Taking the initiative

  • December 20, 2016
Taking the initiative

Matt Varilek appointed President of community and development organisation The Initiative Foundation.

One of the first cohort of Gates Cambridge Scholars has been appointed president and chief executive officer of a leading US community and economic development organisation.

Matt Varilek, former chief operating officer of the US Small Business Administration in Washington, DC, will officially take up his new post at the The Initiative Foundation on 3rd January.

The Foundation provides loans and financing to help businesses in Central Minnesota create jobs and invests in community organisations that build the local economy. It has dispersed more than $81 million in targeted grants and loans since it was set up 30 years ago. 

“The Initiative Foundation's outstanding work related to economic development, community development and philanthropy is an ideal match with my own professional background and rural upbringing,” said Matt [2001], who did a master's in Environment and Development at the University of Cambridge. “As someone who has personally experienced the transformative impact of philanthropy, I am thrilled to return to Greater Minnesota to join a distinguished organisation like the Initiative Foundation, which makes such an incredible impact in the communities it serves.”

As chief operating officer of the US Small Business Administration, Varilek oversaw agency-wide operations in support of the SBA's small-business lending, venture capital and private equity work as well as its entrepreneurial training, government contracting and disaster recovery efforts.

Prior to his move to Washington DC, Varilek served as SBA regional administrator for the most rural of the agency's regions, guiding delivery of small business programs and services in South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and Montana.

Before joining the SBA, Matt stood for Congress in South Dakota. He also worked as Economic Development Director for US senator Tim Johnson and was Legislative Assistant for Economic Development to Senator Tom Daschle.

Matt has also worked in the private sector, analysing energy and environmental commodity market dynamics as director of policy and research for Natsource LLC, a commodities brokerage with offices in London, New York City and Washington, DC.

Latest News

Provost wins top Royal Society award

Gates Cambridge Provost Professor Barry Everitt has been selected for the Royal Society’s premier award in the biological sciences. Professor Barry Everitt FMedSci FRS has been awarded the Croonian Medal and Lecture 2021 for his research on the application of his findings on brain mechanisms of motivation to important societal issues, such as drug addiction. […]

Addressing energy injustice in the Global South

A new framework which uses artificial intelligence to analyse textual data on energy use and behaviour could help policymakers develop a deeper understanding of energy injustices in the Global South. The study, Grounded reality meets machine learning: A deep-narrative analysis framework for energy policy research, was led by Gates Cambridge Scholar Ramit Debnath [2018] and is published in the journal Energy Research […]

Scholar wins top German prize for PhD thesis

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has won a prestigious international award for her PhD dissertation on the relationship between offshore finance and state power. Dr Andrea Binder was named winner of the Körber Foundation’s German Dissertation Award 2020 for social sciences. The prize, one of the most highly endowed for young researchers from Germany, honours excellent PhD research which […]

Developing a farm for impact model

Shadrack Frimpong has not yet started his PhD, but already his and his team’s work has earned him awards from the Queen, the Clinton Foundation and the Muhammad Ali Foundation. The awards are for their outstanding work in creating a potential new development model for rural crop-growing communities starting from Shadrack’s own village in Ghana. […]