“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” is the famous quote by Confucius, and now I have direct experience of this.
Our team of five spent the first seven months of our Cambridge MBA working on an experiential impact investment competition run by MIINT – MBA Impact Investing Network & Training. Julian Payne, Ahmed Rafaat , Daewon Lee, Yuanyuan (Yvonne) Gong and myself teamed up in September, united by a strong passion in impact investing and a commitment to learn and work together for half a year.
Although our team were very diverse in professional backgrounds and cultures, a good and long-lasting friendship has developed gradually across every weekly meeting. In the Autumn, we were tasked by MIINT to develop our impact investment thesis and to source impact-driven start-ups for a potential seed investment of $50,000. Thanks to the University of Cambridge network, our team could reach out to dozen of incubators here. We received a warm response and support from many organisations, who were then happy to connect us to potential impact start-ups. Eventually, we had long-listed about 40 start-ups. We then spent time learning about these start-ups and their founders. The business school context and classroom provided us with a unique opportunity, to interview such bright and passion-driven entrepreneurs, aiming to solve world problems sustainably.
When Winter came, we had narrowed the long list down and were able to select one company for our investment recommendation. We had spent weeks building our investment criteria, researching many industries and reaching out to our MBA colleagues for advice and support. Besides which, the MIINT programme organisers also provided us with online impact investment classes taught by highly experienced professionals from Bridges Ventures, Impact Engine and the Wharton Social Impact Initiative, among others.
Eventually we decided to represent OXWASH – an end-to-end sustainable laundry service start-up targeting the under-served, but growing, SME customers. As a business it had started small, initially as a laundry service hub in the other place (Oxford) with an aim to raise awareness and reinvent the laundry industry to be more sustainable, reducing carbon emissions and water pollution. OXWASH is a differentiated and competitive player with an on-demand service through its own online channel, an excellent quality control under its own washing hub and integrated software optimising the whole operation process. Some of OXWASH’s environmental initiatives include a carbon neutral policy using solar energy for its washing hub, and e-cargo bikes for the collection and delivery. These environmental initiatives and optimising software allow OXWASH to generate a good business margin. With a start-up the management team is also a key impact investment criterion.
It has already been proven that we had made the right decision. The founder, Dr. Kyle Grant has turned the COVID-19 crisis into a unique opportunity – offering its laundry services to the UK based NHS and hospital and healthcare front line workers.
Spring brought us success for all our hard work as a team. Our team presented our impact investment recommendation to the MIINT committee in April 2020, all now presented online in the current climate. We were very pleased and proud to have won second place in the MIINT Competition overall. We were awarded first runner up against over 30 teams worldwide, representing leading business schools.
More importantly, OXWASH was awarded an equity investment of $25,000 as first runner up. Allowing OXWASH to roll out its laundry hub, as planned, across several cities in the UK, including Cambridge. When the social distancing measurements are eased, we are planning to visit the Cambridge branch and welcome the CEO Kyle and his team, to their new Cambridge home.
Image credit – Oxwash.