The Brief | April 29, 2019

Signals of an institutional shift, attracting capital to Egypt, waste sensors in Sweden, civic tech opportunity

The team at


Greetings, Agents of Impact!

Signals: Ahead of the Curve

Watching for an institutional shift at Michael Milken’s gathering of the finance tribe. The sheer volume of cable hits, headline tweets and boldface names can make it hard to parse the meaning the annual Milken Institute Global Conference, kicking off today in Beverly Hills. It’s usually best to Follow the Money and listen for what major asset owners themselves are saying. The institute’s Global Capital Markets Group represents $23 trillion in assets. “A global transformation is disrupting social and economic norms around the world,” says Richard Ditizio, the institute’s president. The programming is highlighting institutional peer pressure for proactive consideration of environmental, social and governance, or ESG, factors, he said. “Investors have a tool they can use to great advantage,” Ditizio told ImpactAlpha.

  • Gender-aware. Somebody got the memo. Citi is hosting an “Equality Lounge” with a roster of diversity programming by Female Quotient. Expect gentle (or not) ribbing for the lounge’s offerings of meditation, yoga, sound baths and puppies. Still, declarations from large asset owners declare, for example, that they will screen their portfolios for gender equity, Ditizio says, “has the CEOs in the audience perking up.”
  • What climate emergency? In contrast to Milken’s passion for medical research and market-driven “shared prosperity,” the rising climate crisis merits only a handful of sessions and little high-level airtime. Drawdown’s Paul Hawken makes the business case for climate action in one of a series of essays for the conference.
  • Punctuated equilibrium. At least some of the 4,000 attendees are focused on demography and other megatrends to 2030, 2040 and beyond. Look out 20 years on the decline of oil and youth unemployment in the Middle East, a rapidly aging Japan and other countries, vast hordes of low-interest cash on the sidelines, a rapidly rising middle class in Southeast Asia and Africa, Ditizio suggests, and the opportunities for connecting capital supply and demand are massive.
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Dealflow: Follow the Money

World Bank dangles $50 million to draw early-stage impact capital to Egypt. A third of young Egyptians are unemployed, compared to 13% globally. The World Bank committed $200 million to support small-business lending and entrepreneurial job creation targeted at Egypt’s women and young people. Of the total, $50 million will go to private intermediaries, including angel and VC funds and investment companies and accelerators, “with international players encouraged to apply,” the bank said. Most of the funding—$145 million—will be invested in financial institutions that lend to small businesses. “Enabling the private sector to create jobs is integral for achieving sustainable and inclusive growth,” said the World Bank’s Marina Wes. The World Bank has a $6.7 billion portfolio in Egypt. Read on.

Bintel raises early funding to streamline Sweden’s waste collection. The Swedish startup aims to improve residential waste-management with a sensor to help cities plan collection routes. Bintel’s device registers when waste bins are full to help municipalities map collection routes. The company closed €760,000 ($848,000) from Swedish venture capital firm Almi Invest and two private investors. Bintel’s pilot is in the Swedish municipality of Helsingborg, where Bintel is based. Dive in.

Signals: Ahead of the Curve

Civic tech is ripe for its moment. The risk tech poses to democratic institutions, as well as rising distrust in both government and technology, means civic tech has no shortage of challenges to tackle. Luminate, the Omidyar Network spinoff that has made over $300 million in civic tech grants and investments, is rallying allies to the task. Investors are starting to respond, according to Dalberg, in a report funded by Luminate, yet catalytic, early-stage risk capital remains scarce.

  • A key signal: Andreessen Horowitz backed public-sector efficiency startup OpenGov and Storm Ventures invested in public records request enabler NextRequest. Other investors include Urban Innovation Fund and New Media Ventures.
  • Other milestones in a decade of civic tech: Neighborhood social network NextDoor became the first civic unicorn in 2015, reached 100 million users, reached six million members, Code for America launched more than 70 brigades across the country and Fuse Corps embedded more than 130 executive fellows in local governments. More from Luminate.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Kiva co-founder Jessica Jackley joins Aspiration as the company’s new chief impact officer (see, “Aspiration raises $47 million for ‘conscious banking’)… New Ventures is looking for a CEO for Viwala, its working-capital loan facility (see, “New Ventures is accelerating impact entrepreneurs in Mexico and Latin America)… The Global Development Incubator and the Council on Smallholder Agricultural Finance seek a Nairobi-based director for Stawi Africa, a capital-raising platform for inclusive agribuinesses in East Africa… OpenInvest is hiring an account executive… The IKEA Foundation is recruiting monitoring and evaluation managers in Leiden, Holland… The Wharton Social Impact Initiative is looking for an impact investing research intern.

April 29, 2019.