage impact enterprises that have a positive social or environmental impact and offer an attractive financial return.
  • WIVA looks for companies that are raising their Seed or Series A round of financing.
  • After conducting rigorous research, WIVA students connect select enterprises to leading crowdfunding platforms like Republic.co, WeFunder, and Netcapital.
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“WIVA helps connect social entrepreneurs with relevant resources like personnel and sources of capital. Our experience working with WIVA has been great thus far. I appreciated the constant interaction and updates – the WIVA team was always aware of our needs and used their networks to help move forward various aspects of our venture.”
– ANUP SINGH, CO-FOUNDER, INNAMED (WIVA PORTFOLIO COMPANY)
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“I’ve had the opportunity to shape an investment vehicle that builds upon the research of the ESG Initiative, deeply question what sectors should command our highest attention and time, and deliberate the age-old question: ‘what standard should be used to measure impact?’”
– SAM BROWN, WG’20

ESG Initiative Staff

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Rajith Sebastian, WG’17, CFA

Head of Impact Investments, ESG Initiative

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Vaibhav Gowda

Impact Program Associate, ESG Initiative

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Jay Corbin

Team Coordinator, ESG Initiative

FAQs

HOW DOES WIVA WORK?

Wharton Impact Venture Associates (WIVA) is an experiential education program that gives a cohort of Wharton and Penn graduate and undergraduate students hands-on, real-world experience in impact investing.

The program mirrors typical investment fund activities, and Associates have access and exposure to deals, entrepreneurs, investors, faculty, and other partners. To catalyze cross-disciplinary innovation and investment performance, teams include students from Wharton, Penn Engineering, Penn Law, Penn Medicine, the College of Arts and Science, etc.

Every year, WIVA sources 400+ impactful enterprises. Students are held to the same standard as typical venture capital associates as they source deals and meticulously screen the business and impact models of companies. WIVA students also pitch these companies on a weekly basis to an “investment committee”—other WIVA team members who ask tough questions to assess if the impact investing opportunity is worth pursuing.

After conducting rigorous research on these companies—including frequent contact with the founders—WIVA students connect select enterprises to leading crowdfunding platforms like Netcapital, Republic.co, and Seedinvest. Through connections made by WIVA, companies have received over $2 million in impact investments via crowdfunding platforms.

WHAT IS WIVA’S STRATEGY?

WIVA targets early-stage, for-profit companies in the United States that combine the promise of market-rate financial returns and meaningful social or environmental impact.

We work with companies that are raising Seed or Series A rounds of financing, and we focus on companies looking for $50,000 to $1,000,000 in investment.

These companies must have at least some of the following characteristics:

  1. They help people meet basic needs. They make it possible for all people to gain access to adequate food, clean water, sanitation, shelter, income, and physical security.
  2. They create opportunities. They allow individuals to gain access to education, employment, financial services, and other resources that promote economic advancement, autonomy, and security.
  3. They increase environmental sustainability. They reduce environmental pollution, combat climate change, and promote the acceptance and use of “green” energy, products, and services.

HOW DOES WIVA MEASURE AND MANAGE IMPACT?

WIVA’s impact assessment methodology leverages our knowledge of industry best practices and our commitment to an evidence-based approach.

With support from the ESG Initiative’s team of impact professionals, WIVA assesses a company’s impact potential based on research-validated strategies for achieving social and environmental benefits. We work with entrepreneurs to identify key performance indicators related to their company’s impact objectives. We also actively engage with entrepreneurs to ensure financial returns and impact outcomes are maximized.

Questions we ask when assessing impact include:

  1. What impact is being created?
  2. Who exactly is being helped?
  3. How much?
  4. Would it have happened anyway?
  5. What is the risk/volatility of the impact?
  6. What does the evidence suggest about the company’s impact?
  7. How strong is the evidence?
  8. Is the company prioritizing scale or effect?
  9. How is impact tracked?

I’M A CURRENT PENN/WHARTON STUDENT. HOW CAN I JOIN WIVA?

We are eager to work with current students across the entire University, regardless of your school or year of education. Every year, WIVA recruits at the beginning of the school year – and also recruits full-time interns for the summer.

Sign up for the ESG Initiative’s email list to be in the loop about upcoming opportunities to join WIVA.

I’M AN ENTREPRENEUR. HOW CAN I GET INVOLVED?

The WIVA team is rigorously trained in industry best practices and leverages the impact investing expertise of the ESG Initiative. We’ve spoken to over 1,000 entrepreneurs, and we understand the complex challenges you might be facing. Reach out and send your pitch deck to wiva-esgi@wharton.upenn.edu.

I’D LIKE TO SUPPORT THIS PROGRAM. HOW CAN I DO THAT?

A gift to the ESG Initiative at the Wharton School helps us develop the next generation of leaders in impact investing by providing best-in-class training to Penn and Wharton students. Contact us to learn more.

Join Wharton’s premier impact investing group.

DISCLAIMER:

Neither the University of Pennsylvania, the Wharton School, Wharton Impact Venture Associates (WIVA), nor any of their respective students, faculty, directors, officers, employees, representatives, affiliates, or agents (collectively, the “Penn Parties”) (i) is acting as underwriter, broker-dealer, promoter, financial advisor, or other intermediary with respect to any offering of securities by any entity mentioned in this article, or (ii) has received or will receive any compensation from any person or entity as an incentive to publish of this article.  In addition, the Penn Parties have not received and will not receive any compensation or other item of value in connection with any possible or future investment in any securities issued by any entity mentioned herein.

Any research or diligence described above (i) was performed by WIVA solely for its own, limited, educational purposes, and not for the purpose of aiding any person in making any investment decision, and (ii) may be limited and incomplete, by its very nature, as a result of limited publicly available information and other limited information voluntarily made available to WIVA.  No Penn Party shall have any liability whatsoever arising from any error or incompleteness of fact or opinion in, or lack of care in the preparation or publication of, this article.

Copyright ©2022 the Wharton School.  All rights reserved.  The information, methodologies, data and opinions contained or reflected herein are proprietary of the Wharton School and/or its students, are intended for non-commercial use, and may not be copied, distributed or used in any way, including via citation, unless otherwise explicitly agreed in writing.  They are provided for informational purposes only and (1) do not constitute investment or financial advice; (2) cannot be interpreted as an offer, indication, solicitation, or recommendation to buy or sell any securities or to undertake any kind of business transactions; (3) do not represent an assessment of any issuer’s economic performance, financial obligations nor of its creditworthiness; and (4) are not a substitute for a professional financial, legal, and tax advice.