Tuck Social Venture Fund Invests in College Savings Startup

The fund, run solely by students, has made a third investment in CollegeBacker, a Silicon Valley startup.

The Tuck Social Venture Fund (TSVF) has taken a $25,000 equity stake in CollegeBacker, a Silicon Valley startup that aims to offset the financial burden of higher education by helping families create 529 college savings plans.

This pre-seed investment in CollegeBacker is the fund’s third investment since launching in 2015 with $100,000 in alumni contributions. The fund invests in socially-motivated for-profit companies across five key sectors: clean energy, health care, food and agriculture, education, and technology for social good. For plenty of reasons, CollegeBacker fits the bill.

To see a prospective investment go from initiation to completed transaction—that’s unique from a business school perspective.

“We look at hundreds of deals a year, and rarely does a deal like CollegeBacker jump off of the page for us,” says Caitlin Bolnick T’19, who led the deal and is one of the fund’s managing directors. “The CollegeBacker team is top-notch and strategic in their thought process. They are incredibly passionate about everyone being able to save for college—especially lower income families who have less savings and a higher debt burden.”

Alongside Bolnick, the fund is comprised of managing director Dhruv Chokshi T’19 and directors Matt Baer T’19, Sophia Cornew T’19, Alyssa Kasanoff T’19, and James Giampietro T’19. The team’s experience across multiple industries, such as technology, marketing, health care, and education, was helpful in sourcing deals and doing the necessary due diligence.

Serving as a director of the fund is a unique experiential learning opportunity for an MBA student, putting all their classroom learning into real-world practice.
 
“To see a prospective investment go from initiation to completed transaction—that’s unique from a business school perspective,” Bolnick says. “It was an awesome chance to see the experiential side of working in a real-life fund.”

CollegeBacker founder and CEO Jordan Lee says he is delighted to have the TSVF on board as an investor, especially given the team’s acute awareness of the importance of higher education and the risk of taking on too much student loan debt to attain it.

“The CollegeBacker team is incredibly passionate about everyone being able to save for college—especially lower income families who have less savings and a higher debt burden,” says Caitlin Bolnick T’19.

“I was impressed by both the breadth and depth of the team’s diligence process, which covered everything from details in our financials to various long-term directions we could go as a business,” Lee says. “It was a much more thorough, thoughtful process than I’ve seen at funds many times its size.”

Tuck Social Venture Fund is overseen by the Center for Business, Government & Society and the Center for Entrepreneurship. The fund’s advisers are John McKinley, executive Director of the Center for Business, Government & Society; Curt Welling D’71, T’77, Clinical Professor of Business; and Daniella Reichstetter T’07, Executive Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Adjunct Professor.

TSVF made its first investment in 2017 with a $25,000 convertible note investment in Education Modified, a Boston-based education technology startup. And last year, the fund took a $25,000 equity stake in solar company Brightfield Transportation Solutions. CollegeBacker is TSVF’s third investment, helping to round out a portfolio now representing three different industries at three different stages. There are very few business schools that have student-run social venture funds, and Tuck students are proving to make the most of this unique opportunity.