The Brief | May 17, 2018

Opportunity and peril in Opportunity Zones, MIT’s Solve competition, women rising at VC firms, a solar plant for Mongolia

Roodgally Senatus
ImpactAlpha Editor

Roodgally Senatus

Greetings, ImpactAlpha readers!

Featured: ImpactAlpha Original

Getting ready for the opportunity – and peril – in Opportunity Zones. “The single biggest tax incentive to invest in low-income communities across America that we’ve seen in 100 years.” That’s how Rajiv Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, described “Opportunity Zones,” a provision included in last year’s U.S. tax bill. At the Mission Investors Exchange conference in Chicago this week, Shah made a plea for urgency in making the most of the historic opportunity, and avoiding the considerable perils.

“I hope that we all can move fast enough,” Shah said. “Otherwise, we make this big tax investment in people who have quite a lot of wealth, and a lot of unrealized capital gains. And the consequence of that [is] not lifting up those that this was intended to lift up.” The Treasury Department will soon announce the neighborhoods that states have selected to qualify for such investments. Investors making investments in the zones can defer and even reduce capital gains taxes on their stock-market gains of recent years. The potential investment is huge, with more than $6 trillion in such capital gains, according to the Economic Innovation Group, which helped develop the bipartisan legislation. The potential negative consequences could also be huge.

Read, “Getting ready for the opportunity – and peril – in Opportunity Zones,” by David Bank on ImpactAlpha.

Signals: Ahead of the Curve

SOLVE’ing global challenges takes center stage at MIT. When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the French National Assembly in April, he called on France, Canada and other members of the G7 to “have the audacity to build a world together that is more progressive, more diverse, more green, more inclusive, more open, more democratic; a world with more freedom, more equality and more kindness.” It’s a message that no doubt resonates with the past and future finalists of MIT’s Solve competition—and one which he will likely reiterate in his address at Solve’s flagship event in Cambridge, Massachusetts, this week.

    • Identifying challenges… Solve is wrapping up its 2017 challenge and inaugurating this year’s competition, which focuses on four themes: work of the future; frontline health workers and services; teachers and educators; and climate mitigation and adaptation for coastal communities.
    • Speaker lineup… The event features an all-star lineup of speakers including Trudeau, Yo-Yo Ma, Ursula Burns, Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt and Mozilla’s Mitchell Baker.
    • Good ideas… MIT launched Solve in 2015 as an open-source innovation challenge for major global issues. Solve seeks to open up access to resources and networks for global problem solving and says that anyone with an idea is eligible to participate. “You don’t need to carry an MIT ID card to have a good idea,” Solve’s executive director Alex Amouyel told ImpactAlpha.

To date, 66 finalists, or Solvers, have been selected from the eight challenges held. They come from 23 countries and 42% are women. The challenge and its member network aim to match individuals and teams who have ideas with funders and mentors who have the resources to support them.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

At least five women in the last two days were promoted to principal or partner at venture capital firms. Bain Capital Ventures hired Sarah Smith as its first female investment partner. Natalie Luu became an investing partner at Lightspeed. Sarah Guo became a general partner at Greylock. Lolita Taub joined Backstage Capital as an investment principal. Lerer Hippeau hired Caitlin Strandberg as a principal… Billionaire Michael Bloomberg announced the New Economy Forum in Beijing from November 6-8, 2018. The rival to Davos is meant to address new risks and opportunities created in a world increasingly influenced by China and India, as well as rising powers in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

Dealflow: Follow the Money

European investors back funding of Mongolian solar plant. The new solar farm will supply power to 27,000 households and be the country’s largest solar installation. Get more details.

Organic farming startup Earth Food secures seed funding. The Pune, India-based startup uses no chemicals or preservatives and sells its goods via 25 local retailers and online. Learn more.

Hivos backs GreenFingers Mobile to connect small farmers to markets. The Cape Town firm said it would use the investment to improve its software and expand into new countries. Dig in.

AI-based hospital software company Qventus secures $30 million for expansion. Qventus’ product uses machine learning to help hospitals oversee patient care. Read more.

May 16, 2018