2022 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: Common Good Investments, University of Minnesota (Carlson)

Common Good Investments LLC (CGI)

University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management

Website Link: None

Industry: Real Estate

Founding Student Name(s): Steven Kutz

Brief Description of Solution: Create a non-profit, public, and private partnership (NP4) to create built-to-suit housing for homeless and other vulnerable populations.

  1. Contract with non-profits executing ground-level housing operations for vulnerable populations to ensure product-market-fit while securing long-term high occupancy.
  2. Leverage solar technology, grants, and tax credits, public sector energy-efficiency grants, and affordable housing tax rates to finance and drive down the cost of development.
  3. Deliver higher-than-market-rate return to investors.

Funding Dollars: Self + Family and Friends

What led you to launch this venture? I see business as part of the solution for society-level challenges. As a dual MBA and Master of Public Policy student, I recognized the oil-and-water relationship between both the public and private sectors and the non-profit and for-profit sectors. I believed that my education, experience as a government employee, and belief in for-profit market solutions positioned me to take on the challenge of creating an NP4.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? We have purchased a multi-unit property, which we have rented to Afghan refugees for their first six months in Minneapolis. While the refugees use the six months to situate their long-term American lives, Common Good Investments is working through plans to redevelop the property to suit the housing of homeless ten LGBT youth. We have contracted with a local non-profit specializing in this space, who have helped us design the property as would best suit their programming.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? The MBA gave me the time to recognize what was important to me in my future career: flexibility, service to others, and long-term wealth-building potential.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you?  Dave Russick inspired me to be an entrepreneur through his humble recollections of successes and failures in his previous businesses, while maintaining that humility and approachableness as a founder of Gopher Angels. Gopher Angels is a venture capital group associated with Carlson, where I interned for a year during my MBA.

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? Frankly, I took a class called Strategic Alliances because it perfectly fit in my calendar. Yet several weeks in, Svjetlana Madzar had opened my eyes to how connected, even dependent, many businesses are on their strategic partners. I began asking myself who my partners would be. Who am I positioned to work well with? Who would want to be connected with me? Who could I help?

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Toby Nord, director of the Ventures Enterprise at Carlson and lead professor of the Start-Up class, made me recognize that you don’t need to be Steve Jobs to create a successful company. You need a product or service that people want to pay for and an organized, stubborn, and optimistic work ethic. He also introduced me to Bill and Susan Sands, who facilitate the Sands Fellowship at Carlson. The Sands Fellowship provided me with time and funding to begin forming my venture idea.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? The goal is to supplant the traditional multifamily housing model of buy, raise rents, refinance, and repeat, contributing to higher rental rates, lower homeownership rates, and an expanding wealth gap nationwide. We will do this by creating more profitable business models. The NP4 model is where CGI has chosen to start. That said, the market opportunity is as large as the societal challenges we are attempting to impact, so the door is open to all creative minds with similar values and passion.


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