Greetings, Agents of Impact!
Featured: ImpactAlpha Original
Women stand out at Global Entrepreneurship Summit. The Future Now was the tagline for the 9th annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit. It might have been The Future is Female. ImpactAlpha is in The Hague for the joint initiative of the U.S. and the Netherlands. If previous summits aimed to ignite global entrepreneurship, this year was almost universally about entrepreneurship as a catalyst for impact. Women were front and center as both leaders and beneficiaries. ImpactAlpha’sJessica Pothering’s notebook:
- Tech for good. Hardware is hard, right? Women showcasing hardware for good included engineers, scientists, and computer experts like Katie Taylorof Pune-based Khethworks, which makes solar-powered water pumps for smallholder farmers, and Zoe Welz of Colorado-based Drovr, which makes smart fences for livestock. Geta Rasciuc, CEO of Dutch neonatal device company Babymoon is building a smart kangaroo care sling with “embroidered circuitry” to monitor a baby’s vital signs.
- Culture of change. Sahel Consulting’s Ndidi Nwuneli called for greater transparency in the food supply chain to benefit farmers and agribusiness owners in her native Nigeria and across Africa. Abeer Ali Al-Mukhaini shared her experience developing a tech training program for young women in Oman. Christina Moreno, a high school dropout and teen mother turned international lawyer, supports refugee women overcoming poverty and stigma through her job placement startup She Matters. Eriko Suzuki with venture capital firm Fresco shared her secret for spotting real changemakers. “There’s a saying ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” she said. “You can really tell if you spend time with people where their values are.”
- The GIST of it. Fifteen of 25 presenters at the U.S. State Department’s Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) startup pitch competition were women. Christina York’s SpellBound won with its immersive 3D tech to help patients cope with health treatments. Women-led companies were finalists in three of five categories.
- Missing from the agenda. The Hague is a hub for peace, justice and human rights. Discussion of how entrepreneurship can advance these causes was mostly missing from the GES program. Women’s rights are human rights, of course. But the GES could have done more to debunk the myth that peace and justice (Sustainable Development Goal No. 16) aren’t investable (see, “Yes, peace, justice and strong civic institutions are investable opportunities”).
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Dealflow: Follow the Money
Carbon Lighthouse closes $32.6 million for building energy-efficiency. In the U.S., buildings accounts for about 40% of carbon emissions. Carbon Lighthouse uses monitors and sensors to identify and correct building energy inefficiencies, reducing emissions and costs for owners and operators. The nine-year-old company raised $32.6 million, including $20 million from Cox Enterprises. The global market for energy-efficient building tech could reach $360 billion by 2026. Carbon Lighthouse has worked on more than 600 U.S. buildings and claims to have eliminated more than 175,000 metric tons of carbon emissions. Last year, the firm raised $27 million, and closed a $65 million fund with Jigar Shah’s Generate Capital. More.
Sistema.Bio raises $12 million to expand waste-to-fuel products for small farmers. Mexico City-based Sistema.Bio makes low-cost biodigesters that convert farm waste to clean energy. The company raised $12 million in Series A funding to support its expansion in Latin America, India and Kenya and meet its goal of reaching 200,000 farmers in three years. Most of the farmers Sistema.Bio serves are subsistence farmers who purchase the company’s smallest systems. “We have been increasing our reach with productive-scale agribusiness in the dairy sector,” Sistema’s Alex Eaton told ImpactAlpha. Investors participating in the round included utility company Engie’s Rassembleurs d’Energies fund, EcoEnterprise Fund, Endeavor Catalyst Fund, Shell Foundation and Triodos. A working capital loan from Beneficial Returns last year helped Sistema purchase materials and manufacture its biodigester systems. The loan allowed the company “to raise without being under cash stress,” Eaton said at the time. Check it out.
- Echoing Green is providing $2 million in funding and additional support for its new class of 34 Fellows tackling systemic racism, climate change, gender inequality and other challenges.
- Acumen and Grameen Impact are partnering on a “Sustainable Development Goal bond” to train and up-skill 20,000 Indian youth. The partners said the workforce development initiative will support SDG No. 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) as well as Nos. 1, 10 and 17 (No Poverty, Reduced Inequality, and Partnerships for the Goals).
Signals: Ahead of the Curve
Putting customers at the center of impact management. Acumen has spun outits Lean Data impact measurement project into 60 Decibels, a stand-alone enterprise co-led by Sasha Dichter and Tom Adams. As part of the spinout, 60 Decibels raised $1.7 million from Ceniarth, the $400 million family office of Diane Isenberg, Acumen and four individual investors. In a guest post on ImpactAlpha, Ceniarth’s Greg Neichin writes that Ceniarth has been dissatisfied with existing measurement approaches.
- Beyond convention. The industry’s current frameworks, software and consultants don’t go deep enough, writes Neichin. “Most of these tools are built for those with relatively conventional approaches to impact investing.” High-level metrics, such as individuals served or units sold, might work for investors with traditional asset allocations that are looking for standardized impact accounting across their portfolios, he says. “This, however, is not a fit for us at Ceniarth.”
- Customer feedback. Ceniarth committed last year to invest in sectors where market-rate capital is not appropriate. “We are quite explicitly buying impact,” writes Neichin. “We want to be the smartest consumer that we can be.” That requires detailed knowledge of customer demographics to ensure enterprises are targeting populatiAnn Mei Chang, ex- of USAID and author of Lean Impact, joins Pete Buttigieg’sU.S. presidential campaign as chief innovation officer… Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer appoints Timothy Wilkins as global partner for client sustainability… Emily Sladek, ex- of the Democracy Collaborative, joins Transform Finance as a researcher… Tiedemann Advisors opens a regional office in Portland, Oregon… Nia Impact Capital is hiring a client services and operations director in Oakland… The Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship is recruiting its next cohort of enterprises serving migrants, refugees and human trafficking survivors.ons in greatest need, and knowing whether customers are satisfied with solutions.
- Measure better. Lean Data, er 60 Decibels, has worked with 150 social enterprises and investors to collect such data (some of Lean Data’s clients were featured in ImpactAlpha’s Measure Better series). It keeps costs low by using mobile phones to survey low-income customers. “It is data like this that will allow us to re-allocate scarce, low-cost capital to the enterprises and fund managers serving those in greatest need with solutions that are explicitly desired by customers,” says Neichin.
- Read Neichin’s full post, “Beyond the bulls&*t!”
Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent
Ann Mei Chang, ex- of USAID and author of Lean Impact, joins Pete Buttigieg’sU.S. presidential campaign as chief innovation officer… Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer appoints Timothy Wilkins as global partner for client sustainability… Emily Sladek, ex- of the Democracy Collaborative, joins Transform Finance as a researcher… Tiedemann Advisors opens a regional office in Portland, Oregon… Nia Impact Capital is hiring a client services and operations director in Oakland… The Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship is recruiting its next cohort of enterprises serving migrants, refugees and human trafficking survivors.
— June 6, 2019.