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Energy & Sustainability Organization Feature: MIT Solve

This month, as a Member of the MIT Solve community, we are thrilled to feature an initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that aims to drive social impact innovation and help solve world challenges.

Established in 2015, Solve consists of over 130 Solver teams and over 120 Members. Solver teams, which are made up of individuals, teams, and organizations, apply to propose a solution to one of Solve’s open Global Challenges. Current Global Challenges include Learning for Girls & Women, Sustainable Food Systems, and Health Security & Pandemics. The most promising solutions are invited to pitch their innovative solutions at Solve Challenge Finals.

This year, Solve Challenge Finals will take place virtually on Tuesday, September 29. Finalists from Global Challenges will not only have the opportunity to share their solutions before expert judges and Solve community members, but also compete for a spot in this year’s Solver Class. The 2020 Solver Class will have access to more than $2.2 million in prize funding and to form partnerships with Member organizations such as Nike, Capital One, and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Groups that are interested in attending Solve Challenge Finals are encouraged to apply to become a Member of Solve. The closing plenary of Solve Challenge Finals will be globally livestreamed — register here to watch.

Recently, in May 2020, Solve also announced the first investments by Solve Innovation Future, the initiative’s philanthropic venture vehicle. Solve Innovation Future is organized as a donor-advised fund (DAF) with Solve serving as the donor-advisor. The DAF structure allows the fund to operate with flexibility when making traditional and alternative investments in early-stage funding rounds. The fund is also able to recycle capital by reinvesting the proceeds from current Solver teams into future ones.

This year’s Solve Innovation Future investments were in Solver teams Access Afya, Kinedu, and Queen of Raw, which received funding ranging from $75,000 to $250,000. In response to the announcement, Casey van der Stricht, Principal of Solve Innovation Future, commented, “When we first launched Solve Innovation Future, the world was a very different place… Now more than ever, startups — especially those prioritizing social impact — need risk-tolerant and flexible investment capital to scale. Solve is proud to invest in these incredible Solver teams and we look forward to collaborating with other organizations and individuals to unlock much-needed capital for global early-stage social ventures.”

Finally, in recent weeks, Solve curated an interactive webinar series called Solving from Anywhere. The series features social impact innovators and industry leaders, such as Sarah Geisenheimer, Managing Director of Innovation at The Rockefeller Foundation, Greg Shell, Managing Director at Bain Capital, and Shaloo Garg, Managing Director of Microsoft for Startups at Microsoft. Interested viewers can watch the most recent webinar, Impact Investing to Solve World Challenges, on Solve’s YouTube channel. The final webinar in the series, Session on Covid-19: Innovation to Accelerate Global Health and Vaccine Development, will take place on Tuesday, September 1 from 12:00-1:00 p.m. EST. Register here.


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Thomas R. Burton, III

Member / Chair, Energy & Sustainability Practice

Tom Burton has helped to shape the clean energy industry by drawing on his passion for innovation. As a Mintz attorney, Tom counsels investors, entrepreneurs, and Fortune 100 companies. He also guides start-up organizations and accelerators to foster the next generation of energy leaders.

Sahir Surmeli

Member / Co-chair, Energy & Sustainability Practice

Sahir Surmeli is a Mintz business counselor who advises companies, boards, entrepreneurs, investment banks, and venture and private equity investors as they build and grow companies. He handles public offerings, 144A and private financings, acquisitions, joint ventures, and strategic partnerships.