The Brief | July 26, 2018

Gender-lens moment, opportunity zone opportunity, raises for OpenInvest and Guild, bottom-up climate solutions

The team at


Greetings, ImpactAlpha readers!

Featured: The Impact Alpha

After #MeToo and #TimesUp, #GenderLens investing has its moment. That gender is material to business in all sorts of ways is increasingly accepted. Increasingly, bankers, financial advisors and investors are saying, “I get the ‘why.’ Now I need the ‘how,’” says Suzanne Biegel, co-producer of the first Gender-Smart Investing Summit, set for November in London. If the Women’s March, the #MeToo movement and the growing awareness of inequities in access to capital raised the questions, gender-lens investing has become at least part of the answer.

How to apply a gender lens is becoming clearer as more capital starts to flow, ImpactAlpha’s David Bank writes in his latest column. SheEO, a nonprofit based in Toronto, recruits groups of 500 women “activators” who donate $1,100 apiece to funds that make zero-interest loans to five women-led companies and provide connections and mentoring. Investors from Root Capital to Small Enterprises Assistance Fund to Alphamundi have applied lessons learned from gender-lens investing across their portfolios. A half-dozen development-finance institutions have endorsed the “2X Challenge” to mobilize $3 billion for investments that advance women in developing countries. Goldman Sachs has pledged to invest $500 million in late-stage women-led businesses and to back women investment managers starting their own funds. Men are starting to catch up, but women still have the edge in capturing the impact alpha of gender-lens investing.

Keep reading, “After #MeToo and #TimesUp, #GenderLens investing has its moment,” by David Bank on ImpactAlpha. Catch up on all of David’s columns here.

The Call: The Opportunity Zone Opportunity, Aug. 9

Seizing the opportunity zone opportunity. Suddenly, we’re worrying about too much money flowing into low-income neighborhoods. Tucked into last year’s tax bill, the Investing in Opportunity Act created thousands of “opportunity zones” across the U.S. The flood of capital to be unleashed by the bill’s big tax breaks gives new urgency to the strategies, structures and safeguards on which champions of community development have worked so hard. After decades of scarcity, what might abundant capital mean for economic inclusion?

Feeling that FOMO? Jump on ImpactAlpha’s Agents of Impact Call No. 3 on Thursday, Aug. 9 at 1pm ET to hear from LISC’s Maurice Jones, Beeck Center’s Lisa Green Hall, Economic Innovation Group’s Steve Glickman and other early movers. The takeaways: Opportunity zone strategies for success and signs of danger. RSVP today.

Dealflow: Follow the Money

OpenInvest closes $10.4 million for digital social investing. The socially responsible robo-advisor raised a Series A round led by QED Investors. Andreessen Horowitz, which backed OpenInvest’s previous funding round, also participated. OpenInvest, launched in 2015, was an early mover in the growing retail impact investing space that includes other automated and low-cost online advisors like Swell, Motif, and most recently, Newday Investing. Read on.

Guild raises $40 million to expand wage-worker education. Guild partners with companies to help America’s 60 million frontline workers get higher education and skill development to move up the career and income ladder. The Denver-based company raised its Series C round less than a year after closing $21 million in Series B funding. Felicis Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Salesforce Ventures, Workday Ventures, Rethink Impact & Education and SVB. Dig in.

Tulaa secures seed funding to give farmers access to credit and markets. Kenyan startup Tulaa is the latest early-stage venture to raise capital to connect small farmers to finance, insurance, agricultural supplies and markets. Impact investor AHL Venture Partners led the startup’s $627,000 seed round. Here’s more.

Signals: Ahead of the Curve

Bottom-up climate solutions to America’s low-carbon future. Since President Trump announced he was pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement, hundreds of cities, states, businesses, universities and others have stepped up to say, “We are still in.” Led by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and California Governor Jerry Brown, and representing more than half the U.S. economy, the group formalized the commitment under the banner “America’s Pledge.” Now, America’s Pledge is trying to turn commitments into action with 10 immediate, non-federal emissions-reduction opportunities. Among them:

  • Doubling down on renewable energy targets. Already 29 U.S. states have set renewable portfolio standards. Cities and businesses are following. The Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance is helping city and corporate energy buyers like Salesforce, which is more than halfway towards goal of matching 100% of their global electricity use with renewable energy. The 250 organizations together have announced more than 12 gigawatts of new renewable energy capacity.
  • Carbon sequestration in natural and working lands. Bolstering U.S. land-sector carbon sinks could push land sequestration from 10% to 25% of annual emissions. The Nature Conservancy of Pennsylvania’s Working Woodlands program, for example, rewards landowners that protect sustainably managed forests with forest certification and carbon credits, which boosts the value of their land, while creating rural jobs, cleaner water and air, and halting biodiversity loss. The model is being replicated in Tennessee, Michigan, New York and other states.
  • State coalitions for carbon pricing. Economy-wide limits on carbon pollution can be enforced with emissions trading or another form of carbon pricing. California’s cap-and-trade initiative and the Regional Greenhouse Gas models. In a little over a year, the state of Virginia has developed near-final regulations expected to be compatible with the regional initiative. Collect the whole set.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Investor Network Toniic is looking for a managing director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa… There’s still time to join the Council on Smallholder Agricultural Finance’s “State of the Sector” webinar today at 10am ET… Roy Swan, director of the Ford Foundation’s mission investments, will speak at the LAVCA Venture Investors meeting in New York Sept. 27.

— July 26, 2018.