Changemaker: A Blueprint for Helping a Billion People

Reaction aims to help entrepreneurs fund global-scale solutions.

November 17, 2022

| by Kelsey Doyle

If you truly want to change the world, think big. That was the impulse that drove Dan Matthies and Babu Vadasan, both SEP ’19, to found Reaction, a venture capital firm devoted to solving problems on a global scale.

Changemakers

In this ongoing video series, we showcase Stanford GSB alumni who are striving to change lives, organizations, and the world.

Reaction originated with conversations among classmates in the Stanford Executive Program. They knew they wanted to make a large impact. They knew the power in numbers and networks. What emerged was a plan to leverage the experience, expertise, and connections of alumni to support entrepreneurs around the world with similar-sized aspirations.

They partnered with companies like Mango Materials, which converts methane into a biopolymer that can be used to make biodegradable plastic. “By being part of an ecosystem of changemakers who believe the world can be changed through novel innovation, new technologies, and new business platforms, that gives us a path to the future that we all really want to see,” says Mango Materials co-founder and Stanford alumna, Molly Morse.

“What makes Reaction different is our community of investors, executives, entrepreneurs throughout the world, and their desire to be hands on, to be active in helping innovators take their solutions further than they could go on their own,” says Matthies.

Full Transcript

Babu Sivadasan: To an entrepreneur, an investor is somebody that you confide in when you have difficulties, somebody that you can have meaningful conversations with, who can challenge you, who can be a sounding board, somebody who can open up doors. Reaction represents all of that.

Dan Matthies: So Reaction was launched on campus from the Stanford Executive Program.

Babu Sivadasan: This idea of, how do you bring a community together that can elevate entrepreneurs’ experiences?

Dan Matthies: We had 225 leaders from throughout the world, every continent. We set a mission to improve a billion lives this decade by scaling innovations that would change the world.

Babu Sivadasan: I was all in.

Dan Matthies: We have alumni from the Stanford Executive Program classes all the way from 2014 through ‘22.

Babu Sivadasan: We really enjoyed being together. So the first thing we thought about is, “Hey, how do we keep this community going together?”

Dan Matthies: We had three problems we were trying to solve. The first was, how could we continue to learn?

Babu Sivadasan: I believe in lifelong learning. The way you consume information, the way you learn these days, that has changed forever.

Dan Matthies: The second was thinking about what we could build.

Babu Sivadasan: We were a group of 225. You realize the potential and the power.

Dan Matthies: And then the third was around purpose, thinking about what we’d want to look back on, what would we be proud about, and to collectively accomplish something that none of us ever could have done individually. So in terms of improving a billion lives, we focus on the macro problems of the world. In health, of course, heart disease, mental health, chronic disease, and most recently sustainability.

Molly Morse: I became involved with reaction because I am a founder of a local biomanufacturing company, and we were looking for investors. What Mango Materials is focused on is changing the plastics industry completely. So we’re looking for a very specific type of investor, one who sees the future in the same way we do. We are technologists, we are engineers and scientists who’ve created this new technology, but we need partners and investors to help us see this through.

Dan Matthies: Innovator like Molly has a lot of support in terms of capital. What we need to do is to bring something to Molly that’s different.

Molly Morse: So Reaction helps by facilitating the scaling of the technology globally.

Dan Matthies: By organizing a global set of Stanford alumni into this fund, we’re able to help her to open doors throughout the world in a way that is creating more value and improving more lives faster.

Molly Morse: We see climate change and plastic pollution as two of the largest threats that our planet is facing today.

Dan Matthies: In order for these solutions, these innovations, the science to reach the different parts of the planet it can impact, it needs to have the leadership and the influence in those areas, and we can provide that.

Molly Morse: So by being part of an ecosystem of change makers who believe the world can be changed through novel innovation and new technologies and new business platforms, that gives us a path to the future that we all really want to see.

Dan Matthies: And in terms of the industries that are impacted between energy and health and transportation and manufacturing and agriculture, we have access to all of these different industries and to play a unique role in helping them to plug in and to connect with the leaders that can influence decisions. Proactively, we can help to solve the climate crisis challenge. On campus at the GSB, we focused a lot on their slogan, which is to change lives, change organizations, and change the world. Naturally, as leaders come to Stanford, their lives are transformed. They can transform their organizations. But changing the world, we thought we can really play an important role.

Babu Sivadasan: Changing the world, the best thing you can do is enable entrepreneurs to build companies, enable them to invest in communities with global impact.

Dan Matthies: What makes Reaction different is our community of investors, of executives, of entrepreneurs throughout the world, and their desire to be hands on, to be active in terms of helping the innovators to really take their solutions further than they could go on their own. So our ambition is to create the most global, most influential, and most impactful Stanford investment community in the world. We’re very proud of what’s been accomplished so far, but so excited for where this is going to go in the future and seeing this dream really come to life.

Molly Morse: I’m Molly Morse, CEO and co-founder of Mango Materials.

Babu Sivadasan: My name is Babu Sivadasan, one of the founding partners of Reaction.

Dan Matthies: I’m Dan Matthies. I’m a co-founder and managing partner of Reaction.

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