Where Social Meets Finance

There is nothing more embarrassing than not having a straight answer when you’re asked about your summer internship plans.  Most of my classmates had lined up wonderful internships by the end of March, and some had great leads going into the last module of our first year.  I was still struggling with looking for the right opportunity. I started losing hope.  As a creative person, my dream was to line up an internship with a creative agency.  And when the doors weren’t opening, I had to really think about what I wanted to do, and the type of work I am really passionate about.

I always wanted my work to matter ever since my days in film school.  I never wanted to take a picture for the sake of picture taking.  I never wanted to shoot a video simply because it was just another project.  There had to be something beyond that.  A greater purpose.  A cause worth highlighting.  A need worth sharing.  In some respect, that is why I decided to get my MBA.  I saw in Business the ability to do more than just carrying about a cause, but to really impact the lives of others.  There is a social component in business that is not present anywhere else.  It is the ability to not only profit from your venture, but also to have a meaningful impact on society.

The 2012 Social Entrepreneurship Conference (SECon’12) at the Mason School of Business was where my internship search gained a clear focus.  The conference brought in some of the best national and international promoters of social entrepreneurship.  It was at SECon’12 where I was exposed to the notion that business should be used as a force for promoting social responsibility.

Armed with a clear focus, my search expanded to more than just opportunities in media.  It led me to a San Francisco based startup called SoFi (short for Social Finance).  The company was formed by a group of Stanford Graduate School of Business alumni who saw an opportunity to transform the financial services landscape using a community based lending model for student loans.

SoFi believes this approach is possible by having MBA students borrow from alumni based investment pools managed through SoFi.  The process brings current students and alumni investors into a much closer relationship, one based on financial and social interests.  Schools witness a much closer bond between its alumni and students.  Alumni get a return on their investments through sponsoring a student’s education. It is a win-win situation for both alumni and students. It’s a greater win for the academic institution.

My internship with SoFi satisfied my need to work for something greater this summer.  The experience that I’ve gained working with a social venture startup turned out to be beyond anything I could ever imagine.  I had the privilege to work with MBAs from other top business schools including Harvard, MIT, UVA Darden School of Business, U. of Chicago, UNC, and Stanford, just to name a few.  It was humbling and exciting to be working with an entire team passionate about social change.  The experience has changed me for the better.

We have a saying in SoFi that we are the place where “Social meets Finance”.  I couldn’t agree more.  One of lessons I learned from working at SoFi is to never underestimate the power that social affinity plays in business.  It’s one thing to just be socially connected to someone else. It’s an entire different thing to genuinely make an effort to establish a social connection with a client or an investor to seal a deal. Whichever way you look at it, the truth is evident:  When social meets finance, the possibilities are limitless!

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Billy Ekofo

Billy Ekofo is a second year MBA specializing in (Social) Entrepreneurship and Real Estate. He is currently wrapping up a summer internship with SoFi, a San Francisco based startup that connects students and alumni through a dedicated lending pool and an original social community. He is passionate about exploring ways in which creative arts and business principles can be merged in order to promote sustainable social changes. Prior to enrolling to the Mason School of Business, Billy spent a year producing and shooting stills and videos for non-profit organizations.

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