In response to growing interest among Chicago Booth students and alumni, the Social Enterprise Initiative this fall launched a new seminar series on impact investing. Run in partnership with the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, this non-credit workshop series kicked off in early November with more than 40 registered students.

The seminar is taught by Brian Axelrad, ’09, chief investment officer at Beyond Capital Fund (an impact investment fund focused on India and East Africa) and a corporate attorney and chair of the venture capital and technology practice at Horwood Marcus & Berk in Chicago.

Here, in an interview with Chicago Business reporter and student Lauren Anderson, Axelrad offers his take on the burgeoning field of impact investing and why Booth has an essential role to play in the development of the industry.

Why have you chosen to spend your time and energy in the impact investing space over other career options?

Brian Axelrad: I originally got interested in venture capital and technology after spending a summer in Silicon Valley. I had always been interested in public service, as well, so when I went to Booth, it was with the goal of finding a way to combine my interest in public policy and economic development with venture capital and technology.

As a matter of fact, the first opportunity I had to do this was actually through the Management Lab. Our class did a consulting project for the University of Chicago regarding its geographic footprint and how UChicago could work with the local community to foster economic development near campus.

From there, it was just one step after another looking for and jumping into opportunities that had a dual focus and that led me—in a roundabout way—to impact investing.

What do you see in the future of impact investing?

Axelrad: In terms of where impact investing is going, there will be an emphasis on the definition of the sector and an implementation of rigorous analysis to understand if there’s anything there, so to speak. I think there is something there, but it needs to be proven.

Where do you see Booth students playing a role in the impact investing landscape?

Axelrad: As I said, the industry needs rigorous analysis to grow and gain wider acceptance in the traditional investment sphere. What institution and which students and faculty could be better equipped than Booth and our MBA students and professors?

Obviously, I'm biased, but the culture at Booth is going to force us to be extremely thoughtful, intentional, and rigorous in our exploration of the space. And that's what the impact investing sector needs right now more than anything. I think the industry is ripe for aspiring impact investors to not only cut their teeth on impact investing opportunities, but also to help shape what the industry looks like long-term.

Just the same way Booth faculty and alumni and philosophies have shaped the finance world, I see Booth students having the same role to play in impact investing over the next 5-10 years and beyond.

For more information about impact investing at Chicago Booth, read the full Chicago Business article »

Learn more about how the Social Enterprise Initiative at Chicago Booth is supporting alumni, student, and faculty commitment to social impact »