Greetings, ImpactAlpha readers!
#Featured: ImpactAlpha Original
The one-line revolution in land rights in rural India. Suchitra Dey and her husband, a truck driver, had struggled for years to earn a living, taking odd jobs and selling vegetables. Seven years ago, Dey and her family finally got a small plot of their own, in the West Bengal village of Shantinagar, or “place of peace.” Significantly, the 39-year-old woman and her husband have equal title to their land. Without legal title, women like Dey could be left homeless, without rights to their homes, if a husband dies or leaves the family.
Land rights for women are getting renewed attention as the key to unlocking progress on a host of Sustainable Development Goals at once: №5, gender equality; №1, no poverty; №3, good health and well-being; and №4, quality education. Since 2009, more than a half-million West Bengal women have gained equal land rights, after Landesa, a non-profit that has championed the strategy, prodded the state government to add a second line to the land-title document, so women’s names could be included.
In Episode №7 of ImpactAlpha’s Women Rising in India series, Esha Chhabra explores the big impact of a small change. “With this extra line on a patta, we have forever changed these families and their communities, a change that is generational, durable, and structural,” says Landesa’s Gracy Middey. “Human rights work is horridly difficult, and it takes decades to help people. But sometimes it’s as simple as drawing two straight lines on a piece of paper.”
Read, “Small Change, Big Impact: The one-line revolution in land rights in rural India,” by Esha Chhabra on ImpactAlpha. And catch up on all the episodes in ImpactAlpha’s Women Rising in India series.
#Profiles: Call for Ideas
Rebuilding America from the bottom up. We’re looking for entrepreneurs around the country, as well as people and organizations supporting entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship as a way of rebuilding America from the bottom up. ImpactAlpha and Village Capital have teamed up to profile such leaders for a series presenting the “new nature of entrepreneurship,” to be published early next year. Send your suggestions our way.
#Dealflow: Follow the Money
Steve Case attracts a Who’s Who of business to his Rise of the Rest fund.Pick a hot name in business and they’re likely to be an investor in AOL founder Steve Case’s new seed fund for entrepreneurs in middle America. Jeff Bezos(Amazon) — check. Eric Schmidt (Alphabet/Google) — check. Howard Schultz(Starbucks) — check. (Missing: Bill Gates, for now.) There are also Waltons, Kochs and Pritzkers, the founders of KKR and Carlyle Group and fashion designer Tori Burch in the fund, which has raised $150 million since filing with the SEC last month. Case’s “Rise of the Rest” entrepreneurship tour has visited 33 U.S. cities. Now, the idea is to create a Silicon Valley-like ecosystem of support for small-town entrepreneurs across the U.S., J.D. Vance, the author of “Hillbilly Elegy” recruited by Case, told the New York Times. The fund is not targeting social impact companies, per se. Alphabet’s Schmidt says the fund’s social impact lies in cultivating “more jobs, more wealth, better products and [helping] our society deal with a lot of jarring employment changes.”
In Latin America, VilCap backs fintech startups Mutuo Financiera andFintual… The Mexican and Chilean startups were selected by their peers for investments of $75,000 each as part of Village Capital’s latest Latin American fintech cohort. Across Latin America, a majority of adults are unbanked or underbanked. Mutuo Financiera offers credit and other financial products to small businesses in Mexico, where 93% of small business applicants get rejected. Fintual is a robo-advisor in Chile that helps individuals and small businesses improve financial literacy while investing their money. Users have invested $1 million through the service. VilCap’s Latin American fintech program was backed by PayPal, Blackrock and Citibanamex.
…While in the Middle East, VilCap and MetLife select 11 new fintechprospects. The MetLife Foundation is backing Village Capital’s latest financial tech program in Dubai later this month. Eleven startups have been selected from across the Middle East. Jordan-based Solfeh provides Islamic finance-compliant cash advances to low-income workers. Lendflo is a blockchain-based peer-to-peer lending platform. The Dubai program will focus on financial services for the migrant community, says VilCap’s Heather Matranga. “Many lack access to formal banking systems, or pay high fees to send money back home.” (See, “In the Middle East and North Africa, the 2030 global goals are a $600 billion opportunity.”) MetLife and VilCap are partnering on future fintech cohorts in Poland, Turkey, and Ukraine.
Strata Enviro gets investor backing for air pollution monitor. A recent report found that 30% of India’s premature deaths are attributable to air pollution. In Delhi, one in three children have impaired lungs. Pune-based Strata Enviro makes and installs commercial air pollution monitors for airports, toll booths, and traffic signals. Its units are in use in Pune, Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and some overseas markets. The company raised an undisclosed sum from startup accelerator ScaleMinds as part of the FundTonic Pune Startup Marathon 2017. ScaleMinds offers both seed capital and mentorship to early-stage ventures.
#Signals: Ahead of the Curve
How a green bank could finance New Jersey’s clean-energy economy.Even many Jersey voters might not know that Governor-elect Phil Murphy’s clean-energy platform aims to put the Garden State on a path to 100% clean energy by 2050. New Jersey has the U.S.’s fifth-highest solar installed-capacity, but only 5% of the state’s power comes from renewables. Murphy’s strategy for renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean transportation calls for private-sector financed economic growth, good jobs and resilience for the future. A new report from Environmental Defense Fund, produced by the Coalition for Green Capital and Quantified Ventures, says that with limited taxpayer funds, the state should catalyze private investment through dedicated clean energy finance institutions and innovative financial structures. A “green bank,” modeled on banks in Connecticut and New York, could lever three to four private dollars per public dollar invested. Green Banks around the world have turned $9 billion in public funding into $29 billion in private investment. Such banks work both supply and demand, pulling in private capital while building a pipeline of investable clean-energy projects. The report estimates New Jersey’s solar investment opportunity alone at $40 billion. And nearly all of New Jersey’s 300 terawatt-hours of offshore wind potential remains untapped.
Carbon Free Boston, by 2050. With urban hubs responsible for 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions, major global cities including Barcelona, Vancouver, and even megacity Mexico City are committing to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Mayor Martin Walsh, calling Boston “America’s climate champion,” is aiming for a 2050 deadline. The city has released the four broad elements of its Carbon Free Boston plan, covering electric power, buildings, transportation, and waste.
The city’s biggest obstacle to cutting fossil-fueled power could be its buildings, reports radio station WBUR. Boston has more certified green buildings than any other U.S. city, but buildings remain the city’s biggest energy guzzlers (those winters are cold!). Boston is increasingly switching to natural gas over coal as a heating fuel and Environment Massachusetts has tips for how Boston can move faster in getting to 100% renewable energy. The environmental advocacy organization has mapped pioneering initiatives from other cities, including neighboring Cambridge, Mass.’s net-zero carbon building plan.
Onward! Please send news and comments to TheBrief@impactalpha.com.