The Brief | February 27, 2019

Collaborative capital in Philly; coding schools in Hungary; small-business lending in South Africa; ethical headscarves; jobs at the GIIN and Toniic

The team at


Greetings, Agents of Impact!

Featured: ImpactAlpha Original

Philadelphia’s impact investors step up to finance local job-creation and a storefront revival. First Step Staffing has a disarmingly simple impact strategy for integrating homeless and previously incarcerated people into the workforce. The nonprofit acquires larger for-profit staffing companies that have steady customers in need of reliable workers. First Step assimilates the existing staff and, through natural attrition, adds employees from vulnerable and eager-to-work populations. Last year, a group of Philadelphia investors, led by Reinvestment Fund, put together a financing package of more than $5 million to help First Step expand from Atlanta. Now, First Step sends out about 750 individuals every day to short-term jobs in logistics, food manufacturing, recycling, hospitality and other light industries across Philadelphia. Just over half of the workers are formerly homeless. “Everyone came together and decided they wanted to do this and made it happen,” First Step’s Greg Block told ImpactAlpha. “This is a very different experience than we’ve had in other cities.”

That ethos of all capital on deck will be on stage in May when the Total Impact conference returns to Philly. In advance of the gathering, ImpactAlpha is again exploring Philadelphia’s push to leverage the region’s assets to boost livelihoods, revive neighborhoods and reverse inequality. Real estate developer Shift Capital has deployed $37 million to buy industrial, commercial and residential properties in the drug-affected Kensington neighborhood. Shift plans to sell the portfolio into a permanent nonprofit-owned trust to preserve affordability. The Philadelphia arm of Social Ventures Circle, formed in the merger of Investors’ Circle and Social Venture Network, deployed $3 million in 2018 (up from an average of about $2 million a year). Venture investor Ben Franklin Tech Partners recently raised $15 million for the first close for the Global Opportunity Philadelphia Fund (GO Philly) to create jobs and revenue in southeastern Pennsylvania. “We can’t wait for capital going to New York, California and Boston to show up,” Ben Franklin’s Jason Bannon told ImpactAlpha.

Read, “Philadelphia’s impact investors step up to finance local job-creation and a storefront revival,” by Dennis Price on ImpactAlpha.

  • Total Impact Philadelphia. The conference, hosted by the Good Capital Project in collaboration with ImpactPHL, Toniic, Wharton Social Impact Initiative and Intentional Endowments Network, returns May 1-2. Register with code “ImpactAlpha250” to save $250.

Dealflow: Follow the Money

Hungary’s Codecool raises $4 million to expand coding classes across Europe. The Budapest-based coding school teaches coding skills to prepare workers for increasingly technical, digital and automated jobs and helps them get placed with partner companies. Approximately 40% of the European workforce has no digital skills. Codecool has graduated 400 students; 500 students are enrolled in four campuses in Hungary and Poland. The firm raised €3.5 million ($4 million) in Series B funding from Lead Ventures and Portfolion for its expansion across Europe. Ventures tacking digital training and up-skilling worldwide include U.S.-based Lambda and Holberton schools, Latin America’s Digital House, Holacode and Crehana, and Africa’s Andela. Learn more.

South Africa’s Sasfin takes a stake in Payabill’s small-business lending platform. Johannesburg-based Payabill was started in 2017 to help small businesses overcome one of the biggest causes of failure: inability to predict or manage their cash-flows. The company helps businesses pay suppliers and vendors and offers low-cost working-capital loans of up to 150,000 South African rand ($10,800). South African financial services firm Sasfin acquired an undisclosed stake and will help Payabill offer larger loans to a bigger base of small businesses. Here’s more.

Haute Hijab raises $2.3 million for ethically sourced headscarves. The New York-based online retailer launched in 2010 to sell fashionable, ethically-sourced headscarves to Muslim women. Haute Hijab was in venture capital firm Backstage Capital’s first $3 million portfolio of women-, LGBTQ- and minority-led companies. Now, the company, has raised a $2.3 million funding round led by Boston-based social investment firm Cue Ball. Haute Hijab’s mission: “break down stereotypes and create a global community that celebrates and empowers the hijab-wearing woman.” Read on.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

The Global Impact Investing Network is hiring a research director in New York… Toniic seeks a director of programming for its U.S. office… Capria’s VentureBasecamp is looking for a business development and partnerships manager in Bangalore… USAID’s Global Development Lab is recruiting a program support specialist in Washington D.C… Drew Tulchin, ex- of Santa Fe-based Meow Wolf, joins SecondMuse as a senior director.

February 27, 2019.