The Brief | April 25, 2019

Beyond Beyond Meat, LearnStart early learning fund, streamlining emergency rooms, infrastructure-as-a-service, NY’s creative economy, forest revenues

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Greetings, Agents of Impact!

Join The Impact Block Party. ImpactAlpha subscribers are invited to connect with other Agents of Impact and editor David Bank to talk blockchain for impact investors., in collaboration with ImpactAlpha, is hosting The Impact Block Party, a pop-up salon at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, Tuesday, April 30, from 5:30-7:00 pm. RSVP today.

Featured: ImpactAlpha Original

Beyond Beyond Meat’s IPO lies a ‘new world order of food.’ Next week’s IPO of plant-based meat maker Beyond Meat signals the arrival of a wave of innovation that will reshape how we eat. It’s not only that plant protein-based meat actually tastes good. Nor that it’s better for you than meat that comes from, you know, animals. Nor even that it’s easier on the planet. It’s that the $7.8 trillion global food industry is now squarely in the sights of food entrepreneurs, tech innovators and public and private investors. “We’ve got a total disruption happening in across the value chain in food and agriculture,” says Walter Robb, the former co-CEO of Whole Foods who became a sustainable food investor in 2017. That disruption has “created more opportunity than I’ve ever seen in my lifetime,” he says. ImpactAlpha’s Dennis Price interviewed Robb this month at the Social Innovation Initiative at McCombs Business School in Austin.

If Beyond Meat is alt-meat’s Lyft, the Uber of the industry is Impossible Foods, which has raised nearly $400 million in debt and equity capital. And plant-based meats are only one of the opportunities in food. Last year, venture capital investment in the food and agriculture startups was up 40% to $17 billion. The growing consumer appetite for quality food gives an edge to small and midsize companies with healthier and more sustainable alternatives to processed foods, Robb says. Technology breakthroughs and new business models can lighten food’s carbon footprint and expand food distribution channels for healthy food into low-income communities. Says Robb, “I want to support the companies I think are ushering in that new world order of food and agriculture.”

Keep reading, “Beyond Beyond Meat’s IPO lies a ‘new world order of food’,” by Dennis Price on ImpactAlpha.

Dealflow: Follow the Money

Early learning fund LearnStart receives $4 million in anchor capital. Bay Area-based education venture capital firm Learn Capital launched a $25 million fund for tech startups focusing on early childhood development. The LearnStart fund will invest in companies focused on physical, social-emotional, cognitive and motor development for children under eight. Gary Community Investments and Ben and Lucy Ana Walton’s ZOMA Foundation seeded the fund with $4 million. Caprock served as advisor and structuring partner. Learn Capital’s portfolio of 70 companies includes African tech training company Andela, which raised $100 million in January. With LearnStart, Learn Capital aims to fill a gap in seed funding for early-childhood development startups. Learn more.

Vital raises $5.2 million to streamline emergency room care. Patients without immediately life-threatening conditions can wait hours to be seen by doctors in U.S. emergency care centers. Atlanta-based Vital is trying to improve the experience for ER patients. “Hospitals rely on outdated, slow, and inefficient software,” Vital’s Aaron Patzer said. The company’s software uses artificial intelligence and language recognition to triage arriving patients. The financing round was led by First Round Capital and DFJ, with backing from Bragiel Brothers, Meridian Street Capital, Refactor Capital, SV Angels and other angel investors. Here’s more.

Other impact dealflow: Indian agtech venture investor Omnivore closed its second fund at $97 million, exceeding its $75 million funding goal. The firm, co-headed by Agent of Impact Mark Kahn, already has made five investments from the fund… Prudential Financial is earmarking $180 million for youth workforce development, skill acquisition and job training between through 2025… Tyson Foods sold its 6.5% stake in Beyond Meat ahead of the vegan “meat” company’s planned IPO next week. It had invested $23 million in Beyond Meat through Tyson Ventures (see, “Beyond Beyond Meat’s IPO lies a ‘new world order of food,’” above).

Signals: Ahead of the Curve

Infrastructure as a service. A new report from the Blended Finance TaskForce says “Infra 3.0” could boost the productivity of infrastructure and cut investment needs up to $1 trillion a year. The infrastructure delivery approach is distributed (off-grid solar), digitized (building control algorithms to optimise energy efficiency) and service-based (pay-per-use farm machinery). The approach goes beyond sustainable infrastructure to capture the benefits of new technologies, financial innovation and natural solutions to lower costs. More from Blended Finance TaskForce.

Capitalizing New York’s creative economy. The NYC Inclusive Creative Economy Fund has raised $4.8 million since launching in October, according to the fund’s first impact report (see, “More than 100 funds that are investing in the creative economy). The fund, from the New York office of Local Initiative Support Corp, has financed portions of loans to Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp., Greenpoint Manufacturing & Design Center and La MaMa Experimental Theater Company. More from LISC NYC.

How sustainable forests generate revenue for investors. Sustainable forestry investments can generate significant environmental impacts, including climate mitigation, land restoration, community economic development and quality job creation. But how do they generate revenues? Sales of timber and other forest products, sales of carbon offsets, sales of land rights for permanent conservation and leasing of land or land rights, according to a new report from the Global Impact Investing Network. The returns: 8.6% or higher for top quartile impact funds, compared to 4.2% or higher among conventional timber funds, according to a GIIN/Cambridge timber benchmark comprised of 18 impact funds. More from the GIIN.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Visit ImpactAlpha’s events page for special events and discounts… Prudential is hiring a manager of corporate social responsibility… Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs is recruiting a finance analyst and membership and events coordinator in Washington DC, and a senior program coordinator in Bangalore… Capria is looking for a Latin America fellow for a six-month stint in Seattle.

April 25, 2019.