The first faces behind the UBC Sauder Founders’ Pledge | Part 2

The first faces behind the UBC Sauder Founders’ Pledge _ Part 2_.png
Posted 2022-07-15

A venture capitalist making her mark on Silicon Valley, a globetrotter ridding the world of single-use plastics, a healthy snack enthusiast who makes room for some fun, and an entrepreneur unlocking the power of government funding. These enterprising UBC Sauder alumni are among the earliest backers of the UBC Sauder Founders’ Pledge.  

In part two of this multi-part series, we introduce you to four founders who have signalled their intent to give back to the university one day when they’re ready. They’ve pledged to donate a portion of their venture’s future success through a personal, non-binding commitment. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these visionaries already have a sense of where they would like the money to go.

Jennifer Vancini (MBA’ 1993)

Founding General Partner of Mighty Capital

With the belief that we’re living in the “age of product,” Mighty Capital deploys investment money on behalf of its partners into promising start-ups, while giving those companies access to a valuable network of product managers and executives.

What inspires her to give back: 

“I’ve spent a career building business ecosystems. I've seen the power of coming together to provide value to all members, and creating a flywheel effect that strengthens each individual and the community as a whole. Plus, my philanthropic activities simply keep me grounded in what really matters.” 

Where she hopes to direct her support one day:

“I look forward to supporting programs and facilities that further the advancement of entrepreneurial skills as well as technical and product innovation. I'm interested in initiatives that equip our up-and-coming generations to be successful amidst a constantly changing way of working, and to tackle big challenges associated with growing populations and the strain that has put on our planet.”

How her experience at UBC Sauder laid the groundwork for her success:

“I completed an MBA in 1993 when email and the Internet were in their infancies, but the fundamental approaches to business strategy and collaboration I learned in the program have transcended the enormous changes I've experienced since then. I focused my studies on international business, including a semester abroad in Vienna, which prepared me well to work with global teams, markets and companies.”

Marina Tran-Vu (BCom’ 2010)

Founder + CEO of EQUO

By harnessing the power of mother nature, EQUO is a zero-net impact company that offers 100 per cent plastic-free and compostable solutions for everyday single-use plastic items like straws, utensils, bags and more.

Why she made the pledge:

“It’s about giving back to the community. After I graduated from UBC Sauder, I didn’t initially stay connected to the school too much. But, as alumni, it’s our job to come back and hopefully help students see where they can take their careers. This is my way of staying connected with the university.”

Where she hopes to direct her support one day:

“I’m really passionate about brand management, since that’s where I started my career. It’s my first love. It’s still not a field that people outside of business know too much about, so I’d like to give back to initiatives related to brand management and marketing. I would also like to give back to anything focused on entrepreneurship.”

How her experience at UBC Sauder laid the groundwork for her success:

“UBC Sauder exposed me to certain experiences that shaped what I wanted to do in my career. One of the most notable was the Brand Management Mentorship Program, which advises students on how to apply for jobs, gives them the chance to travel to Toronto to interview with companies, and begin a career in brand management. I learned how to make a killer resume, which is something that helped me later on in my career.”

Neil Thomson (MBA’ 2010)

Founder + CEO of Laid Back Snacks

With a nutritional philosophy of 80 per cent fuel, 20 per cent fun, Laid Back Snacks is creating a more relaxed world, one snack at a time.

What made the UBC Sauder Founders’ Pledge stand out:

“I really like how flexible it is – it’s a create-your-own-adventure type thing. The barrier to entry is low and it’s easy to get involved. There is this lovely element of trust that goes both ways in the relationship with UBC Sauder. The school isn’t saying, ‘You have to commit to a certain dollar amount.’ They’re saying, ‘We absolutely trust you. We want you to be on this journey, and we want to help you succeed. If you succeed, when the time comes, we know that you’ll think of us.’ It’s a lovely sentiment.”

Where he hopes to direct his support one day:

“For me, it’s definitely international students. I immigrated to Canada from South Africa (via the UK) in 2008 and my first stop was the UBC MBA program. I didn’t know anybody, and it was really the first community of folks that I connected with. We had a wonderfully broad and diverse international community, and I loved how inclusive everyone was in wrapping international students up in the UBC culture, carrying us forward and making us feel so settled in Canada. I would like to find a way to support international students in that journey.”

What inspires him to give back:

“We need to show people how food companies can do better, more responsible business. It’s a thread that we weave throughout the company. We don’t have to optimize only for profits – we can help our employees, help the community, and be more environmentally conscious. For every box of Laid Back Snacks that is ordered online, we give a snack to the Breakfast Club of Canada. My involvement in the UBC Sauder Founders’ Pledge, however, is the first time I’ve given much thought to being in a position where I can give back as a result of the company succeeding.”

Brianna Blaney (BCom’ 2012)

CEO + Co-founder of Pocketed

Guided by its vision to eliminate financial barriers for entrepreneurs, Pocketed’s intelligent platform matches users with eligible funding programs based on their profile and then helps them submit winning applications.

Where she hopes to direct her support one day:

“I see the UBC Sauder Founders’ Pledge as an opportunity to eliminate financial barriers for students. To start, I intend to direct my eventual gift to scholarships and bursaries. Long-term, I’m excited for the opportunity to support initiatives focused on leveling the playing for equity-seeking groups through innovation.” 

What inspires her to give back:

“I’ve always believed in giving more than you take. Entrepreneurship is a privilege. There’s no question that hard work and a great idea play a role in success, but so do timing and luck. I see philanthropy as a way to pay it forward and create opportunity for others.” 

How her experience at UBC Sauder laid the groundwork for her success:

UBC Sauder was an impactful experience in so many ways. Yes, the education was important. But the connections, the mentorship, and the support have played an even bigger role in my entrepreneurial journey. There’s nothing quite like running into a fellow UBC Sauder alum ‘in the wild!’”