The Brief | July 12, 2018

Keeping score on the global goals, Rise Fund’s edtech bet, racial-equity investing gets real, self-driving safety

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2030 goals light a path to the post-Trump era. In some alternative universe, the U.S. president is right now hectoring allies to increase their commitment to the 2030 global goals around poverty, health and climate. Back here in our universe, global summits have lately followed a different script. But as it happens, underway at the United Nations in New York is a high-level review of progress toward those very same Sustainable Development Goals. In an index of government commitment and support for the goals, the U.S. ranks at the bottom of all major economies. “There is one country in the G20 that just doesn’t care and that’s us,” says Jeff Sachs, the Columbia University professor and advisor to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres. “The other is Russia.”

In his latest column, ImpactAlpha’s David Bank quizzes Sachs about the mobilization of popular support for the global agenda. Achieving the global goals will require the deep transformation of education, healthcare, energy, land use and urban planning at home and abroad –– prime opportunities for American entrepreneurship and ingenuity. Decade-long goals could set off a race to the top, like President Kennedy’s call for a moon landing, or the human genome project. By 2020, Sachs says, an enterprising political leader could galvanize that kind of national resolve. By the way, the future is coming, ready or not. “Will we be driving around in Chinese electric vehicles and using China’s smart-grid technology?” Sachs asked. “Yes. They’re the ones making these investments.”

Keep reading David Bank’s column, “2030 goals light a path to the post-Trump era.” Catch up on all of David’s columns here.

Dealflow: Follow the Money

Elevar, Omidyar, Rise Fund back Latin American literacy startup Grupo VI-DA. Buenos Aires-based Grupo VI-DA compiles Spanish-language texts in a digital library and offers them to schools and companies to “democratize access” to high quality Spanish-language content. The three impact investors invested an undisclosed sum in the company. Trend-spotting? Elevar and the Rise Fund have co-invested in two other education investments, Digital House and LEAD. Rise Fund’s first investment was in another edtech company, EverFi. Read on.

Closed Loop invests $4.5 million in TemperPack’s non-plastic packaging. Cities, states, and countries are cracking down on single-use plastic and polystyrene products. New York-based Closed Loop Fund and other investors including SJF Ventures are backing TemperPack’s compostable, recyclable insulated packaging products, which are made from paper instead of plastic or polystyrene. Here’s more.

Perceptive Automata raises $3 million for safety-tech for self-driving cars. One in four vehicles on the road in 2040 are likely to be driving themselves. Notwithstanding a few highly publicized accidents, autonomous vehicles could save almost a million lives in the next 10 years. Perceptive Automata has raised seed funding for software that helps autonomous vehicles understand human behavior, such as where pedestrians are looking, and whether they will step off the curb. Dig in.

Signals: Ahead of the Curve

Getting real about racial-equity investing. Racial equity investing isn’t about ticking a diversity box. It’s about understanding and investing to tackle social inequities in the U.S. Access to education, healthcare, transportation, housing and finance itself largely divide along racial lines. Cambridge Associates is out with a new report that parses strategies for racial-equity impact investing. One approach is to deploy capital in support of investment managers, entrepreneurs, and communities of color that face a continued capital gap. Another is to back companies with positive workplace cultures and products and services that benefit racially diverse constituencies.

  • Growth market: The buying power of U.S. racial minorities increased 138% between 2000 and 2016 to $2.2 trillion, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth. Raising the average incomes of people of color to that of white people would generate $1 trillion in additional earnings, says the Kellogg Foundation.
  • Follow the leaders. Daryn Dodson of Illumen Capital is training fund managers to overcome implicit biases and find hidden value in minority-led companies. Kesha Cash’s Impact America Fund is backing companies serving real needs in communities of colorEveryTable (backed by Kimbal Musk, Acumen America and TOMS Social Enterprise) is finding customers in low-income communities by making healthy food more affordable.

Read, “Getting real about racial-equity investing,” by Dennis Price on ImpactAlpha.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Bridges Fund Management’s Evergreen permanent capital vehicle reachedits £50 million ($66 million) fundraising goal… Capital raised by clients of ClearlySo passed the £200 million ($264 million) mark… Living Cities is hiring a senior investment associate on its Catalyst Funds team.

July 12, 2018.