Nov 29, 2019

An Internship with Impact First Investments & Pitango Venture Capital

By Melina Sánchez Montañés T'20

During my last day in Israel, I was walking by the Tel Aviv beach while reflecting on my fun and hectic summer. It had been without any doubt my best internship experience so far – discovering the culture and history of a new –complicated–country, innovating on impact measurement in the high tech industry, exploring different applications of machine learning in preventative medicine, and engaging with entrepreneurs and investors who want to better the world.

I was fortunate to work at Impact First Investments with Founder and Managing Director Cecile Blilious, the “mother” of impact investing in Israel, and at Pitango Venture Capital, the largest venture capital fund in Israel ($2B), with Partner Idit Muallem. Both of them are not only top-notch investors but also an inspiration for any woman who wants to break the glass ceiling in the VC industry.

Under Cecile’s leadership, my team and I created and applied a quantitative methodology to measure the financial and social/environmental impact of tech startups. We were inspired by best industry standards and the generous guidance of local and international investors such as Bridges Israel or 2B-Community (you can read about it here and here). Our goal is to make our methodology and resources available for anyone investing in impact tech worldwide through a new global organization we are currently creating: the ImpacTech Alliance.

At Impact First, I contributed to all dimensions of venture capital: speaking at conferences and events about impact investing and sourcing/sharing potential deals, screening startups in sectors such as healthcare, circular economy, or environment, further developing our business and fundraising efforts, and creating a strategy for traditional VCs who want to move into the impact tech domain. And all this while traveling to every corner of Israel, lying down on the beach with friends, and discussing Middle Eastern geopolitics for endless hours.

At Pitango, I evaluated startups in the AgTech upstream sector, which is one of Israel’s competitive advantages (after all, the most significant advance in modern agriculture is the drip irrigation system invented in Israel!). As the daughter of a farmer – my neighbors were delicious cucumbers and peppers from Southern Spain – it was enlightening to analyze how technology can help farmers around the world increase yield with less resources and waste.

Despite many learnings, projects and networking events, I also experienced first-hand the challenges of the impact tech VC industry. Currently, less than ten percent of the $500B deployed into impact is invested in tech. There is much to contribute to this new industry (I’m looking at you, MBA newbies!): from educating mainstream investors to attracting capital that cares about returns as much as about impact.

As I consider my next career steps, I want to continue harnessing the potential of technology to solve today’s global and environmental challenges, both from a private and public lens – and Tuck is the perfect place to do just this. Over the last year, I had many opportunities to develop my impact and VC skills at Tuck – through the MIINT program, a spring internship with Mustard Seed US, the Tuck Social Venture Fund, the CBGS and VCPE, and, of course, the generous summer fellowship of Tuck Gives that allowed me to shake the impact tech industry this summer.

As I fly back to the U.S., I can’t help but think about the warm weather, transparent beaches and fresh vegetables that bring me closer to my hometown. See you soon, Israel!