The Brief | January 31, 2019

Gender and venture capital, shortlisting talent in India and Kenya, Petal’s alt-credit cards, fast food at risk, Total Impact Philly redux

The team at


Greetings, Agents of Impact!

Featured: Impact Voices

The how and why of gender equity in venture capital. “Can women save VC?” is the headline of a provocative post from Kapor Capital’s Freada Kapor Klein and Ulili Onovakpuri and Kapor Center’s Allison Scott. Their argument: Venture capital doesn’t just have a gender-diversity problem. It has an experience problem. Investors with similar backgrounds and mindsets fund a too-narrow set of entrepreneurs. They all too often target affluent customers rather than real problems that affect most people. And they push startups to create huge financial outcomes, even at the expense of companies’ long-term success. Simply adding women to venture capital firms won’t solve the problem, “especially when the women they are hiring share the same background and experiences as the men who already dominate VC,” the trio writes in a post on ImpactAlpha.

If research indicates that gender-diversity is good for business and financial performance, the authors note that data also show that racial and ethnic diversity yields even better financial returns. “These data would suggest that interventions must focus on both gender and racial diversity,” they write. The Kapor network includes entrepreneurs among women, people of color, LGBTQ+, first-generation college students and others. “We see novel opportunities coming from the lived experience of those founders,” say Klein, Onovakpuri and Scott. “These offer not only a competitive advantage for us as investors, but grow successful businesses that tackle deep social problems –  homelessness, criminal justice reform, payday lending, and more.” Spoiler alert: “Yes, women have the ability to save VC,” the authors conclude. But that requires not just a seat at the table, but a different table.

Read, “Can women save VC?” by Freada Kapor Klein, Ulili Onovakpuri and Allison Scott on ImpactAlpha.

Sponsored: Total Impact Philadelphia, May 1-2

Total Impact is coming back to Philly. Join Good Capital Project, ImpactPHL, Wharton Social Impact Initiative, Toniic, Intentional Endowments Network – and ImpactAlpha – for actionable and executable ESG and impact investment opportunities, in communities and across the globe. Investing in women and in Opportunity Zones top the agenda for the second Total Impact Philadelphia conference. Get a $250 discount with code ImpactAlpha250. Register now.

Dealflow: Follow the Money

Shortlist closes $2 million for recruitment tools for Indian and African talent. From their experience supporting growing businesses in high-impact sectors, Paul Breloff and Simon Desjardins found, “the single biggest barrier to growth wasn’t money, it was people,” Breloff told ImpactAlpha. Breloff, formerly with Accion Venture Lab and Blue Haven Initiative, and Desjardins, formerly with the Shell Foundation, launched Shortlist in 2016 to help companies build better teams using tech and data. Shortlist’s automation and online skills assessment has helped 300 clients screen 400,000 job candidates in India and Kenya. The company raised $2 million in a Series A round backed by Blue Haven, Zephyr Acorn, Compass Venture Capital and Potencia Ventures. Keep reading.

Petal raises $30 million for alt-credit cards. New York-based fintech firm Petal raised $30 million to “make credit honest, simple, and accessible.” Petal offers credit cards using alternative risk metrics like how much cash is moving in and out of a person’s bank account. Its first-time credit cards start with limits as low as $200 and with interest rates in line with standard cards. A long roster of investors backed the company’s Series B round, including PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures and socially-focused investors Third Prime Capital and The Social Entrepreneurs’ Fund. Valar led Petal’s $13 million Series A round last January. Here’s more.

FoodMaven clinches $10 million to tackle food waste on farms. The Colorado-based company is trying to combat food waste in U.S. agriculture by linking producers and manufacturers of over-supplied or imperfect food to large buyers like universities and restaurants. The company raised $10 million from Tao Capital Partners and members of Walmart’s Walton family. The financing follows an $8.6 million Series A round last year. FoodMaven’s board includes Tao’s Isaac Pritzker and former Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb. Dig in.

Signals: Ahead of the Curve

Investors with $6.5 trillion demand fast-food giants manage climate risks. McDonald’s and Burger King serve up speedy meals, but they’ve been slow to shore up their meat and dairy supplies from mounting climate and water risks. A group of more than 80 investors, representing $6.5 trillion in assets, sent letters to Domino’s Pizza, McDonald’s, Restaurant Brands International (owners of Burger King), Chipotle Mexican Grill, Wendy’s Co. and Yum! Brands (owners of KFC and Pizza Hut) setting a March deadline for the companies to cough up plans for managing climate risks in their supply chains. “Those firms that fail to meet this challenge face regulatory and reputational risks that put their long-term financial sustainability under threat,” said Heike Cosse of Aegon Asset Management, which has $380 billion under management. (Read – and listen to – “Risky Business: Corporations need market signals to reduce climate risks”)

  • De-risking supply chains. The letter, organized by the FAIRR Initiative and Ceres, asks the fast-food giants to require suppliers to reduce emissions and freshwater impacts, disclose their progress each year and model their risks in line with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures.
  • Sustainable food innovation. While the incumbent food giants drag their feet, upstart firms are raising capital to improve the efficiency of farms, decrease food waste and shifting eating habits toward healthy, plant-based diets. In 2017, for example, investors made 28 investments in early-stage firms in precision agriculture, a market expected to reach nearly $8 billion by 2022.

“Increased environmental regulation, rising consumer demand for plant-based food, and fears over water pollution from intensive farms are all ingredients in the rising threat to the long-term value of the fast food multinationals,” said Alice Evans of BMO Global Asset Management, with $260 billion under management. Share this post.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Michaela Edwards, ex- of Norges Bank Investment Management, joins Capricorn Investment Group as a partner in New York… Stephen Priestley is the new managing director of funds and capital partnerships at the CDC (see, “Deeper, focused customer impact assessments can also deliver business value”)HCAP Partners promotes Bhairvee Shavdia to senior associate… Blended finance platform Convergence is hiring a managing director for the Americas… Smart city accelerator Urban-X is accepting applications for its 6th cohort (see, “Urban-X graduates target city life and infrastructure”).

January 31, 2019.