ImpactAlpha’s featured ‘Agents of Impact’



You are an Agent of Impact. You work across issues and geographies and stages and asset classes. You are inside and outside “the system.” Yet you share a mission to move capital – human, social and financial – toward an equitable and sustainable, er, regenerative future.

Each week, ImpactAlpha highlights Agents of Impact who are making things happen, have something to say or whom we just think other Agents should know about. We’ve featured investors like Kesha Cash, who is finding value in startups servicing underrepresented and underestimated communities. We’ve highlighted activists, including Victoria Barrett, who with 20 other teenaged activists is pressing the feds for a climate recovery plan in an historic climate-change trial. And we’ve spotlighted entrepreneurs and executives like Paul Polman, the outgoing CEO of Unilever, who are demonstrating that sustainable business practices can be driver of financial value as well.

Take a spin through the year’s Agents of Impact and follow ImpactAlpha on Instagram and #agentsofimpact all year long.

Victoria Barrett

Aged 19 from New York, Victoria is one of the 21 leaders from Our Children’s Trust taking on the President and Federal Government with a suit to secure the legal right to climate change.

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Agent of Impact: Victoria Barrett, Aged 19 from New York, is one of the 21 leaders from Our Children’s Trust taking on the President and Federal Government with a suit to secure the legal right to climate change. Having learned about environmental justice and environmental racism in after-school programs in New York City, Victoria was driven by “the way climate change manifested itself in people’s lives, in marginalized communities and for people of color and particularly for young people.” As she explains “once I got involved in that, I just couldn’t ignore it… I always knew there were people who needed more protection than others, and people who needed more protection than others and people who needed more kind words than others, more support than others, more resilience.” As an agent of impact, she has joined on the suit for the purpose of "‘posterity”- a remedy to ensure that our generation has a sustainable planet to live on,’ and generations after that. #agentsofimpact

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Nathalie Molina Niño

Nathalie’s firm, BRAVA Investments, invests not based on whether the founders are women, but whether they benefit women economically.

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Agent of Impact Nathalie Molina Niño’s first book, Leapfrog: The New Revolution for Women Entrepreneurs includes 50 “hacks” for start-up founders who don’t have access to old-boys networks or Silicon Valley connections. Her firm, BRAVA Investments, invests not based on whether the founders are women, but whether they benefit women economically. “My goal isn’t to find a woman and make her the next Zuckerbergian billionaire,” she writes, “so much as it’s to find companies that can level the playing field for a billion women.” The daughter of Latino immigrants, Molina Niño has started six companies. “I want companies that can change systems, by putting money and power in the pockets of many women so they can be armed with these bootstraps everybody’s so fond of romanticizing.” #agentsofimpact

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Don Hinkle-Brown

At the Reinvestment Fund, Don Hinkle-Brown helped turn public bond markets into a reliable new source of capital for lending to childcare centers and charter schools, grocery stores and health clinics, energy efficiency upgrades and small businesses in low-income communities across the U.S.

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Agent of Impact: Don Hinkle-Brown. For helping turn public bond markets into a reliable new source of capital for lending to childcare centers and charter schools, grocery stores and health clinics, energy efficiency upgrades and small businesses in low-income communities across the U.S….Don Hinkle-Brown is this week’s featured agent of impact. As head of the Reinvestment Fund in Philadelphia, Hinkle-Brown has engineered two successful bond offerings that tapped capital markets for community development financial institutions (that qualify for an S&P rating). “Impact Investing, upon reaching some future critical mass, will make non-impact financing seem needlessly risky, antiquated, and questionable as to its fiscal appropriateness,” Hinkle-Brown said last year when he was named asset manager of the year by the Global Steering Group for Impact Investing. “The ‘prudent man’ will be an impactful man.” #agentsofimpact #impactinvesting #impact #impinv #socent

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Christiana Figueres

“Exponential” is a favorite word of the former U.N. climate chief, who shepherded the Paris climate deal into existence and now leads Mission 2020, a global campaign to curb greenhouse gas emissions – fast.

