This week: Omidyar’s alternative to bitcoin, ImpactAssets’ new notes and a $15 million boost for a UK social enterprise that provides transit services in disadvantaged areas of London.
Omidyar Backs Banks’ Alternative to Bitcoin. Secure digital currency could dramatically lower the costs of financial services for the poor, making eCurrency Mint an impact investment for Omidyar Network, the hybrid LLC/philanthropy backed by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife, Pam. ON made an undisclosed investment in the Series C financing round for Dublin-based eCurrency Mint. The company is rolling out technology to allow central banks to issue digital currency with the same security as notes and coins can, at one-tenth the cost. Omidyar Network made the investment through its Financial Inclusion initiative, which seeks to reach un- and under-banked customers. “eCurrency can help accelerate financial inclusion by turning today’s digital value systems into sovereign-backed national currencies,” says ON partner Tilman Ehrbeck.
ImpactAssets Launches Microfinance and Sustainable Ag Notes. The nonprofit financial services firm, ImpactAssets, has launched two new financial tools to bring small-scale investors into impact investing. Minimum investments in the Microfinance Plus and Global Sustainable Agriculture notes will be $25,000, five-year debt securities that backed by a mix of borrowers, geographies and maturities. Interest rates and liquidity clauses for the notes have not been made public. MicroVest Capital Management will manage the portfolio for the Microfinance Plus note; the Belgian firm Alterfin will manage the Sustainable Agriculture note portfolio. Already in: Calvert Investments, Blue Haven Initiative, the Cordes, KL Felicitas and Swift Foundations, PAX World Funds and the CAPROCK Group.
Transit Enterprise in U.K. Raises $15.2 Million. HTC Group, which provides transit in underserved areas of London and other regions, has raised one of the U.K.’s largest impact investment to date. The enterprise, which operates more than 500 buses, raised £10 million from Big Issue Invest, Triodos Bank, the FSE Group, the City of London Corporation, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, HSBC and roster of other investors. The investment package, including asset-backed financing, cash-flow loans and quasi-equity, will help HTC grow its services, and possibly make some acquisitions. HTC runs a small fleet of London’s famous double-decker busses as well. Advisor ClearlySo arranged the deal.
Grants and Technical Assistance to Bolster Impact Venture Pipeline. The new $2 million Catalyst Fund will help companies targeting low-income customers get ready to raise institutional venture capital. The fund, run by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors and Bankable Frontier Associates is geared towards seed stage businesses, especially digital startups that are disrupting the financial services ecosystem in the developing world. The fund is grant-based, backed by JP Morgan Chase and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It will also offer business support services from Accion Venture Lab, an early stage impact tech investor and incubator.
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Image: HTC Group