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Michigan Climate Venture is the University of Michigan’s first primarily student-run climate impact investing group. The program, which launched in September, is located in the School of Environment and Sustainability and aims to invest in early-stage ClimateTech companies that aim to reduce carbon emissions, according to their website.

The program’s team is led by Business Professor Dr. Gautum Kahl, who oversees a team of 21 Master of Science and MBA candidates. However, both graduates and undergraduates are encouraged to apply for the following admissions cycle. Kahl said the venture has already begun to review potential companies to invest in by the end of this academic year.

“The key I want to pass along is that these students work with me,” Kahl said. “In the long term, the hope is to use this fund as a hub with this fund sitting at the center of it. Without (the fund), I think people’s motivation to invest their time and energy won’t be as high.”

MCV is focused on three main sectors of decarbonization. For food, agriculture and land use, MCV works to improve efficiency and carbon sequestions related to food production and consumption. For materials and energy, MCV partners with startups that decrease waste. For transportation and mobility, MCV seeks solutions to reduce emissions of personal and commercial travel. 

By investing in early-stage startups, MCV hopes to provide pro bono consulting services as well as fill the gap between grantmakers, such as government agencies and nonprofit organizations, and venture capitalists who provide the companies funding.  

Sam Buck, MS/MBA and SEAS candidate and director of recruiting for MCV, told The Michigan Daily in an email that he is looking forward to contributing to the fight against climate change through his work with MCV. 

“The science is clear that climate change is now an all-hands-on-deck situation,” Buck wrote. “We need people from all different backgrounds working together to drive innovative solutions and move capital where it’s needed most. That is exactly what MCV is designed to do.”

MCV is not the only initiative on campus devoted to reducing carbon emissions. University President Mark Schlissel announced the President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality in February 2019 after student activism from groups such as the Climate Action Movement demanded the University take action to mitigate climate change. PCCN’s final report, which was published in March 2021, provided 50 recommendations to help all three University campuses to achieve carbon neutrality by the year 2040.

On Oct. 24, more than 100 students and community members held a climate strike, demanding the University divest from fossil fuels. 

Although the venture is still in its early stages, Buck said he is excited to see how MCV develops in the coming months and years.

“We’re in our proof of concept phase right now, so we hope to see it expand in just about every way,” Buck wrote. “We hope to grow our team, our investment size, and our portfolio. All of that adds up to the impact we can create and our potential to reduce carbon emissions. We’ve already moved mountains to get MCV off the ground, but we’re still in the first inning.”

John Pontillo, MS/MBA and SEAS candidate, serves as the co-director of fund operations for MCV and told The Daily in an email that he is confident in the venture’s ability to enact real change. 

“I believe deeply that the way we can make progress in combating climate change is in aligning returns on investment with returns on carbon,” Pontillo wrote. “MCV does just that, while also positioning students to take what they learn and bring it into their career efforts to confront climate change.”

Daily Staff Reporter Emily Blumberg can be reached at emilybl@umich.edu.