The UBC Social Impact Fund was created to support UBC ventures with social and environmental impact as their primary mission.
With world-class research, a strategic focus on innovation and a student body with a strong desire to contribute to solving local and global challenges, UBC is ideally positioned to be a breeding ground for ground-breaking impact ventures. Early stage investments are critical to the development of all new ventures, but impact ventures face unique challenges and funding gaps. The UBC Social Impact Fund provides flexibility, considers impact in the risk-return equation and takes the long- term vision needed to support impact ventures from UBC.
The UBC Social Impact Fund was created with the support of the J. W. McConnell Foundation under its RECODE program, an initiative to provide social innovation and entrepreneurship opportunities for college and university students. The founding contribution of investment capital was made by the David and Dorothy Lam Foundation.
The fund invests in ventures from the UBC community whose objective is providing innovative solutions to critical social and environmental challenges. We define social and impact ventures as organizations that:
- Have a clearly defined theory of change underpinning their solution and product or service
- Are bringing a novel approach that will disrupt and industry, fundamentally changing the way a particular problem is addressed, are delivering impact through a highly scalable model, or are solving an important problem for an underserved population
- Measure, manage for, and strive to maximize the impact of their venture
Current Portfolio Companies
Brighter Investment For up to 85% of qualified students in developing countries, there are no loans or scholarships available to get a degree, despite the high financial return for the student and social return for the country. This discrepancy provides us with a huge opportunity for change, for growth, and for investment.
Instead of limiting these young students’ futures because of their family status, Brighter Investment provides investors with the opportunity to back the engineers, doctors and scientists of the future. This partnership benefits both student and investor, socially and financially.
Wize Monkey produces and sells an alternative to coffee and tea in the form of “coffee-leaf tea” a “tea” made from the leaves of young coffee plants. The coffee leaf provides a smoother taste than tea or coffee and has additional health benefits. Harvesting coffee leaf tea provides year round income to coffee farm workers who currently face seasonality, migration and low income.
Chop Value Bamboo chopsticks are energy intensive to produce and transport and are used for only a few minutes, resulting in a heavy carbon footprint. Chop Value harvests used chopsticks from the urban environment and repurposes them into a new building material which is carbon negative, durable, and beautiful.
How to Support
UBC’s Social Impact Fund provides donors to UBC with an opportunity to support impact-focused startups from the UBC community to scale and create impact locally and globally. The fund reinvests all returns into new ventures, multiplying the impact of a contribution. For more information on how to donate to the fund, please contact Jana Svedova.
David C. Lam Social Innovation award
The David C. Lam Social Innovation award recognizes the founding contribution to the UBC Social Impact Fund from the David and Dorothy Lam Foundation. This award is given annually to a venture that demonstrates the strong commitment to community and social values that characterized David C. Lam. With this award we recognize ventures that have not only reached significant milestones but have been a support to their peer community and an inspiration to future impact entrepreneurs.
2018 – Mealshare
Mealshare, a social venture founded by Derek Juno, Andrew Hall and Jeremy Bryant, joined UBC Sauder’s Coast Capital Savings Innovation Hub in 2014. Early in their corporate careers, Mealshare’s founders learned that eight million Canadians dine out every single day, while over one million youth are food insecure. Like true entrepreneurs, they didn’t see this as a reason to feel guilty, but as an opportunity and set off to find a way to turn the dining out into a way to tackle food insecurity, quitting their jobs, giving up their paycheques, and starting Mealshare. Today Mealshare has over 300 restaurant partners in Canada and the US and share over 60,000 meals per month.
2017 – Arbutus Medical
The venture was founded by a group of UBC engineering students who had participated in the Engineers in Scrubs program, through which they learned the challenge of performing orthopedic surgery in low income countries. Although these countries have the highest incidents or road vehicle accidents and orthopedic injuries, they also have the lowest access to qualified surgeons and surgical equipment. In response to a call by surgeons at Mulago Hospital for a lower cost way to safely perform orthopedic surgery, the UBC engineers developed the Drill Cover, a cover system that can effectively isolate a hardware drill and make it sanitizable and suitable for surgery. The project resulted in the launch of Arbutus Medical, which has raised over $1.25 million to date and provided safe surgery to patients in Uganda and beyond.