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Agent of Impact: Christiana Figueres. “Exponential” is a favorite word of the former U.N. climate chief, who shepherded the Paris climate deal into existence and now leads Mission 2020, a global campaign to curb greenhouse gas emissions – fast. You’ve heard of Moore’s Law? Get ready for the Global Carbon Law. The exponential shift toward clean energy, battery storage and electric vehicles and other climate solutions makes it possible to peak emissions by 2020 and halve them every decade thereafter, a reduction of about 7% per year. “We are already on an exponential trajectory to a clean economy future but it’s going to take all of us to ensure it,” says Figueres. This is no time for defeatism. If a global mobilization to ward off the most drastic effects of climate change succeeds, optimists like Figueres could well be not only prophetic, but decisive. We all have to be optimists now. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . #agentsofimpact #climateaction #unitednations #energy #sustainable #photooftheday #impactinvesting #impactalpha #agentofimpact #impact #climate

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Andrew Kuper

Andrew Kuper’s Leapfrog Investments has grown to manage assets of more than $1 billion and has built a portfolio of companies that provide access to financial services and healthcare to 140 million people in emerging markets.

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Agent of Impact: Andrew Kuper. The South African entrepreneur founded Leapfrog Investments in 2007 to invest in companies that provide access to financial services and healthcare to underserved people in emerging markets. In just over a decade, LeapFrog has grown to manage assets of more than $1 billion and has built a portfolio of companies that have reached 140 million people with financial tools or healthcare. Portfolio company revenues have grown an average of 40% per year, the firm says. LeapFrog was named the “impact asset manager of the year” at the recent GSG Impact Summit; Fortune ranked it as one of the top five companies changing the world. “It’s a decent beginning,” Kuper says. “In the next decade, we aim to help portfolio companies to reach one billion people with essential services.” #agentsofimpact #agentofimpact

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Kesha Cash

Kesha Cash isn’t looking to Silicon Valley for startup unicorns. With the $10 million Impact America Fund, she’s on the hunt for companies capturing billion-dollar markets by better serving America’s overlooked communities.

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Agent of Impact: Kesha Cash. Kesha Cash isn’t looking to Silicon Valley for startup unicorns. She’s on the hunt for companies capturing billion-dollar markets by better serving America’s overlooked communities. Cash grew up in economic hardship and was the first in her family to graduate college. Today she runs the $10 million Impact America Fund where she invests in scalable, tech-driven companies targeting the basic needs of low- and moderate-income Americans. “I want to shift the narrative about the opportunities and talent that exist in low-income communities,” says Cash. “I want people to see these communities as places where you ‘mine for gold’ and where can find new and untapped talent.” Cash has been named a top-five gamechanger by @Forbes, a power investor by @Essence, and one of Fast Company’s 100 most creative people in business. Now she’s an ImpactAlpha Agent of Impact. #agentsofimpact #impactinvesting #agentofimpact

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Vicki Saunders

SheEO’s Vicki Saunders has a radical idea to boost the flow of capital to women entrepreneurs: Collect $1,100 apiece from 500 women donors and lend it out to women-owned, women-led ventures at 0% interest, with no collateral.

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Agent of Impact: Vicki Saunders. SheEO’s Vicki Saunders has a radical idea to boost the flow of capital to women entrepreneurs: Collect $1,100 apiece from 500 women donors and lend it out to women-owned, women-led ventures at 0% interest, with no collateral. “We don’t want to just create a female version of the male economic model,” Saunders said at the Gender-Smart Investing Summit in London. “This is part of the new world that women are building." Toronto-based SheEO started in Canada and has now launched programs in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand as well. The donors for each cohort vote on which founders make it into the pool, and then the entrepreneurs divvy up the funds between themselves. Revenue growth in SheEO's portfolio of dozens of ventures has averaged in the triple digits annually. Saunders rejects the winners-take-all mentality of much of the financial system. “We are not here to win,” she says. “We are here to transform.”

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Yuliya Tarasava

The native of Belarus co-founded CNote in Oakland, Calif. with a no-minimum, no-fee savings product that lets retail investors put their capital to work through community development finance institutions that make loans for small businesses, affordable housing, health clinics and charter schools in underserved communities.

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Agent of Impact: Yuliya Tarasava. The native of Belarus spent a decade on Wall Street developing investment solutions and wealth management frameworks before co-founding CNote in Oakland, Calif., with a novel approach to community capital-raising. CNote’s no-minimum, no-fee savings product lets retail investors put their capital to work through community development finance institutions that make loans for small businesses, affordable housing, health clinics and charter schools in underserved communities. Says Tarasava: “It’s not just giving an opportunity to invest, but to think differently about your money and where it sleeps at night.” The Y Combinator-backed company is on a roll: In little more than a year, @mycnote account holders have invested $18 million. Subsequent loans have supported more than 280 businesses – half minority-led and more than a third led by women – and helped create or maintain 1,400 jobs. “All the dollars go to work to make our communities safer, healthier and better place to live for all of us,” Tarasava says.

