The Brief | August 22, 2023

ImpactAlpha Open: Acumen’s Indian zebras + investing in hardware

Dennis Price

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ImpactAlpha Editor

Dennis Price

Greetings, Agents of Impact! Welcome to this week’s ImpactAlpha Open, our free weekly roundup of top news and opportunities in impact investing.

👉 Ready to join the pros who get ImpactAlpha daily? Subscribe with today’s introductory offer.

In this week’s Open:

  • Acumen’s Indian zebras
  • Carbon credits in Africa
  • Grid resilience on Long Island
  • Engine No. 1’s rolling retreat

Ok, let’s jump in  – Dennis Price

Must-reads on ImpactAlpha

  • India’s e-mobility transition. In India, investors are pouring capital into EV startups, but the real leaders of the country’s e-mobility transition are the informal workshops assembling cheap and energy-efficient e-rickshaws, ImpactAlpha contributor Shefali Anand reports from Delhi. Go deeper.
  • Acumen’s Indian zebras. In a guest post, Acumen India’s Mahesh Yagnaraman describes how the firm’s patient investing has delivered wins such as Ziqitza Healthcare, the country’s first for-profit ambulance company, which after 10 years has served 48 million people and created a new market for emergency services. Read the full story.
  • Grid resilience in Long Island. As part of our ongoing coverage of “Muni Impact,” we highlighted Long Island Power Authority’s issuance of $400 million in bonds to boost that utility’s resilience to extreme weather events, with analysis by HIP Investor’s Rose Fadjia JosephGet the scoop.
  • Carbon credits in Africa. To attract capital for climate resilience, African leaders are eyeing a bigger slice of the voluntary carbon credit markets, ImpactAlpha contributor Lucy Ngige reports from Nairobi. Read more.
  • The Inflation Reduction Act turns oneAmy Cortese reports on how private investors made the one-year anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act a celebration of what US Steel’s David Burritt called the “Manufacturing Renaissance Act,” with $270 billion in commitments to some 80 domestic clean energy projects and manufacturing facilities in the past 12 months. Catch up quickly.
  • Impact management. To know which investments have the most impact, get started with impact ratings, the second video in our series with Impact Frontiers and Impact Capital Managers. Dig in.

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Agents of Impact

Monica Brand Engel, Quona Capital, impact investing

🌍 Monica Brand Engel, Quona Capital: Taking on the messy work of financial inclusion

Imperfect execution is ok. “Authentic impact is about accepting imperfection and actually getting things done,” Quona’s Monica Brand Engel tells ImpactAlpha. “If your standard is for 100% of every dollar to reach the most underserved person, you’re going to be sitting on capital for a long, long time.” At Quona, Engel and her team have invested in 72 companies, whose products and services have reached nearly 145 million people, 79% of whom are underserved, according to its latest impact report.

🏃🏿‍♀️ On the move

  • The US International Development Finance Corp. names Nisha Desal Biswal, ex- of the US Chamber of Commerce, as its deputy chief executive officer.
  • Ted Maa, a former partner at Pine Brook, joins Nuveen as managing director of private equity impact investing.
  • Oona Poropudas, ex- of Auxxo Female Catalyst Fund, joined Aurum Impact’s investment team.

Six Short Signals: What We’re Reading

📉 Engine No. 1’s rolling retreat. Two years after Engine No. 1 bested ExxonMobil to secure board seats with a demand to address climate change (and one year after ImpactAlpha flagged the shift in the firm’s approach), the hedge fund has sold off its “Transform Climate ETF,” and is focusing on private deals with no public proxy fights, including its latest investment in a Brazilian mining company. (Financial Times)

  • Agent of Impact view: The story is about more than Engine No. 1, argues Rachel Robasciotti of Adasina Social Capital. “Who leads the impact work we support matters,” she says. “As we work toward systems change we must center the voices of those most impacted by the issues we want to solve.”

🏳️‍🌈 Demand for LGBTQ+ investing. Close to half of all U.S. investors (45%) are interested in a broad range of investable products and strategies that advance LGBTQ+ equity and inclusion. Demand will likely increase as wealth transfers in the coming decades to younger generations. (Morgan Stanley)

🙋🏾‍♀️🙋🏾🙋🏽‍♀️🙋🏻 70+ VCs stand with Fearless Fund. The venture investors launched a petition that has garnered more than 700 signatures as of Monday. “We will not be deterred from our work,” say the general partners, many of them Black women and diversity-focused capital allocators. “We have work to do, lives to impact, funds to raise, and firms to build.” (

🌲🌲🌲🌲 What slows deforestation. Protected areas consistently have lower rates of deforestation. Additional protections: When forested area is in Indigenous territory or managed by Indigenous peoples, and when payments are made to forest communities or landowners who keep their trees standing. (Conservation International)

🤖 Investing in hardware. Investors have more competition for investments in software than in hardware. “Even if hardware is 2x as hard, the relatively much easier access to great teams points to a clear path to better returns from hardware,” writes Third Sphere’s Shaun Abrahamson.(Third Sphere)

🤝 M&A impact of ESG. More than half of merger and acquisition dealmakers have canceled deals due to material findings during environmental, social and governance, or ESG, due diligence, according to a KPMG survey. (ESG Today)

Get in the Game

💼 Step up

  • JPMorgan Chase seeks an impact finance credit solutions vice president in New York
  • Also in NY, KKR Global Impact has an opening for a senior manager.
  • In Washington DC, Accion seeks a managing director for its Center for Financial Inclusion.

Scan through dozens of more impact jobs curated on

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