Nov. 8, 2016 12:07 pm

A high-profile social entrepreneur announced his new fund at Wharton

During his social innovator residency at Wharton, B Team founding CEO and Richard Branson collaborator Derek Handley launched Aera VC, a fund for social entrepreneurs across the world.

Derek Handley.

(Photo via

Penn students involved with Wharton Social Impact Initiative (WSII) were in for a real treat last week.

Every fall, WSII hosts a resident social innovator as part of its Nazarian Social Innovator in Residence program. Through the program, New York-based social entrepreneur, B Team cofounder and Richard Branson collaborator Derek Handley met with students for two days last week to advise on projects and gave a series of talks around social entrepreneurship.

Handley also took the opportunity to announce his new global impact investment fund, Aera VC.

The fund, said Handley, has been in the works for about seven months and has already invested in six social enterprises from across the world, including education attendance app Kinvolved in New York, social impact news site News Deeply in Hong Kong and math education hub Maths Pathway in Melbourne.

No Philadelphia companies are in Aera VC’s portfolio yet, but Handley’s decision to announce the fund at Wharton is significant.

“It’s squarely related to all the things I’m participating in in regards to the residency,” said Handley. “On one side, you’re looking at startups, entrepreneurs and founders. On the other side, you’re looking at investment and analysis.”

Aera VC not only exists to support social entrepreneurs, but to catalyze family foundations across the world. The early stage venture capital fund was raised by “family offices that are passionate and interested in creating social impact,” Handley said.

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“We have a dual social mission,” he said. “One is to accelerate and help entrepreneurs. The other is to supercharge family offices.”

The fund has also put together one-sheeters for social entrepreneurs looking for venture capital. Handley said the fund isn’t sector-specific, but does seek social enterprises that fall within the “digital or tech” spaces.

Handley also expressed interest in establishing a dialogue with Philadelphia-based impact investors and family offices — perhaps through an organization like ImpactPHL. Maybe we can expect to hear from Handley again soon.

“We brought Derek to Wharton because of the leading work he has been doing around the world with business leaders, investors, companies and emerging young entrepreneurs who are embedding a higher purpose beyond profit into their ethos and operations,” said WSII Managing Director Dr Sherryl Kuhlman in a statement. “At WSII, we look forward to our continued relationship with Handley as he builds out the Aera VC community.”


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