SMU Impact Lab


The SMU Impact Lab serves the University’s entrepreneurial students, faculty and alumni in the spaces of social, creative and arts entrepreneurship. Through investments, experiential learning opportunities, course work, cross-disciplinary educational workshops, and structured mentoring, the SMU Impact Lab will invest in those who desire to have a net positive impact in the world through entrepreneurial action.

Objectives of the SMU Impact Lab

The SMU Impact Lab’s program objectives are fourfold:

  1. Educate a new generation of social, arts and creative entrepreneurs through startup support, management, measurement, course work, workshops and guidance in the scaling of social ventures. We will start a new Corporate Communications and Public Affairs (CCPA) course for undergraduates and graduates titled “Social Impact Investing”in the Meadows School and partner with experts from the incubator’s mentorship program, enhancing stakeholders’ likelihood of measurable, sustainable, scalable success.
  2. Provide opportunities for SMU students, alumni and faculty to engage in structured impact investing in the spaces of social innovation and creative, social and arts entrepreneurship. The SMU Impact Lab will serve as a source of entrepreneurial funding at SMU.
  3. Identify emerging trends, best practices, and present nationally and internationally, promoting the merging of arts and creative entrepreneurship as part of social entrepreneurship and the collaboration between SMU and the Phillips Foundation.
  4. Encourage cross-campus collaboration at SMU by pursuing interdisciplinary cooperation within our SMU entrepreneurship ecosystem and attracting more entrepreneurially focused prospective students, all resulting in rising academic rankings and more significant social good.


The SMU Impact Lab will focus on the following concepts to drive our candidate’s success.

  • Investments: Through the generous support of the Phillips Foundation, the SMU Impact Lab will invest in for-profit social impact endeavors in the social, creative and arts spaces.
  • Experiential Learning: At the core of our educational offerings is experiential learning, or “learning by doing.” In workshops, research, and course content, we provide opportunities for participants to discover their learning and, consequently, own their knowledge.
  • Course Work: The Division of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs (CCPA) will launch a new Social Impact Investing course for undergraduate and graduate students.
  • Structured Mentoring: In collaboration with the SMU’s incubator program, participants of the SMU Impact Lab will gain access to structured mentorship opportunities with area and alumni entrepreneurs, designed to impart participants with knowledge and skills to further their respective endeavors.
  • Cross-disciplinary Offerings: Faculty representing innovation and entrepreneurship programming at SMU will offer educational workshops. Examples of collaborating schools, programs and offices at SMU include Cox Entrepreneurship program; Meadows Arts Entrepreneurship program; CCPA Meadows’ Social Innovation, Creative and Arts Entrepreneurship program; CCPA Meadows’ Nonprofit Arts Leadership program; the Lyle/Meadows MADI Program in Human Centered Design; the Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity; the Master of Management in International Arts Management; and the SMU Engaged Learning.

Investment Themes

Investment themes will fall into two separate but connected spheres: Social Impact and Environmental Impact. We selected these themes with a singular goal of achieving sustainable, long-term positive impact. Chosen to maximize our impact today, these themes will evolve as new and better solutions become available from our entrepreneurs.

Pillar Investment Themes
Climate Solutions and
the Environment

Renewable & Clean Energy
Water Infrastructure / Water Management  
Fossil Fuel Free
Circular Economy / Waste Management / Recycling
Energy Efficiency
Green Buildings
Electric Mobility
Green Chemistry/Products

Racial and Gender Equality

Women and People of Color Entrepreneurs and Owners
Products & Services for Women and People of Color
LGTBQ+ Equality
Indigenous Rights / Refugees / Immigrants
Women & Girls Empowerment
BIPOC Founders

Community Wealth Building Quality Jobs
Education / Early Childhood Development
Health & Wellness / Nutrition
Access to Fair and Affordable Capital / Financial Inclusion
Affordable Housing / Homeownership Assistance
Community Economic Development
Arts & Creativity

Investment Criteria

  • Fit: Entrepreneurial concept must meet investment themes with potential to achieve measurable social and/or environmental benefits in the community
  • People: Passionate entrepreneurs with desire to make a social impact
  • Stage: Idea, working prototype, go-to-market
  • Sectors: Any sector that provides social and/or environmental impact
  • Location: Dallas/Fort Worth
  • Capital: Typical financing of $5,000 - $50,000

Deal Screening and Due Diligence

The screening and review process ensures investments meet the fund objectives and reduce investment risk.

Deal flow graphic large

Investment Allocation

Companies selected for investment will be evaluated to determine their development stage and assign the amount of funding, education, mentorship and support needed to promote their success. Allocations will be approved at CCPA Division level and then by Meadows’ Director of Business and Finance.

