Beats | April 25, 2018

‘Blockchain for Good’ hype-cycle, mini-grids in Africa, bond for U.S. women’s health

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Greetings, ImpactAlpha readers!

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Deals lag hype in ‘Blockchain for Good’ investments. For all the promise of blockchain-enabled technologies to solve a variety of global challenges, actual investments in “blockchain for good” ventures have been slow to emerge. As excitement has grown, so have forecasts of blockchain solutions to identification and migration, supply chain-transparency, land registration, lending to the poor, and a host of other social and environmental challenges. Your inbox may well be full of invitations to events, conferences, meetups and networking opportunities to talk about driving social impact with blockchain.

Moving beyond talk has been a challenge. The latest signal: One of the most ambitious efforts, the $50 million in-house venture fund of Consensys, the Brooklyn blockchain provider, is scaling back the social impact focus of the fund.

Find out why, and where ‘Blockchain for Good’ goes next in “Deals lag hype in ‘Blockchain for Good’ investments,” by Dennis Price on ImpactAlpha.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Pat Tomaino, director of socially responsible investing at Zevin Asset Management, which holds about 60,000 shares in Starbucks, sent a letter to Starbucks executives one week ago demanding a public report on the causes of the Philadelphia racial profiling incident, an investigation of other incidents, and a review of policies… Acumen is recruiting a portfolio manager to join its India team in Mumbai… GrantSpace is hosting a free webinar on May 31 on “Impact investing in the creative economy” with Laura Callanan of Upstart Co-Lab, Eddie Torres of Grantmakers in the Arts, the Compton Foundation’s Ellen Friedman, and Gary Steuer of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation.

Signals: Ahead of the Curve

Sizing the mini-grid opportunity in Africa for impact… and investment. Today, more than 600 million people in Africa still lack access to regular electricity. That gap can be closed by expanding the existing main grid, building more mini-grids — self-sufficient electricity setups — and rolling out standalone home solar systems. A new analysis by CrossBoundary, a solar energy investor, suggests 100 million people in Africa could be most cost-effectively served by mini-grids today, an investment opportunity in the range of $11 billion. By 2030, the number of people efficiently served by mini-grids could reach 290 million.

  • African mini-grid finance... The top five mini-grid developers in Africa raised less than $100 million between 2012 and 2017, according to Crunchbase.
  • European utilities… In addition to Engie, major European utilities like E.ON, Enel, EDF and multinationals such as Caterpillar and Mitsui are ramping up their mini-grid investments as well.
  • Bill Gates… and Breakthrough Energy Ventures identified mini-grids as one of five sectors for its $1 billion clean energy fund.
  • By comparison… Investors put $750 million into home-solar companies like M-KOPA over the same 2012-2017 time period.

To test business models for the mini-grid sector, CrossBountry and Rockefeller Foundation have launched the Mini-Grid Innovation Lab, which will help test the models. The Lab, says Gabriel Davies, head of energy access at CrossBoundary, will take a “data-driven, iterative testing approach to put numbers to the questions that governments, donors, and investors need answers to.”

Dealflow: Follow the Money

Women’s health in the U.S. attracts development-bond interest. Impact Investment Exchange, a Singapore-based impact finance advisor, is studying an impact bond for women’s health in the U.S. thanks to a grant from the Medtronic Foundation. Read more.

Tala raises $65 million for alternative credit scoring and mobile lending. Tala offers small loans to people with no or slim formal credit files. Get the details.

CoPower unveils new green bond offering for Canadians. The company is launching a new green bond after selling out its last bond in February. Learn more.

Another civic tech tool for down-ballot candidates. Interest in running for office is spiking in the U.S., especially among women. Change Research has secured seed funding to help candidates with low-cost voter polling. Dig deeper.