The Brief | May 28, 2019

Blue Haven’s flexible family capital, Canada’s women-led startups, weathering climate change, future of food dealflow

The team at


Greetings, Agents of Impact!

Podcast Series: Beyond Trade-offs

Blue Haven Initiative: Wealthy families have the flexibility to drive impact across their portfolios. The family business for many high- and ultra-high-net-worth families is the business of managing the wealth itself. In the U.S. alone, more than 3,000 single and multi-family offices hold more than $1.7 trillion in assets. One perk of being such an asset owner: you get to set the rules. Liesel Pritzker Simmons and her husband, Ian Simmons, have committed to integrate impact across 100% of their assets. Blue Haven Initiative, their $500 million family office, accounts for impact across its portfolio. “The role of the impact investor is to take a step back and say, “What’s the thing you’re trying to accomplish? What’s the best way to scale that impact?” Pritzker Simmons told ImpactAlpha’s David Bank for the seventh and final episode of our Beyond Trade-offs series, produced in collaboration with Omidyar Network. “Sometimes it’s through market-rate investing. And sometimes, it absolutely is not.”

That flexibility is why high-net-worth families enjoy perhaps the greatest responsibly to drive the shift of capital towards impact. In the largest portion of the half-billion dollar portfolio, Blue Haven targets market-rate returns, in both public and private markets. To pursue direct investments, Blue Haven created a $50 million venture capital mandate that targets energy access, financial inclusion and logistics, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. Blue Haven has invested market-rate-seeking equity in firms like M-KOPA, which has found success distributing lease-to-own solar kits in East Africa. When Blue Haven looked at solar mini-grids, however, the family office determined the risk level made it a better fit for the philanthropic portfolio. Blue Haven made a grant to PowerGen in Tanzania to prove out a lower-cost model at scale. Says Omidyar Network’s Robynn Steffen, “Families have to be on the front lines of bearing the risk of early-stage innovation and fueling impact in the toughest market segments.”

Read on, and listen in, to, “Blue Haven Initiative: Wealthy families have the flexibility to drive impact across their portfolios,” by Dennis Price on ImpactAlpha.

  • Travel to the land beyond trade-offs. Join The Call No. 9, featuring Blue Haven Initiative’s Liesel Pritzker Simmons, Prudential Financial’s Ommeed Sathe, Elevar Equity’s Sandeep Farias and Omidyar Network’s Robynn Steffen, Thursday, May 30th, at 10:00 am PT / 1:00 pm ET / 6:00 pm London. RSVP now.
  • Binge on Beyond Trade-offs. Catch up on the full series of podcasts (and subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, SoundCloud or Stitcher).

Dealflow: Follow the Money

StandUp secures C$18 million to invest in Canada’s women-led tech startups. Research suggests that companies with female leaders perform better and recruit more diverse teams. Yet only 13% of venture capital goes to startups with at least one female founder, and funding bias is strongest in the early stages. The Toronto-based StandUp Ventures raised C$18 million (US$13.4 million) towards a C$25 million target to help women overcome the early-funding hurdle. Women-led teams have better odds in later rounds, according to StandUp Ventures’ Michelle McBane, which has backed seven startups since launching in 2017. StandUp made a second investment in job-safety communication platform Bridgit, which closed C$6.2 million in Series B funding in March. StandUp’s backing from investors includes C$5 million from entrepreneur-focused bank BDC. “This follow-on funding from top financial institutions demonstrates that investors are actively beginning to support women entrepreneurs and businesses,” McBane says. More.

Agritask raises $6 million to help farmers weather climate change. A third of the world depends on agriculture to earn a living. Many small-scale farmers lack access to insurance to protect their income in the face of climate change. “To a large extent this is a result of product design which often relies on limited data availability and visibility into the ongoing agricultural and climatic risks,” says Ofir Ardon of Agritask, a Tel Aviv-based agriculture data analytics software startup. Agritask aims to help agricultural businesses, from farmers to insurers better use data to make business decisions. Most of its users are in emerging and frontier markets. The InsuResilience Investment Fund is backing with a $6 million investment, its fifth equity investment. Agritask joins a growing roster of companies supporting small farmer insurance adoption as a solution to climate risk. Read on.

Dealflow overflow: “future of food” edition.

  • Kentucky-based AppHarvest raised an undisclosed amount of Series A funding from ValueAct Capital and Revolution’s Rise of the Rest fund, and secured an $82 million investment from Equilibrium Capital to build a 2.8 million-square-foot greenhouse in the eastern part of the state. The project will support 285 full-time jobs in an area where poverty levels are twice the national rate.
  • New York-based Artemis, formerly known as Agrilyst, closed an $8 million Series A round for its indoor farm management software. The company rebranded as part of a business pivot that involves shifting focus to large-scale indoor farms, like the kind AppHarvest is building. (Artemis is the Greek goddess of wilderness and hunting, and as the company’s CEO Allison Kopf explains, “of all things living.”)
  • San Francisco-based Silo clinched $3 million from Initialized Capital and several angel investors for its perishable food marketplace, which aims to cut food waste by improving market linkages between buyers and sellers. Produce Pay and Farmster also link farmers and distributors online, while Full Harvest and FoodMaven go a step further, focusing on over-supplied or “ugly” produce that is most likely to be wasted.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Amy Bell, ex-of Tideline, joins the corporate venture team at Whole Foods. Bell will remain an advisor to the impact investing strategy firm… Nonprofit Finance Fund was awarded $55 million in New Markets Tax Credits… Omidyar Network is hiring a director of people in Redwood City… The U.S. Department of the Treasury is looking for a program manager for the CDFI Fund in Washington DC… Business for Social Responsibility seeks a manager of financial services in New York.

May 28, 2019.