John Minderman T’23 shares how his journey from engineering to Tuck deepened his understanding of the energy industry and ultimately led him to revive the Tuck Renewable Energy Finance Case Competition.
I consider the transition of our society from fossil-fuels dependent to net-zero to be of critical importance, while at the same time being a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. My thesis going into my undergraduate program was that this issue needed technology development, so I got my engineering degree and spent five years designing and deploying first-of-their-kind advanced nuclear and battery storage projects. However, through my experiences, I began to realize that to meet our net-zero goals we need deployment of mostly existing technologies, and the biggest barrier to that deployment is finance.
Enter the Tuck School of Business, where I’ve developed a deeper understanding of the theories behind finance and its industry applications from discussions with industry practitioners through the Revers Center for Energy, Sustainability & Innovation. I also developed a more practical understanding from interning at an impact venture capital firm and doing power and renewables investment banking at Goldman Sachs over the summer. These experiences gave me the perspective of both early-stage and late-stage investors as well as the applications of that finance. Going into my second year at Tuck, I wanted to find a way to synthesize how I think about financing the energy transition.
In July, I approached April Salas, Executive Director of the Revers Center for Energy, Sustainability & Innovation, with the idea of revamping Tuck’s energy finance case competition after its COVID-induced hiatus. The idea was to invite teams from top business schools around the world to recommend a finance fund structure and appropriate sustainable investment opportunities. To make this happen, we collaborated with a great team of sponsors including Generate, Marathon Capital, and New Energy Capital, as well as fellow MBA classmates Steve Sanford, Yuka Sugimori, Annette Jatto, Claire Kadeethum, Ryan Mooney, and Tobi Okpala. I can’t thank them enough for making it possible!
The competition was a great success! We received applications and deliverables from top MBA Schools, and ultimately, four teams advanced to the final round held in person at Tuck where each team presented their fund structure and investment thesis to an incredible set of judges.
I was so pleased by the questions and discussions that we had between students and judges. A notable discussion was around a proposal to use a venture capital fund to invest in energy storage project opportunities, to which the judges asked: “How is a 30%+ cost of capital additional to this space?” These exchanges showed that the case competition achieved its goal of helping MBA students understand that good finance structures and good opportunities aren’t necessarily compatible—real innovation requires creativity to apply the right structure to the right opportunities.
Overall, organizing this case competition was not only a great learning experience but it was also a great opportunity to meet fantastic people committed to creating a positive impact in the world. I’m excited to see what next year’s edition of the Tuck Renewable Energy Finance Challenge brings!
Prior to Tuck, John Minderman T'23 worked for five years doing engineering and project development for utilities, electric generators, advanced nuclear startups, and battery storage developers. He is passionate about accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy by deploying gigaton-scale financing for clean energy. While at Tuck, is director of the Tuck Social Venture Fund, and interned with an impact VC company and a lithium battery recycler. After Tuck he will be going to NYC to work on Power & Renewables in the Natural Resources Group at Goldman Sachs.