Beats | January 10, 2018

Conservation investments, Acumen America’s inclusion bet, local impact investing, Olympic impact

The team at


Greetings, ImpactAlpha readers!

#Featured: ImpactAlpha Original

Assembling the pieces for ‘landscape-scale’ conservation investments. More than $3 billion in committed capital already raised for investments in food and agriculture, habitat protection, clean water initiatives and other conservation projects was sitting on the sideline waiting for attractive deals last year. That presents an enticing opportunity for conservation organizations such as The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International and others to stock that deal pipeline.

Tomorrow’s Conservation Finance conference at Credit Suisse’s New York offices is bringing together conservation practitioners and financiers looking for investable opportunities. The World Wildlife Fund’s Landscape Finance Lab includes sketches for the restoration of watersheds in Indonesia, reefs in Fiji and wetlands along the Zambezi river between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Coalition for Private Investments in Conservation is developing blueprints for return-seeking projects to promote coastal resilience, forest landscape conservation, watershed management and sustainable agriculture and coastal fisheries.

Conservation organizations “are uniquely positioned to engage local communities, corporations and governments in conservation projects,” the WWF’s Paul Chatterton said in a report from Clarmondial, a Swiss investment advisor. Now, he said, such projects must “include investors and harness capital markets to drive conservation goals.”

Read, “Assembling the pieces for landscape-scale conservation investments,” by David Bank on ImpactAlpha.

Assembling the pieces for ‘landscape-scale’ conservation investments

#Dealflow: Follow the Money

Acumen America places first financial-inclusion investment in EarnUp. San Francisco-based EarnUp provides loan consolidation and repayment support to help Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck manage their debt. It says it has handled $1 billion in loans since its 2015 launch. Acumen America’s investment into the fintech firm is part of a new, $5 million financial-inclusion initiative backed by MetLife Foundation. Global impact investor Acumen launched the U.S.-focused Acumen America in 2016 to invest in startups serving the 47 million Americans living in poverty. EarnUp is Acumen America’s fifth investment. Earlier investments include BehaveCare, a health-services firm for Medicaid patients coping with substance abuse and mental-health disorders and Healthify, a health resources coordination network. It has also backed Everytable, a health food restaurant chain that is testing variable pricing to serve low-income customers and MyVyllage, a provider of affordable child care. Acumen America’s investment amounts typically range from $100,000 to $700,000.

Halogen Ventures raises $10 million for women entrepreneurs. Halogen founder Jesse Draper, creator of the “The Valley Girl Show,” has closed a $10 million fund to get more seed capital to women-led startups, including Eloquii, a plus-size clothing company, and Werk, a job site for flexible work. Most of the fund’s investors are women, including Cindy Whitehead, who created the “pink pill” sex drug and formed the Pinkubator, a women-focused accelerator. Halogen isn’t alone; other funds financing women-led businesses are raising capital and venture firms are bringing on more women. (See: “Venture capital starts to woman up.”) And don’t forget this list of 58 venture funds focused on women.

Indian startups get seed funding from Startup Oasis. The Jaipur, India-based startup fund is investing 26 million rupees ($408,000) in four ventures: Contree, a network for volunteer activities based in Jaipur; Urdhvam, a water management consultancy based in Pune; Medcords, a Kota company that digitizes health records; and Free Spirits Green Labs, a Delhi-based venture that sells solar products. The investments were made through Startup Oasis’s “Invent Program,” which backs tech startups serving poor customers outside of India’s main cities. Invent previously invested 17 million rupees in six startups. The program is funded by U.K. development finance agency DFID; incubation is led by Chennai-based Villgro.

See all of ImpactAlpha’s recent #dealflow. Send deal tips and news to [email protected].

#Signals: Ahead of the Curve

Local impact investing is finding its voice(s). Those voices are on display in several articles featured in January’s “Community Impact Investing” issue of GreenMoney Journal, a sustainable-finance publication from Cliff Feigenbaum. Betsy Biemann and Keith Bisson of Coastal Enterprises, Inc. chart their organization’s growth from a small non-profit serving mid-coast Maine in the seventies to an enterprise with multiple subsidiaries that has extended its “rural expertise and mission impact to small cities and towns across the U.S.” Deb Markley of LOCUS Impact Investing calls the uptick in impact investingat place-based foundations “a significant shift in how philanthropic assets are being used to build vibrant, prosperous communities.” Laura Altomare of Homewise, a community-development finance institution that helps low-income New Mexican families achieve homeownership, says the fund’s ‘impact’ is in the “number of homeowners with decreased debt, increased credit and savings.” You can also hear from Jamie Horwitz of Community Capital Management and Real Impact author Morgan Simon, in a Q&A with Feigenbaum.

Shift Forum will explore a new compact between business and society. The collision of technology, business, politics and culture is creating unprecedented divisions in today’s society. It’s also creating the opportunity for unprecedented solutions. Entrepreneur and journalist John Battelle’s Shift Forum, Feb. 26 to 28 in San Francisco, will bring together business leaders, technology creators, policymakers and academics to explore inclusive and sustainable solutions affecting the bottom line of business, the quality of our lives and the framework of the society we live in. Participants will take on the future of work, future of food, capitalism at a crossroads, business transformation, public policy, and of course, politics. ImpactAlpha is a proud sponsor of the event and our own David Bank will be a panel moderator. Use code IMPA20 to receive 20% saving on registration. Register here.

#2030: Long-termism

Tokyo looks for long-term impact…through the Olympics. Host cities often find that putting on the Olympics has more costs than benefits. Tokyo, host of the 2020 Summer games, sees a different kind of opportunity in the Olympics. The city is putting the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals at the center of its planning, and it wants to be a model for future Olympic cities.

To be carbon neutral, the Tokyo Games organizing committee aims to integrate renewable energy sources and technologies. New fuel cell vehicles for greener transit are part of the plans.

The committee is developing environmental and biodiversity standards for food supplies and plans to recruit an outside agency to certify that suppliers adhere to those standards. It is asking building contractors to consider environmental and community impacts when sourcing materials — though there are already concerns that the standards aren’t strict enough, The Asahi Shimbun reports. For the Paralympic portion of the Games, planners will solicit new city and housing designs that cater to people with disabilities to “leave legacies in the living environment.”

Tokyo’s goals align with the International Olympic Committee’s Sustainability Strategy, approved in 2016. An anonymous Tokyo Games committee member, quoted in The Asahi Shimbun, says: “If nothing else, we want to leave behind at least one good single measure that would serve as a catalyst to change society beyond 2020.”

Onward! Please send news and comments to [email protected]