Greetings, Agents of Impact!
This year is going to rock, if the energy at our gatherings in New York and Boston last week is any indication. Thanks to our special guests in New York: Lyme Timber’s Peter Stein, Albright Stonebridge’s Elizabeth Littlefield, Bank of America’s Jackie VanderBrug, Heron Foundation’s Clara Miller and Fran Seegull of the U.S. Impact Investing Alliance (and to Brian Walsh and Liquidnet, our host and sponsor). In Boston, we were joined by Social Finance’s Tracy Palandjian, Boston Ujima Project’s Lucas Turner-Owens, Sunwealth’s Jessica Brooks, The Philanthropic Initiative’s Ellen Remmer and Carrie Endries of Reynders, McVeigh Capital Management (and ably moderated by Sara Minard of the College for Social Innovation). Special thanks to Andrea McGrath of the New England Impact Investing Initiative for organizing the event. It was a great to see all of the agents of impact who came out to connect. Rock on!
– David Bank, editor
Featured: Impact Voices
How Ceniarth is seeking higher impact on rural livelihoods – while preserving its own capital. Diane Isenberg, founder of the $400 million family office Ceniarth, staked out a provocative impact investment strategy in a guest post in ImpactAlpha last summer. “If you are rich today and invest in a manner that generates deep impact, and returns your capital with a yield in line with inflation and reasonable expenses, you will still be rich tomorrow,” Isenberg wrote. Ceniarth pledged to shift more than $300 million over the next decade into a strategy it calls “Impact-First Capital Preservation.” The portfolio of managers and direct investments that support enterprises serving poor and underserved communities might only rarely deliver “market-rate” returns. But Ceniarth has found the perceived risks of such investments to be overstated, as in the case of providing credit to small farmers. “While returns from this segment may be modest, we have come to believe that they can be predictable,” Isenberg wrote.
In a follow up post on ImpactAlpha, Ceniarth’s Greg Neichin recaps the family office’s commitments last year of $32 million to the capital-preservation strategy. The total includes $7.5 million to two funds managed by Global Partnerships for developing-market interventions that benefit the rural poor. A $3 million loan to One Acre Fund signaled a new level of scale and success for the enterprise, which delivers agricultural inputs and guidance to East African smallholder farmers. In developed markets, Ceniarth backed Lyme Timber, HOPE Credit Union and Bridges Fund Management’s Evergreen Fund and plans to pursue a full slate of investments in community development finance institutions that lend in low-income communities. Among the enterprises in its impact-first portfolio, Ceniarth discovered an upside surprise: “Most of them do require capital from investors seeking more modest returns,” Neichin writes, “but a select few could be credibly underwritten to a market-rate standard.”
Read, “How Ceniarth is seeking higher impact on rural livelihoods – while preserving its own capital,” by Ceniarth’s Greg Neichin on ImpactAlpha.
Dealflow: Follow the Money
Kellogg Foundation invests in healthy restaurant chain Everytable. The chain of six fast-casual restaurants in the Los Angeles area uses variable pricing to make healthy food more affordable in low-income neighborhoods. At Everytable’s restaurant in lower-income South Los Angeles, for example, meals start as low as $5, compared to $8 in higher-income areas like Santa Monica. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation is backing Everytable with a $1.5 million program-related investment. Everytable plans to open two more stores in 2019 and Kellogg’s funding will help the company kickstart an education campaign for students at Cal State LA, where its first university store is based; a franchise model for entrepreneurs of color; and a plan to accept food stamps at its stores. Get your fill.
SEAF backs Vietnamese organic food retailer Organica. The Washington, D.C.-based investment firm has invested an undisclosed amount of capital in Organica Investment, a women-owned company in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Organica helps farmers make the transition to organic farming and sells their products in its chain of organic food stores. Small Enterprise Assistance Funds, a spinoff from the relief organization CARE, made its equity investment through an investment partnership with the Australian government’s Investing in Women initiative that backs women-led businesses in the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia. Organica Investment is the fund’s third investment. Dig in.
LettUs Grow secures funding for indoor farming tech. Bristol, U.K.-based LettUs Grow aims to accelerate food cultivation closer to the point of consumption in order to “reduce the waste and carbon footprint of fresh produce.” The startup raised £1 million ($1.3 million) from investors, universities, and government funders for its irrigation and monitoring technology for aeroponic farms, which can produce food in non-traditional growing environments because they don’t require soil. U.N. Sustainable Development Goal No. 2—ending hunger, achieving food security, and promoting sustainable agriculture—has spurred investment in new agriculture technologies. Read on.
Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent
Follow the talent. Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown joins Partners Group to advise the Swiss private equity firm’s $1 billion impact fund PG Life (see, “New financial products start to scale investments in Sustainable Development Goals”)… Racquel Moses is the new chief executive officer of Richard Branson’s Caribbean climate-smart accelerator.
Seize the opportunity. The Prime Coalition is hiring a director of philanthropic development in Cambridge, Mass.… W.K. Kellogg Foundation is recruiting a mission investment manager for its mission-driven investments program… Clean energy investment firm Sunwealth is looking for a solar project associate in Somerville, Mass…. Omidyar Network’s governance and citizen engagement spinoff Luminate is recruiting an associate in Washington D.C.
Where to be. ImpactAlpha is a media sponsor of the third Economist magazine impact investing event in New York City on Feb. 12. “This year’s summit will demand more of the business leaders at the helm of the global economy,” organizers say. Save 15% with code ALPHA15. Register now.
— January 14, 2019.