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Investing in Education to Help Meet the Needs of Learners Everywhere: SE Summer Fellow Angel Njenga (MBA 2022)

By: Angel Njenga | 05 Aug 2021

The HBS Summer Fellows Program enables students to apply their classroom training as they explore career opportunities in roles or regions where compensation is generally lower than the traditional MBA level. This summer, we are connecting with some of our 59 Social Enterprise Summer Fellows, who are working around the world to develop skills and knowledge while having significant responsibility and high impact.

What are you working on this summer?

This summer, I am working as an Investment Fellow at Rethink Education, a venture capital fund focused on early-stage investments in education technology companies in the K-12, higher education, and workforce development space. Founded in 2012, Rethink Education has invested in 70 companies that reached nearly 75 million students in 2020. During my internship, I am primarily sourcing and meeting with company founders, conducting investment due diligence, and supporting existing portfolio companies with projects. I am also working on market research/landscaping of investment opportunities in companies that are facilitating work-based learning opportunities for high-demand skills that do not require a college education, such as data science, programming, cyber security, and sales.

Why did you choose this internship for the summer?

I have spent most of my career working in the social impact space and have always had a particular interest in education because of the catalytic role it has played in my own life. Before attending HBS I worked at a nonprofit venture philanthropy firm where I invested in early-stage founders working to close the racial leadership gap in K-12 public education. With this grantmaking experience under my belt, I was interested in using this summer to test out for-profit investing in education at a firm that prioritizes both financial and impact returns.I was drawn to the Rethink team because of their shared commitment to transforming and improving educational outcomes for learners everywhere. The firm recently launched Rethink Equity, a $5mm carveout to invest in seed stage companies founded by underrepresented entrepreneurs of color focused on improving education learning outcomes. Working on this particular initiative would enable me to leverage my professional experience while applying the technical business skills I gained in the first-year of my MBA.

What are your goals for this summer?

My primary goal for the summer is to better understand the landscape of startup companies that are focused on filling the education gap for adult learners to create more pathways to economic opportunity. I think this segment of education technology is particularly ripe for innovation and can have immediate impact on the livelihood of millions of workers seeking to upskill or reskill to meet the shifting demands of workplaces. I am also eager to better understand the operations of early-stage technology companies so have sought out opportunities to engage with portfolio founders and grapple with the day-to-day management challenges they face.

How has your MBA skillset prepared you to be successful in this role?

The foundational skills I gained in the Required Curriculum (first year) have been pivotal to my success in venture capital. Early-stage investing requires me to be constantly on the lookout for strong founders with good ideas that have the potential to scale. Learning through the case method has strengthened my ability to quickly understand and evaluate new and innovative business models for their growth and impact potential. I have directly applied the quantitative analytical skills I developed in classes like Finance and The Entrepreneurial Manager (TEM) to analyze company financials, write investment memos, and evaluate deal terms.

How as the summer influenced your thinking on future involvement in social enterprise?

The summer has given me valuable perspective on my career path after graduating from HBS. I am energized by the impact, scale, and efficiencies that can be achieved when working at the intersection of business and social impact. My time at Rethink has solidified my desire to support mission-driven organizations enabling access to economic opportunity through technology-enabled education or skills development products. In the short-term, I intend to gain experience building and scaling a product at an operating company so that I am better equipped to evaluate, support, and advise entrepreneurs as an investor later down the line.

How can someone learn more about your organization?

To learn more about Rethink Education, or the broader Rethink Capital Partners investment platform, please check out our website!