The Brief | October 29, 2018

Investor forum in Paris, the business of ImpactAlpha, $2.3 billion in gender-lens funds, Novastar’s Africa startup fund, feeding farmed fish

The team at


Greetings, ImpactAlpha readers!

We’re in Europe this week for the Global Impact Investing Network’s Investor Forum that kicks off Tuesday in Paris. Then it’s over to London for the Gender-Smart Investing Summit. Here’s your pre-reading for the GIIN (see below to prep for Gender-Smart):

Featured: Returns on Investment Podcast

Shining a spotlight, er, podcast on the business of ImpactAlpha itself. In its daily Brief and on its website, ImpactAlpha covers the challenges and successes of impact entrepreneurs. In this week’s Returns on Investment podcast, host Brian Walsh puts the questions to the company’s own mission-driven entrepreneurs: How’s the business going? “I got into this as a journalist,” editor and CEO and David Bank says on the podcast. “It turns out you have to build a revenue model and a business model as well. We’ve finally gotten there with the subscription model we launched about six months ago.” The paid-subscription model, which has found new life in the face of a difficult digital advertising environment, is particularly suited to specialty publications like ImpactAlpha.

The business is now poised for growth. The most successful media brands offer more than information: they embody the shared identity of their audience. Wired magazine in the 1990s signaled membership in the digerati; Ms. magazine in the 1970s encapsulated the women’s movement. ImpactAlpha seeks to reflect the growing movement of “Agents of Impact,” said co-founder Zuleyma Bebell, ImpactAlpha’s director of operations. Entrepreneurs, traditional investors, asset owners and managers, banks, family offices, foundations, students and development finance institutions. Says Bebell, “We give people an opportunity to see how they can fit into the space.”

Read on and listen in, “Shining a spotlight, er, podcast on the business of ImpactAlpha itself.” Catch up on all of ImpactAlpha’s Returns on Investment podcasts.

Dealflow: Follow the Money

Novastar raises $72.5 million for startup investing in Africa. The Nairobi-based venture capital firm will invest in early- and growth-stage enterprises in East and West Africa addressing demand for basic goods and services, particularly for low-income households. Novastar reached a first close for its planned $120 million second fund (its first fund raised $80 million). Asset management firm AXA Investment Managers backed the fund through AXA Impact Fund II. European development finance institutions CDC Group, European Investment Bank, Dutch Good Growth Fund and FMO also participated. Here’s more.

Aqua-Spark backs CageEye to improve fish farm management. Oslo-based CageEye makes sensors that support fish farmers with management tasks, particularly feeding, the biggest input cost for aquaculture operations. Sustainable seafood venture fund Aqua-Spark has invested an undisclosed amount in the company to boost research and development. CageEye is Aqua-Spark’s 16th investment. The Dutch impact investor has €49.2 million ($56.2 million) under management, and aims to grow 30-fold to €1.5 billion by 2025. Read on.

Signals: Ahead of the Curve

More than two dozen new private gender-lens funds launched in 2018. This year’s new entrants bring the number of private equity, venture capital, and private debt funds making bets on women to 87, according to Project Sage, an initiative of Wharton Social Impact and gender-lens advocate Suzanne Biegel. Altogether, the gender-lens funds covered in the project’s forthcoming report have have raised $2.25 billion and backed 828 companies, that’s up from 58 such private funds that had raised $1.3 billion and backed 650 companies in last year’s report. “Women venture partners who have been thinking about this for a while have decided, given the attention and energy in the marketplace, to just do it,” said Biegel, who is co-producing this week’s Gender-Smart Investment Summit in London.

  • New funds include Jane VC in Ohio, which backs female-led, early stage, tech firms; Dubai-based Mindshift Capital, which invests in female-led foodtech, health, fintech and education businesses in the Middle East, U.S. and Europe; Reign Ventures in Miami, which is investing at least half its portfolio in female or minority founders; and UK and London-based Victus Global Capital, which invests in women-led African agribusiness.
  • Gender-lens first timers. As many as 60 of the gender-lens funds were raised by first-time (gender-lens) fund managers. Female limited partners made up more than half the LPs in the set of funds. Three in four ventures partners were women. Fund managers are realizing “this is an underserved market segment and that there is deal flow, there are quality opportunities, and that there is investor appetite,” Biegel told ImpactAlpha. Share this post.

Get smart for the Gender-Smart Investing Summit:

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Alexander Navab, ex- of KKR, joins Cornerstone Capital’s board of directors… The Financial Centres for Sustainability network launches an Asia-Pacific Centre… “The stakes are high. But so is your power,” says Antony Bugg-Levine in his Net Impact keynote. @ABLImpact’s speech.

October 29, 2018.