These Stanford MBAs are opening the door to big startup investments—here's how

Tired of elitism in venture capital, a pair of Stanford Graduate School of Business students decided to do something about it.

Steph Mui and a classmate from the MBA class of 2020 had an idea: They wanted to create a fund that would invest in the business ideas of their fellow students. In short, they wanted to make startup investment more accessible. “We were both frustrated with the status quo of venture capital being access-oriented and based on cliquey connections,” shares Mui. Kavi and Matra.

They named it the 20|20 Fund, and they raised over $1.5 million for the inaugural investment vehicle. They used the funds to invest in 16 portfolio companies founded by members of the 2020 GSB class.

Since their June 2020 launch, Mui and the 20|20 Fund have helped MBA groups at some of the country’s top universities open their own investment clubs, applying the same legal framework that took his team countless hours to figure out. What’s more, she also started a legacy fund: each new GSB class has started its own fund, applying the same template as the 20|20 fund. “They’re getting older and have more participation and engagement,” she says.

A new type of investment vehicle

These Stanford MBAs are opening the door to big startup investments—here's how

Steph Mui: VCs “choose what and who gets funded, which affects the trajectory of where we go as a society,” but consumers should have more of a say.

To qualify as an accredited investor, individuals must have $200,000 in personal annual income or a net worth of at least $1,000,000; As of July 2020, approximately 13.85% of US households completed a test for accredited investors. In Mui’s class of 400 students, more than half expressed interest in participating—but of that group, more than 60% did not have sufficient net worth. And without accreditation, they can’t participate in traditional startup investments or become LPs.

Because the traditional investment fund structure didn’t work for their fund, the 20|20 fund team had to get creative. Mui decided to leverage his experience as an NEA Venture Capital Associate to create an SEC-compliant “Investment Club.” The club allowed non-accredited investors to participate in the vehicle.

“VC and private investment have created a lot of wealth over the last 15 years and outperformed the public markets,” says Mui. “It’s sad that it’s so inaccessible to not being recognized. We want to help change that.”

‘We are not constrained by a single belief system’

Unlike traditional funds, a 20|20 fund is a collaborative model among its members, rather than one person making all the decisions and allocating the funds. “The laws surrounding these types of funds are very different from traditional investment vehicles,” says Mui. “We are not constrained by the same recognition system.”

According to Mui, this model created a sense of equality among classmates; Each member of the fund keeps a monetary amount that they are comfortable with. Then, there was a collective vote to decide what to invest in—together.

“It was a passion project,” shares Mui, reflecting on the funding. “We brought this to everyone we met, which is ultimately how we met our lawyers and other advisors who helped us piece together a new type of vehicle that could accommodate something that historically hadn’t been done before.”

A community-based, inclusive model

Not long after the 20|20 Fund started, word spread. MBA students, undergrads, and alum groups began reaching out to Mui for advice on starting their own funds. “We felt people were interested in this community-based model, which offers inclusiveness and collective decision-making,” she explains.

Mui helped several MBA groups launch investment clubs at elite B-schools like Harvard Business School and the Chicago Booth School of Business—and closer to home, at the UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business, where another community-based venture fund was running. started Co-led by Kevin Chang and some of his classmates, Courtyard Ventures formed in early 2021 and has since invested in 2021 Berkeley Haas student and alumni founders.

“We had the same intention of supporting California’s entrepreneurial ecosystem,” says Chang P&Q. “Founders could leverage a deeper network for help with recruiting and client introductions, while MBA students and alumni had a new opportunity to invest in startups.”

‘Opportunity to create a movement’

These Stanford MBAs are opening the door to big startup investments—here's how

Kevin Chang: SVB “was just one more thing founders needed to worry about when they already had too much on their plates trying to change the world”

What Mui thought would be used as a one-off investment vehicle at GSB began to attract increasing interest. She says, ‘This was an opportunity to build a movement.

To help more people, Mui developed a business idea — which is now a full-fledged company called PIN, or Power In Numbers. It started in 2022. He hired Chang shortly after to help with sales and growth. Together, they work to help make it easier for communities to open their own investment clubs by providing the necessary legal framework, managing the back office, and handling taxes.

Backed by seed capital, GSR Ventures, and NEA, PIN offers features such as automated compliance reminders, tax filing for funds and investors, an easy LP onboarding experience, community investment voting, and bounty programs for portfolio companies. In general, PIN helps remove barriers to investing in startups; Affiliates pay lower fees and, because there are more people involved, there is a lower minimum check size for investors.

Since inception, the PIN team has helped several MBA groups launch their own vehicles, and is in talks with most of the top MBA programs in the US. Besides the MBAs, Mui and Chang have also worked with TikTok creators, the company’s alumni, accelerator cohorts and professional groups.

“Our goal is to be the Robinhood of startup investment,” says Mui. “Over 50% of the US population owns stocks, and we want to get there for private investment as well.”

A precarious startup ecosystem after the SVB failure

However, when markets are volatile, investing in startups can feel riskier than usual, and certainly riskier than traditional investments. That was the case when Silicon Valley Bank recently collapsed.

When SVB failed, Mui and Chang went into crisis mode. “Some of our portfolio companies have banked with SVB,” says Chang. “There were a lot of founders under a ton of stress, even those who weren’t banking with SVB.”

Mui says the SVB crisis fueled a sense of skepticism around tech in the startup ecosystem. She believes people are becoming more discerning about how they spend their time and money. Chang echoed Mui’s views, saying there is more uncertainty in the ecosystem now.

“It’s just one more thing that founders need to worry about when they have so much on their plate trying to change the world,” he says.

‘Consumers are able to expand funding ideas’

Despite the inherent risk of startup investing, Mui strongly believes that consumers should play a larger role in investing in private companies. While VCs may have a lot of power — “they choose what and who gets funded, which affects the trajectory of where we go as a society,” she says — she believes consumers should have more of a say.

“Consumers are able to expand their funding ideas,” she continues. “It’s only a small group that decides which companies will have a chance to influence the future, but consumers who actually feel the problems every day that they’re trying to solve by supporting these companies who play a role in it.”

For MBA students and alumni interested in creating their own investment clubs, Mui offers a word of caution: They must be sure they love the process — and be prepared to put in the work to nurture the relationship.

“I never thought this trip would make me feel more connected to my community,” she says.

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