Greetings, ImpactAlpha readers!
#Feature: Impact Voices
South by Social: Amy Bell’s guided tour of Austin’s impact entrepreneurship ecosystem. This week people from all over the country don their best hipster duds, dust off their cowboy boots and descend on Austin, Texas, for SXSW (pro tip: just call it “South by”). The smorgasbord of panels, films, events and concerts every spring has elevated Austin’s national reputation as a hub for technology, breakfast tacos, and great craft beer. But visitors might miss Austin’s year-round vibe as an emerging center of enterprise-driven social innovation.
Amy Bell managed JPMorgan Chase’s $100 million social finance impact fund before decamping New York for Austin (and joining Tideline, an impact strategy consultancy) two years ago. In a guest post on ImpactAlpha, Bell makes the rounds of Austin’s co-working spaces, local venture funds and social-innovation talent. Last year, Techstars chose Austin to launch its Impact Accelerator for entrepreneurs using technology to solve social and environmental problems.
“Many of the city’s entrepreneurs are bent on building organizations that will change the world for the better,” Bell writes. “By bringing together human and financial capital, innovative models and a commitment to collaboration, Austin provides an approach to inclusive growth other cities can learn from.”
Read, “South by Social: Austin is the capital of impact entrepreneurship, too” by Amy Bell on ImpactAlpha.
#Dealflow: Follow the Money
Accion, MetLife Foundation partner on financial inclusion incubator. The MetLife Foundation is backing Accion’s fintech incubator with $5.4 million in funding. Most of the funding will focus on Latin America; Eastern Europe and Asia are also included in the three-year initiative. “We’ve found that customers in Latin American cities aren’t getting access to the tools they need,” Accion’s María Camila Gómez tells ImpactAlpha. “A lot of institutions launch products, and people enroll, but then after a few months, the customers don’t use them anymore.” Accion will select six projects in Mexico, Chile and Argentina. “New fintechs are agile and have state-of-the-art tools and need support. But we also want to help good financial institutions that are dealing with heavy regulations and need help building and merging with digital resources,” Gómez says. The initiative will roll out in Eastern Europe and Asia in partnership with Microfinance Centre and DAWN Microfinance, respectively.
Vegan dairy company Perfect Day raises $24.7 million. The Berkeley, Calif.-based company makes high protein vegan, lactose-free “dairy” products. The company’s mission is to “help people enjoy the dairy food they love, while leaving a kinder footprint on the planet.” Singapore’s state-owned investment fund Temasek led the round. Temasek has backed other sustainable food and farm ventures, including vegetarian meat company Impossible Foods and animal feed producer Calysta. An existing investor, Hong Kong-based Horizon Ventures, contributed $6 million to the round.
Backstage Capital backs Solstice and Pilotly. The fund, which focuses on supporting women and entrepreneurs of color, invested undisclosed amounts in clean-energy provider Solstice and Pilotly, a digital research provider for media companies. Solstice, led by Ugwem Eneyo and Cole Stites-Clayton, makes a smart meter that helps households and businesses in Nigeria monitor energy consumption and switch between the electric grid and local sources when the grid goes out. Pilotly lets video creators test their products on audiences. Founder James Norman shares Backstage Capital’s mission to support women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color. He’s a co-founder of Transparent Collective, which helps underrepresented entrepreneurs meet investors. Backstage Capital founder Arlan Hamilton called Norman “a CEO who truly believes in all boats rising with the tide.”
#Featured Event: Total Impact Conference in Philadelphia, April 26–27
Tapping the bond market for community finance. The Reinvestment Fund’s $50 million offering of AA-rated community development bonds last year was snapped up in less than an hour. The high demand sent a signal to capital markets: ‘impact’ bonds are going mainstream. Reinvestment Fund got its start in Philadelphia and in the last three years pumped $112 million into the city’s small businesses, grocery stores, childcare centers and affordable housing. In ImpactPHL Perspectives, a series exploring Philly’s impact economy, Reinvestment Fund’s Don Hinkle-Brown and Andy Rachlin, write that access to the $39 trillion bond market “opens up a source of flexible and efficient capital at a scale previously unfathomable for social impact.”
Join ImpactAlpha in Philadelphia on April 26–27 for the Total Impact Conference from Good Capital Project and ImpactPHL. The event will feature tools and opportunities for advisors, families and investors. Register here for a $300 discount with code TI_ImpactAlpha.
#Signals: Ahead of the Curve
Mobilizing billions, then trillions, for climate solutions and energy access.New commitments from the Green Climate Fund pushed the total capital mobilized by the Climate Finance Lab above the $1 billion mark. Among the funded projects was the expansion of Energy Savings Insurance to Paraguay and Argentina. The insurance scheme, incubated by the Climate Finance Lab in 2015, insures the financial performance of energy-efficiency projects in a half-dozen Latin American countries. The Lab has helped launch 25 climate-action investment vehicles, including Climate Investor One, which last year raised $475 million from Norwegian, South African and UK pension funds, Dutch public agencies and other investors. Last month, the Lab, a private-public partnership, selected nine new instruments including mechanisms for accelerating clean energy, low-carbon transit and sustainable land use.
Also crossing the $1 billion mark are commitments to off-grid energy projects backed by Power Africa, an Obama-era initiative continued under President Trump, which aims to double access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030. All told, Power Africa has generated $54 billion in commitments from private investors and has supported 88 power projects in Africa that have brought power to 50 million people since 2013. The Overseas Private Investment Corp., the self-sustaining development-finance arm of the US government, has committed $2.4 billion. OPIC says the loans, guarantees and political risk insurance have helped bring in private capital to finance 12 utility-scale power plants, eight off-grid and small-scale renewable projects and four microfinance and investment facilities.
Thank you for reading. Onward! Please send news and comments to [email protected]