The Brief | March 28, 2019

Blue economy investments, growing protein on trees, banking for migrants, equitable edtech, jobs in Mexico City, London and Washington D.C.

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Featured: ImpactAlpha Original

With oceans in peril, investors find new ways to invest in the ‘blue economy.’ Bad news about the oceans has finally started to generate some good news for investors looking for investments in the blue economy. From tech-driven startups to ocean-focused public equities strategies, investors have an expanding range of options for getting ahead of regulatory mandates and other imperatives to protect and restore marine habitats and resources. Stricter emissions standards are coming to the shipping industry, a push is on to establish marine protected areas, and renewable energy targets are bringing new attention to offshore wind projects. “There are companies that are positioned to perform well when governments, investors and other entities take meaningful action to combat climate change, and I think we’re starting to see that,” says Rockefeller Capital Management’s Rolando Morillo, lead equity analyst for a $45 million public equities Ocean Strategy.

Ocean-themed impact funds have largely focused on companies working in sustainable seafood and fisheries. But opportunities in the blue economy are much broader, encompassing investments in green ports and shipping, offshore wind, water and wastewater management, conservation and ecotourism, and waste management and recycling. “We believe the time is now to really focus on catalyzing more venture-based innovation tied to ocean sustainability,” says Mark Huang of SeaAhead, a network of technologists, scientists, startups, corporations, governments and others working on ocean solutions. Consumer demand, regulatory drivers and a declining cost curves are driving “bluetech” growth, he says. “Timing is everything.”

Keep reading, “With oceans in peril, investors find new ways to invest in the ‘blue economy,’” by Carol Clouse on ImpactAlpha.

Dealflow: Follow the Money

TerViva raises $20 million to expand production of high-protein legumes. The California firm is helping farmers generate income from low-quality and fallow land. TerViva partners with farmers to cultivate pongamia trees, commonly found in Asia and Australia, which produce a high-protein legume. The company buys back the crop and processes it for cooking oil and animal feed. TerViva has 150,000 trees under contract with Florida farmers, some of them hard hit by Hurricane Irma in 2017, who grow the plant on abandoned agricultural land. The company raised its Series D funding from The Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust and agricultural family offices including Evans Properties, as well as existing investors. Dig in.

Israel’s Rewire raises $12 million for digital banking for migrants. Fintech and blockchain companies have targeted the high cost of international money transfers. But average fees for sending money across borders is still more than twice the 3% targeted by the Sustainable Development Goals. Israel-based Rewire’s offers free online bank accounts to migrants through South Africa-based Standard Bank, along with its own money transfer service, which it says charges 60% less than other banks. Its tens of thousands of account holders are primarily Indians, Nigerians and Filipinos based in Germany and Italy. The round was backed by venture capital firm Viola FinTech, BNP Paribas’s venture capital arm Opera Tech Ventures, Standard Bank, OurCrowd, Moneta Fund and several private investors. Here’s more.

Japan’s Dai-ichi Life makes $9 million cleantech fund commitment. The Japanese life insurance company is backing the fourth fund of cleantech investor Energy & Environment Investment, which invests in tech startups in renewable energy, electric vehicles and energy storage. Japan-based Energy & Environment promises to reduce carbon emissions and contribute to the SDGs, “while aiming to maximize our investment returns,” EEI’s Shuichiro Kawamura said in a statement. Dai-ichi Life’s investment represents an expansion of its impact investing strategy, which it launched in 2017. The ¥36.3 trillion ($319.9 billion) life insurance firm has previously focused on direct investing, namely in health and medtech companies, including Molecure, and financial services startups. More.

Signals: Ahead of the Curve

A snapshot of equitable education technology in four markets. Chile, China, Indonesia, and the United States have all scaled access and use of educational technology for a broad spectrum of students – in different ways. “Scaling Access & Impact: Realizing the Power of EdTech” from Omidyar Network catalogs emerging themes across the countries with snapshots of “equitable edtech” in each market.

  • Computer labs. At $50 million a year, the edtech market in Chile is relatively small, about the size of the country’s investment on textbooks. For three decades the Ministry of Education has used policy to ensure school-based access to digital resources, mainly through computer labs. New innovations are emerging but schools lack resources to make informed choices about what works.
  • Tutoring and tests. The Chinese government has focused on access and equity to education technology infrastructure; the private sector is catering to a growing middle class. Parents in China spend a whopping $50 billion annually on after-school tutoring and test prep. Private investment in education technologies has topped $4.4 billion as companies look to exploit business-to-government edtech sales.
  • Mobile apps. Business-to-consumer mobile apps from more than 30 providers are driving Indonesia’s edtech market. Better understanding is needed of edtech’s impact on the student achievement gaps between schools.
  • Virtual learning. The U.S. edtech market has reached $9 billion annually. Large-scale access to edtech infrastructure is widespread but effectiveness varies. Virtual learning programs are levering widespread internet and bridging home and school learning. Decentralization of U.S. education has meant fragmented sales for entrepreneurs.

Equitable uses of education technology at scale requires scaling not just products and services but their impact, say the report’s authors. “Effective scale-up that creates impact might require considerable redesign of edtech products, services, and models of implementation to better meet the needs of diverse users.” Share this post.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

The Global Innovation Fund is looking for an investment associate in Washington D.C. or London… Solar nonprofit Solstice is looking for a deputy executive director in Cambridge, Mass…. Palladium is hiring an associate director and analyst on its capital advisory services team… The U.S. Treasury’s CDFI Fund is looking for a compliance and certification officer and a senior origination analyst… The W.K. Kellogg Foundation is hiring two investment analysts… Village Capital seeks a manager of sustainability practice in Washington D.C…. New Ventures Mexico is recruiting a development coordinator, a media and alliances manager and an analyst in Mexico City.

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March 28, 2019.