Impact data flywheel, African agribusiness deals, corporate renewables push, Blade Runner through…



Greetings, ImpactAlpha readers!

#Featured: ImpactAlpha Original

The impact data flywheel is beginning to spin. ImpactAlpha wraps up the “Operation Impact” series, produced in collaboration with the Case Foundation, which highlighted advances in data gathering and analysis that are starting to make it possible to add “impact” (to risk and return) as a core consideration in investment decision-making. In the series finale, ImpactAlpha’s David Bank adds two pieces to the landscape: open data and daily coverage. ImpactAlpha’s open database, ImpactSpace, is becoming a shared resource in the impact investing ecosystem. The Brief, which you’re now reading, not only pushes out impact investing news and trends, but pulls in deal and other data from marketplace participants.

Together, the efforts are accelerating “the impact data flywheel,” more commonly known as data network effects. The more data provided by users of a shared platform, the better the product, which attracts more users and more data. We are on the impact investing beat: Open Daily.

Read, “Open Daily: The impact data flywheel starts to spin,” by David Bank, and learn how you can help the flywheel spin a little faster:

Open Daily: The impact data flywheel starts to spin

#Dealflow: Follow the Money

Vemo raises $7.4 million to expand student-loan repayment program. Higher-education costs are rising, and graduates increasingly are burdened with student-loan debt many can barely repay — more than $1.3 trillion at last count. Vemo helps colleges and universities set up “income share agreements,” a new tuition-repayment model that taps a portion of graduates’ future earnings to pay off the loans. “Income share agreements are based on the value a graduate receives from college, freeing up students to explore career pathways upon graduation without undue financial pressure,” says Daniel Pianko of University Ventures, which led Vemo’s $7.4 million seed-funding round. Route 66 Ventures, Third Kind Venture Capital, Haystack Partners and Task Force X Capital also participated. Vemo helped arrange $23 million in income share agreements last academic year.

Plant-based yogurt maker Yofix nabs $2 million. The Israeli company says it is the first to make seed- and lentil-based yogurt products, without any food waste or the thickeners found in other non-dairy yogurts. “Yofix technology uses all the grains in the emulsion without filtering out anything, reducing the ecological footprint,” says Ronen Lavee, Yofix’s CEO. (With soy yogurt, most of the bean solids are discarded in production.) The company’s marketing as a zero-waste company sets it apart from others in the vegetarian dairy and meat markets. Yofix’s funding round was led by Strauss Health, an Israeli food and beverage manufacturer, and included U.S., U.K., and Israeli investors. Funds will be used to build a production facility in Israel and for market expansion in Israel and internationally.

AgDevCo inks third Africa agribusiness deal in a month. “Zambia potatoes, Mozambique bananas and Malawi chickens,” wrote AgDevCo co-founder Chris Isaac on LinkedIn. That isn’t tonight’s menu at the company’s London HQ. It’s the three deals the agribusiness investor has signed in the last few weeks (ImpactAlpha covered the first two here). The latest is a $1.8 million debt investment in Kapani, a Malawi poultry firm. Kapani will buy and process chickens from more than 1,000 smallholder farms to meet Malawi’s growing demand for meat. AgDevCo, backed by the U.K. development agency DFID, has invested over $100 million in 53 agribusinesses across Africa. More on the smallholder investment opportunity.

Palatine locks in $132 million for first impact fund. The Manchester, U.K-based private equity firm’s fundraising exceeded its initial target of £75 million ($99 million). It comes on the heels of the impact fund’s investment last month in workforce training company Trade Skills 4U. Palatine typically invests between £10 million to £30 million ($13 million to $40 million), though the impact fund will consider smaller ticket sizes of £2 million to £10 million. “The Impact Fund builds on Palatine’s longstanding commitment to responsible investment,” says Beth Houghton, who leads Palatine Impact.

See all of ImpactAlpha’s recent #dealflow.

#Signals: Ahead of the Curve

Economics behind U.S. corporate push to adopt renewables. President Trump’s announcement that he will pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement came on Thursday, June 1. By the next Monday, 1,200 political leaders, university presidents and business execs vowed to continue efforts to combat climate change. Corporations continue to diverge from the president on climate and renewables, driven by economics, not politics (see “From ‘Condemn and Disband’ to ‘Invest and Transform.’”) A survey of 94 U.S. corporations, including 40 of the Fortune 500, finds that interest in renewables among American businesses is robust and growing, even after Trump’s announcement. More than 70% of the companies surveyed by Smart Energy Decisions have completed at least one renewable-energy purchase. A solid 60% report their interest in renewables has grown since last year. Reducing energy costs was the single most important factor cited in the survey (29%), thanks to declining prices for wind and solar. Only 8% of the companies said brand image was the motivation. “This finding explodes the myth that brand image/marketing value is the leading reason to source renewable energy,” says SED’s John Failla. Adds Rob Threlkeld, a manager for renewable energy at General Motors, “Basic math initially drove businesses to get serious about energy efficiency, and the same is happening with renewables today.” Smart Energy Decisions is hosting a discussion on the findings Wednesday, Sept. 20, as part of Climate Week in New York.

#2030: Long-termism

Blade Runner through an impact lens. It’s 2017, the year Leon Kowalski rolls off the assembly line at the Tyrell Corporation. He’s programmed for slave labor on one of Earth’s off-world colonies. “Spinners,” or flying cars, hover in the sky. Animals are almost extinct, so animoids replace Fluffy and Fido. The wealthy, segregated in towers above the chaos in the streets below, literally float above the poor. The dystopian vision from the 1982 film Blade Runner mostly hasn’t come to pass. A Blade Runner reboot, set in 2049, hits theaters Oct. 6th, so we thought we’d take a look back at the first film’s vision of the future, er, present.

Let’s start with the flying cars. These vehicles, envisioned by designer Syd Mead, used a combination of jets, anti-gravity and internal combustion engines to lift off the ground. They burned tremendous amounts of fossil fuels — ignoring the progress made on electric vehicles and towards ending our dependence on oil. World War Terminus did not decimate our environment and pepper most life forms with radioactive dust. Instead, we face the less visually dramatic threat of climate change, responsible in part for massive storms anddevastating floods. The modern-day counterparts of the movie’s “replicants” remain visually and emotionally distinct from human beings, but our dependence on robots grows ever greater, and fears of uncontrollable A.I. remains high. On the other hand the segregation of the wealthy is pretty spot on. (And the Vangelis score, of course, is eternal.)

The original film “tried to project the ’80s into the future and to think about it from a sociological point of view, from a demographic [and technological] point of view,” says Denis Villeneuve, who directed the new Blade Runner 2049. So what does the new film, which imagines a world where AI gets out of hand, say about where we’re headed? Using cinema as a scenario-planning tool for the future of our planet may be far-fetched. But there’s always Ryan Gosling.

Onward! Please send any news and comments to TheBrief@impactalpha.com.

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