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Richelieu Dennis

Richelieu has been a man on a mission since Unilever bought Sundial Brands, the personal-care products company he co-founded, for an estimated $1.6 billion. As part of the acquisition, Sundial and Unilever created the $100 million New Voices Fund, which has invested in three dozen businesses run by women of color.

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Agent of Impact: @RichelieuDennis. Richelieu Dennis saw something of his own story in Mayvenn, which sells hair products, primarily to African-American women, through a distribution network of local stylists. So his Essence Ventures led Mayvenn’s recent $23 million round of funding. Dennis has been a man on a mission since Unilever bought Sundial Brands, the personal-care products company he co-founded, for an estimated $1.6 billion. Dennis, who was born in Liberia, started Sundial by selling homemade soap on street corners in Harlem. “We built this business on a micro-level, community by community,” he told The Wall Street Journal. “That’s how it needs to happen.” As part of the acquisition, Sundial and Unilever created the $100 million New Voices Fund, which has invested in three dozen businesses run by women of color, including Beauty Bakerie and Envested. "The pipeline exists. The voices are there. But we are left out of the table,” New Voices advisor Melissa Bradley said at this month's Gender-Smart Investing Summit. "This is an investment in the belief that women of color have parity and have equity.”

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Bobby Turner

After a midlife crisis of conscience, the “evolved capitalist” is moving money, and quickly, at Turner Impact Capital into what he calls “the three-legged stool of social injustice” – education, housing and health care.

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Agent of Impact: Bobby Turner. After a midlife crisis of conscience, the “evolved capitalist” is moving money, and quickly, into what he calls “the three-legged stool of social injustice” – education, housing and health care. Turner has deployed star power, including tennis star Andre Agassi, actress Eva Longoria and basketball star Chris Paul to mobilize more than $1 billion for charter schools, health clinics and affordable workforce housing in the U.S. He says “arrogance” and “distrust” are the two words that have described social impact investing. “Arrogance from the people with capital who think they know how to solve everything,” he explains. “And distrust from people in the community who think capital is there just to make a buck.”

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Paul Polman

The 62-year-old chief retired as chief executive of consumer packaged goods giant Unilever in December. The core of Polman’s vision of sustainable, stakeholder capitalism, remains intact. Running Unilever for the benefit of consumers, customers and employees also benefits shareholders, he said in a farewell message.

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Agent of Impact: Paul Polman. The 62-year-old chief executive of consumer packaged goods giant Unilever called his successful defense last year against a hostile takeover “a near death experience.” When Polman announced his retirement last week, he acknowledged some reluctant compromises to satisfy restive shareholders. But the core of Polman’s vision of sustainable, stakeholder capitalism, remains intact. Running Unilever for the benefit of consumers, customers and employees also benefits shareholders, he said in a farewell message. Polman delivered 290% total shareholder return delivered during his 10-year tenure. “Sustainability isn’t just the right thing to do,” he says. “It is essential to drive business growth.” Who’s the next Paul Polman?

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Vineet Rai

It took Vineet Rai more than five years to raise Rs 50 million (about $700,000) for his first fund. Since then, the founder of the Aavishkaar-Intellecap Group has raised hundreds of millions of dollars across south and southeast Asia and Africa.

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Agent of impact: Aavishkaar’s Vineet Rai. It took Vineet Rai more than five years to raise Rs 50 million (about $700,000) for his first fund. Since then, the founder of the Aavishkaar-Intellecap Group has raised hundreds of millions of dollars across south and southeast Asia and Africa. The goal: to build businesses that deliver employment, health, energy and financial inclusion for “the other three billion” low- to middle-income customers in emerging markets. That was the theme of the group’s 10th Sankalp Global Summit this week, which convened 800 impact entrepreneurs, investors and others in Mumbai. Aavishkaar’s eighth fund is aiming for $300 million to invest in Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar. An Africa-focused fund is looking to raise $150 million. The Bharat fund, Aavishkaar’s largest India-focused fund, is about halfway to its $200 million goal. “We are building an ecosystem for impact investing,” Rai said last year. “That means that you need to invest capital to bring in high quality of senior leadership. You need to bring in technology. You have to invest in incubating innovations that can be disruptive. All of this requires capital.”

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Don’t miss: Follow the talent with career moves, job openings, events and opportunities in our weekly Agents of Impact special reports.

Follow the Talent: Agents of Impact Special Report for Dec. 14

Follow the Talent: Agents of Impact Special Report for Dec. 7

Follow the Talent: Agents of Impact Special Report for Nov. 30

Follow the Talent: Agents of Impact Special Report for Nov. 16

Follow the Talent: Agents of Impact Special Report for Nov. 9

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