The Brief | July 1, 2019

Solutions for Latin American migration, Acumen acquires CivicX, converting methane, barbershop businesses

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Greetings, Agents of Impact!

Featured: Impact Voices

Mobilizing private capital to back solutions to the migration crisis in Latin America. Nine countries across the Latin American continent – from Chile to the United States – now hold more than 100,000 displaced people and the crisis of forced migration is growing. The challenges have attracted innovation and entrepreneurship. From Central America and Mexico to Colombia and Venezuela, solutions that stabilize migrant flows, create viable options for those already displaced, and help host communities adapt are increasingly attracting refugee-lens investors who are standing out “as a way to drive more durable solutions to these crises,” three advisors from Dalberg, the global consultancy, write in a guest post on ImpactAlpha. Lenses on gender, racial equity and climate are mobilizing impact investors targeting untapped opportunities or underestimated communities. To follow suit, investors need “a deeper understanding of priority markets to identify concrete opportunities,” write Dalberg’s Fabiola Salman and Sylvia Warren in Mexico City, and Marcos Paya in New York.

The Dalberg consultants found migrants in general are highly employable, entrepreneurial and creditworthy. But opportunities differ across Latin America. In the Northern Triangle of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, innovative financing to strengthen education, employment and the reduction of violence could reduce both financial and human costs. In countries hosting migrants, like Mexico and Colombia, lenders and investors can support migrant-owned businesses and services that equip people on the move for 21st-century jobs. The crisis in Venezuela requires near-term humanitarian responses to overcome gaps in basic nutrition, health and shelter. But migrant communities also need services such as mobile and transferable degrees and certificates validating their educational and professional credentials. Blending private capital with development resources, say Salmon, Warren and Paya, “could help pool risk and enable investors in navigating local investment climates.”

Read, “Mobilizing private capital to back solutions to the migration crisis in Latin America,” by Dalberg’s Fabiola Salman, Marcos Paya and Sylvia Warren.

Dealflow: Follow the Money

Acumen acquires Civic Accelerator to expand talent push. In a transfer among nonprofit impact investing firms, Acumen acquired the team and intellectual property of the “CivicX” social impact accelerator from Atlanta-based Points of Light. CivicX was founded in 2013 with support from PwC Charitable Foundation and Starbucks Foundation and has graduated 146 for-profit and nonprofit early-stage social ventures and invested more than $1 million. It was a pioneer in the growing “civic tech” space. Acumen is seeking to strengthen its ‘+Acumen’ leadership academy, which has provided online training to a half-million students and practitioners in 193 countries, Acumen’s Jo-Ann Tan tells ImpactAlpha. In the past year, +Acumen has designed and executed a handful of accelerator programs, including a nonprofit food recovery program with ReFED and Walmart; a data and technology earned-income accelerator with Open Society Foundations; and a program supporting plastic waste entrepreneurs with Unilever. Spread the news.

Backing for String Bio’s technology for converting methane into animal feed. Bangalore-based String Bio’s technology does double-duty, converting methane, a potent greenhouse gas, that would otherwise end up in the atmosphere into usable products, like animal feed. String Bio is working to commercialize its first product, String Pro, to enable feed producers to make high-quality, environmentally-sustainable animal feed. The fossil fuels sector is the biggest producer of methane, followed closely by agriculture. The company raised funding from French venture capital fund Seventure Partners and India’s state-owned Oil & Natural Gas Corporation. Impact investor Ankur Capital also backed the round, alongside poultry company Srinivasa Hatcheries and the state of Karnataka’s Information and Biotechnology Venture Fund. Unitus Capital advised the deal. Read on.

Squire secures $8 million to bring barbershops into the digital age. Like many startups, Squire was founded to solve the founders’ problem: how to reliably find a good place to get a haircut. While building the platform, Songe LaRon, Dave Salvant and Yas Tabasam realized barbershops themselves needed help managing their businesses. Independent barbershops used pen and paper while higher-end shops used software that didn’t meet their needs, Tabasam said in 2016. The company raised $8 million to help barbers manage back-end business operations on a subscription basis. Squire says it has transacted $100 million for businesses in 28 cities. Trinity Ventures, an early-stage venture capital fund that invests in tech startups with diverse founders, led the funding round. Check it out.

Signals: Ahead of the Curve

Impact and sustainable finance to the rescue – of business schools. Rising tuition and the lingering effects of the 2008 financial crisis mean the business of sending newly minted MBAs to Wall Street isn’t what it once was. One bright spot for business schools: oversubscribed impact and sustainable finance courses. Student demand for the courses is so high that schools are increasingly requiring prerequisites – boosting broader finance courses that otherwise would be suffering declining enrollment. Last week’s gathering of the Impact and Sustainable Finance Faculty Consortium brought nearly 90 faculty members to Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management to share research and teaching methods. The corps of professors is still made up largely of practitioners serving as adjunct faculty. But an increasing number of professors are full-time; a select few institutions were represented by tenure-track faculty members. “We are no longer part of a niche/vanguard but rather the early adopters of what every student expects in every program,” says John Bulow of the Fuqua School of Business at Duke.

  • Global demand.The consortium has grown with the field, with long-time teachers joined by new hires and representatives of new programs, including strong representation from Colombia and Brazil as well as China and Korea, but few faculty members from Africa. Faculty shared syllabi, research and cases; the consortium awarded a small grant to Deborah Burand from NYU’s School of Law and Edward Mungai of Strathmore University in Nairobi to integrate African perspectives in the case of Habitat for Humanity’s MicroBuild Fund, which has improved housing for more than 685,000 people in 30 countries.
  • Required reading. Supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, ImpactAlpha partners with the Impact and Sustainable Finance Faculty Consortium to integrate our editorial offerings into curricula and career programs and to subsidize subscriptions. Kellogg, Harvard, Yale, Wharton and other schools already are on board. For details of our Agents of Impact Scholarship Fund, drop a note to ImpactAlpha’s Zuleyma Bebell.
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Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Project Heather appoints Elaine Morton as chief regulatory and compliance officer, and Helen Webster as chief operating officer, to support the impact-focused Scottish Stock ExchangeGlenmede is hiring a director of sustainable and impact investing in Philadelphia… Nonprofit Finance Fund is looking for a senior associate of equity in action.

July 1, 2019.