The Brief | February 25, 2019

Investing in news media; insect feed; transforming energy access; immigrant entrepreneurs; Luminate, Kapor and Emerson are hiring

The team at


Greetings, Agents of Impact!

Featured: Returns on Investment podcast

Is it impact investing when billionaires buy newspapers and news magazines? When Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff paid $190 million for Timemagazine last year, he told interviewers, “One of the things that really matters to me is having a positive global impact.” Benioff joined Jeff Bezos(Washington Post), Patrick Soon-Shiong (Los Angeles Times) and Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective (The Atlantic) among the new crop of billionaires who appear to be one of the last, best hopes for serious news. Are newspapers and news magazines “impact investments”? And are the billionaires who buy them making a positive impact? The roundtable regulars take up the topic of the impact of investing in news media on ImpactAlpha’slatest Returns on Investment podcast.

That it’s billionaires riding to journalism’s rescue “is incredibly problematic,” says Imogen Rose-Smith, a longtime journalist and an investment fellow with the University of California. “Media-as-billionaire-vanity-project isn‘t really what you need to have a free and independent press. And you need a free and independent press if you want a thriving democracy.” News and journalism have largely been left out of the growing field of “civic tech,” which has focused on voting, democratic participation and streamlining local government. “Impact investing has a blind spot when it comes to media,” Rose-Smith says. “The same kind of tools and consideration that impact investing gives to energy access or to ‘How do we reduce the prison population?’ needs to be applied to ‘How do we create thriving media and effective media companies that create jobs and empower individuals?”

Read on, and listen in, to “Is it impact investing when billionaires buy newspapers and news magazines?” in the latest episode of ImpactAlpha’s Returns on Investment podcast. Catch up on all of our podcasts on iTunesSoundCloud or Stitcher.

  • ImpactAlpha on Spotify: You can now listen to Returns on Investment on Spotify.

Dealflow: Follow the Money

Ynsect raises $125 million for sustainable feed and fertilizer. The French company raises mealworms for farm feed and crop fertilizer to more sustainably “meet the rising demands of global protein consumption.” Ynsect’s $125 million Series C funding, led by European impact investment firm Astanor Ventures, will enable the eight-year-old company to expand production at its farm in Amiens, France and in North America. Dig in.

SunFunder secures $42.5 million for its largest energy access fund. The Nairobi-based solar financing company reached a first close for its largest fund since launching in 2012. Commitments to the Solar Energy Transformation fund include $25 million in debt from OPIC, $7.5 million from Calvert Impact Capital, $5 million from Ceniarth, and a $5 million grant from the IKEA Foundation. SunFunder is looking to raise $85 million to make loans to solar businesses in Africa and provide access to clean energy for 2.8 million people. Here’s more.

Indian bond offering launches to lower rates on loans to rural women. The Women’s Livelihood Bond, developed by the World BankU.N. Women, and the Small Industries Development Bank of India, aims to improve access to credit and debt for rural women entrepreneurs in some of India’s poorest states. India ranks among the lowest in the world for women’s economic participation and earned income. The bond will encourage microfinance institutions to lower their rates and lend directly to female entrepreneurs. The five-year bond, which offers investors 3% annual returns, is seeking to raise three billion rupees ($42.2 million). Backers say they’ve received “interest,” but have not disclosed any commitments. Read on.

Signals: Ahead of the Curve

Latino immigrants are an increasing share of new U.S. entrepreneurs. Non-native business founders made up about 30% of all new entrepreneurs in 2017, according to Kauffman Foundation’s latest Indicators of Early-Stage Entrepreneurship, more than double their representation in 1996. Immigrants are now nearly twice as likely to start businesses as native-born Americans. “This rising rate of new entrepreneurs and the growing immigrant population have contributed to an increasing immigrant share of new entrepreneurs,” said the Kauffman report.

Share this post.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

The Kresge Foundation seeks organizations to manage its community investment guarantee facility… Luminate is recruiting a principal of investments to lead its Western Europe strategy… Kapor Capital is hiring a principal in Oakland, Calif… Emerson Collective is hiring a director of edtech investing (Ross Jensen is transitioning out of the role)… RSF Social Financeis looking for a senior director of credit… Generation Management seeks a client associate in San Francisco… The Social Enterprise Alliance is accepting applications for its Pave a Path scholarships for under-represented startup founders… B Lab seeks contributors for a SDG-focused impact management approach it is developing with the UN Global Compact.

February 25, 2019.