Greetings, ImpactAlpha readers!
#Featured: ImpactAlpha Roundup
At SOCAP17, looking ahead to 2030. Today’s brief comes to you from the main hall at Ft. Mason in San Francisco, where the 10th annual Social Capital Markets conference is underway. ImpactAlpha is a media sponsor of the event, the largest in SOCAP’s history with more than 3,000 participants. We rounded up some coverage for the SOCAP crowd, so we thought we’d share it with you as well. Here are six themes ImpactAlpha will be covering in the decade ahead:
1. Women lead (but you already know that)
2. Impact is the key to global growth.
3. Exclusion is a bug. Impact is fixing it.
4. Tipping points are nigh.
5. Impact is tech’s next big thing.
6. The people want impact.
Read, “Six impact storylines ImpactAlpha is watching for the decade ahead,” by Dennis Price and David Bank on ImpactAlpha:
Reminder: Join ImpactAlpha, NextBillion & Kyle Westaway’s Weekend Briefing for a drink tomorrow night at 6:15pm at The Dorian (a 9 minute walk from SOCAP). RSVP here.
#Dealflow: Follow the Money
Andela lands $40 million to train Africa’s software developers. The Nigerian company pays young Africans to take its online coding courses, hiring some graduates as programmers for such companies as Viacom and Mastercard Labs. Andela’s coursework has been used by 22,000 students, and the company employs 800 in Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda. Proceeds from the Series C round will help reach its goal to train 100,000 coders by 2024. “African technologists will be leading companies solving some of the world’s most pressing challenges and, simultaneously, reversing age-old misconceptions about talent and potential,” Jeremy Johnson, Andela’s founder, wrote in a blog post. Johannesburg-based CRE Venture Capital led the latest round, which was backed by Spark Capital, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Salesforce Ventures, DBL Partners, TLcom Capital and Amplo.
Ace Hardware acquires the Grommet to support local makers. The Grommet is an e-commerce site for new product designers; it helped launch consumer favorites FitBit, OtterBox and SodaStream. Ace Hardware, a cooperative chain with more than 5,000 stores worldwide, has taken a majority stake in the company — its first acquisition outside of retail hardware. The Grommet places some of its featured products in 400 Ace stores and with the deal eventually plans to expand to all Ace outlets. “Under Ace’s ownership, I believe The Grommet can offer our customers more of that which fuels global economies and makes America special — the unbridled creativity of the local entrepreneur,” Ace’s CEO John Venhuizen said. Ace purchased the stake from Rakuten, a Japanese e-commerce company. Terms weren’t disclosed.
Proxy voting: now there’s an app for that. OpenInvest, a digital impact-investment advisor has introduced an app version of its software that includes a proxy-voting function to enable everyday investors to weigh in on company decisions. Shareholder proxy votes on issues like climate change and equal pay have been in the news lately, and heavyweight shareholders like State Street have pledged to use their votes to drive board change. Retail investors, which own 32 percent of public company shares in the U.S., vote less than a third of their shares. “The process is extremely complex, with shareholders either blocked from using their power by fund managers, or overwhelmed by paper packets and obscure ballot measures,” OpenInvest says. With its app, investors can vote with a simple swipe — just like some dating apps.
#Signals: Ahead of the Curve
Bringing impact investors into the creative economy. Art and artists are increasingly seen as key to making real estate investments work, especially in once-marginalized neighborhoods. In Chicago, for example, the artist Theaster Gates has become the go-to partner for developers looking to make their projects stand out, says Richard Sciortino of Brinshore Development. But any rebound can price long-time residents — and the artists — out of those same neighborhoods. Laura Callanan, founder of Upstart Co-Lab, gathered leaders who are addressing that challenge at the Federal Reserve in San Francisco. Sciortino works to promote homeownership for low-income residents near his projects. In San Francisco, the Community Arts Stabilization Trust has opened two arts buildings in the midst of the city’s tech boom. In Seattle, Sam Farraizano of Equinox Development, backed by RSF Social Finance and others, is developing four buildings with nearly 100,000 square feet of art space, and sharing ownership with his tenants. Meow Wolf, the immersive art experience built by more than 100 artists in a former bowling alley in Santa Fe, is expanding to four or five other cities. It is raising money through Impact Us, an online matchmaking platform that requires ventures to report their impact quarterly. “In order to have a creative economy that’s inclusive, equitable and sustainable, we need capital that cares about those things,” Callanan says.
Blue Dot Advocates converts to workers cooperative and benefit corporation. Bruce Campbell, who founded the impact investing law firm in 2003, reincorporated Blue Dot as a cooperative. It is also now a benefit corporation, a legal structure that allows a company to pursue a social mission in addition to ‘shareholder value.’ “We have designed a legal structure that is aligned — and alive — with our values, which is the same experience that we seek to offer to our clients,” Campbell says. (Read more)
New toolkit helps entrepreneurs raise impact capital. CASE, Duke University”s impact investing initiative, is offering CASE Smart Impact Capital, a set of online resources to help entrepreneurs raise money from impact investors. The toolkit features guides, short videos and calculators and is targeted at entrepreneurs, accelerators, universities and other groups supporting entrepreneurs. (Check it out)
Finding the right accelerator for your impact venture. There are hundreds of support programs promising to help social-impact startups get off the ground (and stock investors’ deal pipelines). Conveners.org, Sphaera, and ImpactSpace (yes, that’s us!) have built a tool to help social entrepreneurs find the program that fits their needs. The Accelerator Selection Tool includes about 750 social enterprise support programs around the world. It’s already featured on a dozen websites, including GSEN, Mentor Capital Network, and Artha Network. (Check out — and add to — the tool here)
The job costs of climate inaction. The Trump administration is moving to repeal the Clean Power Plan, an Obama administration rule designed to cut carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants by about 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Republicans have long complained that the plan will weaken the U.S. economy and wreck employment in the coal and fossil-fuel industries
But it was weather-related damage, not climate action, that ended the U.S. seven-year streak in jobs growth. According to the most recent jobs report, the United States shed 33,000 jobs in September. The Economic Policy Institute’s Elise Gould concludes that the loss was almost certainly due to Hurricane Irma, which hit in the middle of the jobs-reporting period, and to the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. The storms “had a larger toll than I expected,” Gould told the Intercept. State-level jobs numbers could show an uptick in industries like construction as rebuilding efforts get underway in Texas and Florida, she noted.
Scientists say that “freakishly” warm conditions in the Gulf of Mexico no doubt compounded Harvey’s wrath. Hurricanes Irma, Harvey, and Maria devastated entire communities and caused billions of dollars in damages. As we write, the air is thick with smoke from fires that have devastated many northern California communities. This is where we include the required caveat that it’s impossible to definitively blame any of this year’s disasters on climate change.
Onward! Please send news and comments to TheBrief@impactalpha.com.