While they were students at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Franz Hochstrasser FES ’18, Matthew Moroney FES ’18 and Kwasi Ansu FES ’18 participated in GreenLight, a workshop series that allows Yale students to generate solutions at the intersection of business and the environment for real-world companies.

While pursuing their master’s degrees in environmental management, the three students founded Raise Green, a financial technology that allows its users to invest in climate-focused projects. On Friday, Horchstrasser, Moroney and Ansu returned to Yale to sit on the opposite side of the table — as the company clients.

“My participation in the GreenLight workshops were among the most valuable experiences I had as a student, so it was really an honor and privilege to have students work through the process that I was just in a few years ago,” said Moroney, chief operating officer of the startup.

In Friday’s GreenLight ideation session, 12 student participants brainstormed strategies for Raise Green to attract customers.

Hochstrasser, the chief executive officer of Raise Green, said that his company’s biggest weakness is its marketing strategy. He sought out GreenLight with the hope that students could devise ways to market their investment product to everyday people.

The participants were divided into three groups, explained Evan Glessner FES ’19, a GreenLight facilitator. Each group focused on a different target customer profile — financially established millennials, millennials in their first job and members of Generation X, according to Shannon Dulaney FES ’19 SOM ’19, another facilitator for the GreenLight program.

“We developed each persona and turned it into a customer journey map for how that group of customers would interact with raise green’s platform,” said Glessner.

A major conclusion of the ideation session, according to Dulaney, was “a real need to have local ambassadors” — or peers that can talk about these financial instruments in more easily accessible language. She cited the often intimidating language in the financial world, which could easily turn off a potential Raise Green user.

Another large takeaway for Raise Green, according to Hochstrasser, was the need for his company to leverage its sustainable focus. He said that younger generations care more than ever before about the sustainability and positive impact of their investments.

“The value to Raise Green as a company cannot be overstated — they’re entrepreneurs without a budget for consulting … this directly shapes their marketing strategy,” said Glessner.

Yale’s Center for Business and the Environment serves as the incubator and administrative home for GreenLight, in addition to funding the program, according to Stuart DeCew SOM ’11 FES ’11, the executive director of the center. DeCew said that GreenLight started five years ago, born out of students’ desire to interact with environmentally focused companies in a real way, beyond the typical “coffee chat.”

“In order to get this right, particularly on the most complex questions and challenges, you need this diversity of interesting perspectives — everybody’s got part of a solution, and when we fit these parts together, we get some really powerful results,” he said.

Past GreenLight clients include ride-sharing company Lyft, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the nonprofit, “We are Still In,” said Mulaney.

Mulaney also emphasized the mutually beneficial nature of GreenLight, allowing students to gain problem-solving skills and clients to receive strategic insights.

“It’s a really cool opportunity for students to learn from a wide range of different organizations about these issues, and it allows clients to get consulting-type help around their problems,” said Mulaney.

Jessica Pevner | jessica.pevner@yale.edu