Development Stage Description Investment Goal Resources Funding Target
Idea Stage The initial stage of a project; it is the business idea and the development of a product or service. This level is for startups that have an idea that shows a high potential of social impact per the investment themes.
Provide entrepreneurship education, resources and mentoring for the startup to conduct primary research (customer discovery and customer validation) to prove that there is a product/market fit for the product or service. 
  • Assigned Mentor
  • Lean Launchpad Workshops
  • Social Impact Investing Course
  • Advisory Board Member Sponsorship and Mentoring
Early Growth Stage In this stage the startup already shows some evidence of a product/market fit in areas covered in the investment themes. Some initial customers and/or market traction can be demonstrated, and the product or service begins to make improvements and become more competitive.
Provide entrepreneurship education, resources and mentoring for the startup to refine the product/MVP, grow the team, create more demand, and start to scale.
  • Assigned Mentor
  • Entrepreneurial Program Academic Spaces
  • Customer Acquisition and MVP Development Workshops
  • Social Impact Investing Course
  • Advisory Board Member Sponsorship and Mentoring

Meet The Team

Doric Earle: SMU Meadows – Corporate Communication and Public Affairs

After 30 years managing large technology consultancies, Dr. Doric Earle reinvented himself to help communities, social enterprises and entrepreneurs achieve collaborative, engaging and sustainable solutions. A Ph.D. in Public Affairs focused on Urban Planning drives an emphasis on economic development, communication and community engagement as a catalyst to unlock potential in underserved communities, help communities, social enterprises and entrepreneurs achieve collaborative, engaging and sustainable solutions. Social impact drives his work including joining the boards or consulting for NPs such as: Frazier Revitalization, Bridge Lacrosse, Green Careers Dallas and Miles of Freedom. His consultancy Forward Planning LLC is developing support for local entrepreneurs. Earle is also a co-founder of Restorative Farms Hatcher Station Garden and Training Farm project.  These efforts will drive collaboration between the community, SMU and like-minded partners. Earle currently is working both in economic development and place-building, focusing on entrepreneurship, through the creation of an incubator for entrepreneurs in the Fair Park Area of Dallas. He strives to help students and clients:  individuals, corporations, and municipalities maximize their innate capabilities, grow their capacity and exceed their assumed potential. Earle has a B.S. Management: Syracuse University, MBA UConn, and Ph.D. Public Affairs UTD. At SMU, he teaches various courses depending on the semester; Social Innovation/NP Leadership, Applied Comm Theory, Financial Comm, and Group/Team Communication Leadership.

Jim Hart: SMU Meadows – Corporate Communication and Public Affairs

James HartA pioneering educator and entrepreneur, Hart’s book Classroom Exercises for Entrepreneurship: A Cross-disciplinary Approach (Edward Elgar Publishing, Ltd, 2018.), is used by educators worldwide. Often recognized for pedagogical innovation, Hart has won five national pedagogical innovation awards over the past six years. Examples include the USASBE Excellence in Pedagogical Innovation (2022), USASBE Special Recognition in Entrepreneurship Education Innovation Award, the Sharon T. Alpi Award for Innovative Arts Entrepreneurship Pedagogy, and one of SMU’s highest teaching honors, the Provost Teaching Recognition Award (2018). A serial entrepreneur, Hart is the founder of the world's first accredited conservatory for arts entrepreneurship, The International Theatre Academy Norway (TITAN) in Oslo Norway. He co-founded the Society for Arts Entrepreneurship Education (SAEE) and other organizations. Hart's artistic work has been seen in America, Russia, Norway, Taiwan, Iran, Denmark and Turkey. Outside of SMU, Hart has taught at Yale University (graduate and undergraduate), New York University, the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, Tufts University, Fu Jen University in Taipei, Taiwan, the University of Massachusetts Amherst for the U.S. State Department, the Dallas World Affairs Council and others. He is a multi-time keynote speaker, a TEDx speaker, regularly consults other university programs, and has written popular articles for Americans for the Arts, Theatre Communications Group and others. Hart holds an M.F.A. in acting from the Yale School of Drama and graduated from SMU with a B.F.A. in theatre.

Carlos Martinez: Cox School of Business
Fund Manager

Carlos Martinez is a visionary leader and serial entrepreneur with a track record of creating and growing business ventures in technology and consulting. During his career with EDS and PriceWaterhouse, Martinez performed various consulting roles including systems engineer, management consultant and Principal Consultant. As an entrepreneur, he was the Founder and President of Strategic Systems & Products (SSP), where he developed and executed the vision, and achieved SAP ERP solution certification for the READYUpstream All-In-One solution. In 2014, he became the North America upstream oil and gas practice leader at Capgemini LLC after their acquisition of SSP, where he performed as vice president. He is currently the founding partner of Clement Capital Partners LP, an impact venture fund that invests in innovative startups utilizing technology, film and media to improve the lives of underrepresented communities and protect the environment. He is also the President and CEO of Clement Business Advisors, an advisory consulting firm that provides business consulting and training services to startups and portfolio companies of investment firms. Martinez has taught undergraduate and graduate technology courses at the University of Texas at Dallas and Entrepreneurship as an Adjunct Professor at the SMU COX School of Business. He is currently a member of the SMU Cox Associate Board as a mentor to Cox MBA students, a Fellow at the SMU Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity, the Fund Manager for the SMU Impact Lab and advisor for the SMU Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Club. He also serves as a mentor at the Dallas Entrepreneurship Center and the Founder Institute where he mentors startups in the development of entrepreneurial concepts. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Management from the University of Puerto Rico and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Texas at Dallas.

Advisory Board

The Advisory Board will be comprised of community members with expertise, insight and a passion to make positive change in our world. We are currently working through our nomination process. Stay tuned.

We are working to invite over a dozen candidates presently.

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