Turning successful tech founders into impact investors

Kay Kühne former head of Airbnb in Latin America
Kay Kühne, former head of Airbnb in Latin America and participant in last year’s pilot ACCELERATE Program.

With rising wealth inequality and a climate in crisis, there has never been a more crucial time to ask how capital can be mobilized into building a fairer and healthier planet.

In response to this question, The Center for Sustainable Finance and Private Wealth (CSP) at the University of Zurich, Katapult Foundation and the BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt have launched “ACCELERATE: The Impact Investing Program for Entrepreneurs”. Having launched a pilot program in 2021, whose participants included three of the first ten Airbnb employees, ACCELERATE helps guide self-made ultra-high net worth wealth holders in investing capital to solve some of our worlds’ most pressing challenges. Rooted in the latest science on impact investing as well as practice, this program provides successful entrepreneurs the knowledge, peer networks, and expert support they need to deploy capital for impact. Applications for this year’s program are now open.

This year’s ACCELERATE Program, which runs from October 2022- May 2023, is composed of three core modules held in Oslo, San Francisco, and online. Applications are open to wealth holders with at least $50 million in investable assets and/or a deep desire to drive meaningful change with their capital. The 2022 program, which will be capped at 15 participants, expects to attract founders and early-stage entrepreneurs who have recently experienced, or will soon experience, a liquidity event. After the completion of the program, the participants will join an international alumni community of wealth holders driven to use their wealth for positive impact.

“Despite the turbulence experienced across societies and financial markets in the past years, there is a trend that is not waning: the demand for sustainable and impact investing,” says Falko Paetzold, Managing Director of CSP and Assistant Professor at EBS Business School. “Investors are seeing that their investments can have significant impact on the causes they care about, and that, alongside more traditional tools like grants, investments have their place in creating positive social and environmental change.”

This program has been launched directly in response to both the rise of wealth holders across the world, and the stark inequalities brought to light by the pandemic. The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) financing gap for developing countries is widening as a result of the pandemic, adding $1.7 trillion to the existing $2.5 trillion SDG financing gap, according to OECD’s Global Outlook on Financing for Sustainable Development 2021.

“CSP training programs are successfully moving capital towards positive impact, filling the gap in science-based impact-investing education. With our novel ACCELERATE Program, we specifically target those driven entrepreneurs, the number of which is growing significantly, who want to use their capital for good,” says Erin Duddy, Senior Program Manager at CSP.

“The transformation not only needs forward-looking leaders who adopt Responsible Leadership as a lever for positive change, but also capital to scale the impact globally. ACCELERATE combines vision, innovation and capital to literally increase the speed of change,” says Frank Niederländer, Member of the Board at BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt.

“In Katapult’s mission to build a thriving world for all, the decision to establish ACCELERATE was a clear choice. Through harnessing the ingenuity, network and business acumen of leading founders and entrepreneurs, we hold the potential to not only further integrate impact into the investment mainstream but to apply the best minds to the world’s greatest challenges,” says Alison Fort, CEO of Katapult Foundation.

Among the participants in last year’s pilot ACCELERATE Program were three of the first ten Airbnb employees. Kay Kühne, former head of Airbnb in Latin America said: “This training is for people that want to make a difference in the world through their capital and through their skillset and network.” Lisa Dubost, an early employee at Airbnb said: “From the moment I got access to my capital, I felt a huge sense of responsibility. This program is for anyone who is in doubt or is lacking clarity on what they can really do with their wealth.”

For more information on how to apply to ACCELERATE: The Impact Investing Program for Entrepreneurs, reach out to Erin Duddy, Senior Program Manager – Wealth Owner Programs (CSP), erin.duddy@bf.uzh.ch, +41 78 634 4641 or visit accelerateprogram.tech.

Participants will be selected based on a set of acceptance criteria, as well as on a first come, first served basis. The organizers retain the right to ensure adequate diversity of cohort participants in the selection process.

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