Student entrepreneur goes global with venture capital fund
Matt Greenleaf funds startups all over the world even as he finishes classes at SF State
In July, San Francisco State University business administration student Matt Greenleaf found himself in a conference room in Lagos, Nigeria, with some of the country’s most successful businesspeople. CEOs from France and even French President Emmanuel Macron were there, as well. Had a globetrotting college student stumbled into an international economic forum by mistake? Not at all: Greenleaf was there as a participant, and the Nigerian and French heavy hitters on hand were happy to chat with him thanks to his ever-growing connections as a venture capitalist.
“Almost everyone in that room was running one of the biggest companies in Nigeria or the biggest companies in France,” Greenleaf said.
The Lagos business forum was just one stop on a summer fact-finding tour for Greenleaf. The SF State senior traveled to Europe and Africa to learn more about those regions’ startups as he expanded Magic Fund, the venture capital fund he founded with four partners in 2017. Through the multimillion dollar fund, Greenleaf has invested in a portfolio of 16 promising international companies in the early stages of their development. “We want to accelerate the growth and impact of startups in emerging markets to solve large-scale issues in their countries,” Greenleaf said.
For instance, the fund invested in PAYFAZZ, a mobile banking startup in Indonesia, and Kiwi Campus, a company developed by Colombian students at the University of California, Berkeley to build and operate autonomous food-delivery robots. Greenleaf and his partners are able to discover, evaluate and invest in companies like these through connections with other local and international entrepreneurs. That network also helps Magic Fund connect the founders of these startups to other global opportunities.
Next Greenleaf hopes to expand the fund’s investments in Africa and Southeast Asia, two emerging markets he and his partners see as having big potential for startups to provide novel services. “These regions are going to be a really big part of the future of the world economy,” he said.
But before gaining this global perspective on business, Greenleaf nurtured a growing startup culture back home at SF State. As the former president of the student-run startup incubator INCUBED, Greenleaf worked to help student entrepreneurs find community and mentorship on campus. “The organization had an impressive first few years, even with no history and not much in the way of resources,” said Chair and Professor of Management Tom Thomas. “He was truly entrepreneurial.”
Meanwhile, Greenleaf advocated for support from the administration for student entrepreneurs. His input helped shape the development of a potential minor in innovation and entrepreneurship through the College of Business, as well as a fellowship program starting this fall where students will develop their own businesses. Greenleaf may be an outlier for now, but he has kick-started a culture at SF State that will help other students follow in his footsteps. “Matt helped pave the way,” said Thomas. “Now we’re going to have dozens of students across campus who will have started their companies before they even graduate.”