The Brief | May 13, 2020

The Brief: 10x’ing gender-lens investing, COVID investment coalition, essential workforce housing, mission investors’ experience, backstopping European startups

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Greetings, Agents of Impact!

Impact Voices: Pass the Mic

10x Challenge: Four ways to drive exponential growth in gender-lens investing. Ethical employment and supply chain practices. Diverse management teams. Environmental sustainability. Shareholder accountability and transparency. “Now is the time to talk about the fact that many of the things we care about as gender-smart investors… are also proving themselves to be key to resilience,” writes Catalyst at Large’s Suzanne Biegel. “Gender is central to the world we want to create, and central to smart business.” ImpactAlpha’s 10x Challenge got Biegel thinking: What would it take to 10x gender-lens investing? In a guest post on ImpactAlpha, Biegel lays out four ways to multiply the capital for investments in or for women, and to be “smarter, bolder and more intentional about how we move it.”

  • More and better women investors. “Gender should not be a sidebar during times of crisis and economic recovery,” say Investing In Women’s Prachi Maheshwari and Value4Women’s Rebecca FriesTracy Gray at We Are Enough is seeking to mobilize three million women to invest an average of $1,000 each over three years. Invest For Better aims to mobilize women as impact investors. SmartPurse in the U.K. helps educate and empower women to be smarter about their finances. SheEO, NextWave, Portfolia, Calvert Impact Capital and CNote are growing new investors. “We need to 10x our relationships and 10x the intelligence that goes into our investment decision-making,” Biegel says.
  • Applying a gender lens. How can gender inform good investments in mental health or education? Gender-smart investing “means using gender as a tool to analyze whether an investment is likely to succeed, whether its products or services are obviously gendered or not,” Biegel writes. She cites an affordable housing developer adding services for the single mothers who are disproportionately represented in public housing, and an offering for women to invest in medical real estate, which is disproportionately used by women.
  • Share your ideas. What are other ways to 10x gender-lens investing? Join the conversation on ImpactAlpha’s #inclusive-capital Slack channel.
  • Keep reading, “Four ways to drive exponential growth in gender-lens investing,” by Suzanne Biegel on ImpactAlpha. 

Dealflow: Follow the Money

GIIN launches Response, Recovery and Resilience Investment Coalition. The R3 Coalition aims to identify opportunities to invest in health interventions and access to capital, and direct new capital to fill COVID financing gaps. The Global Impact Investing Network will coordinate dealflow across multiple networks, including Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), Asian Venture Philanthropy Network, B Lab, the Association of European Development Finance Institutions, European Venture Philanthropy Association, India Impact Investors Council, Mission Investors Exchange, Synergos, Toniic and U.S. Impact Investing Alliance.

  • A half-dozen funders backed the network of networks, including the Packard, Ford, MacArthur, Rockefeller, Open Society and Sorenson Impact foundations.
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Turner Impact Capital points to COVID housing crisis with latest apartment acquisition. The impact real estate investor acquired a 312-unit workforce housing complex in Irving, Texas, occupied by teachers, police officers, healthcare workers and other essential workers. “It’s more important than ever for families to have access to stable housing they can afford that doesn’t come at the expense of other critical needs, such as food or healthcare,” said Turner’s Gee Kim.

Intello Labs raises $5.9 million for quality-control in India’s food system. The Gurgaon-based company uses an artificial intelligence-powered imaging system to scan food products as they move from farm to consumer through India’s fragmented supply chains. Intello Labs aims to fight food waste and improve traceability.

  • Series A. New investors included Saama Capital, Singapore-based GROW and U.S.-based SVG Ventures THRIVE. Existing investors Omnivore and Nexus Venture Partners re-upped after backing Intello’s seed round last March.
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Indonesian education lender Pintek gets backing from Accion Venture Lab. Pintek is a fintech company that provides student loans and credit to help improve access to education in Indonesia. Accion Venture Lab backed the startup, citing students’ tuition costs, and schools’ need to improve facilities, hire staff and add services. The investment will help Pintek build out a new financing strategy to support underserved students affected by COVID. Terms were not disclosed.

Signals: Ahead of the Curve

Overheard at the Mission Investors Exchange: Inclusive and catalytic capital. Decades of experience battling racial and economic disparities must be brought to bear on the COVID crisis, said presidents of major private foundations at this week’s Mission Investors Exchange online conference. “We do have a lot of lessons on what needs to happen in this moment,” said Kellogg Foundation’s La June Montgomery Tabron. Communities of color must participate in the recovery and reimagining of what the economy can be, she said. “As this work expands, we can be a part of that expansion.”

  • Inclusive recovery. Kellogg will look to its mission investments in fund managers like Kesha Cash of Impact America Fund, which backs entrepreneurs of color, and companies like Revolution Foods, which is delivering food to students who are no longer getting lunch at school, to help drive an inclusive recovery (see, How Kellogg Foundation is interrupting racial bias in capital markets).
  • Catalytic capital. MacArthur Foundation is helping set up city-focused COVID response funds, drawing on lessons from its $625 million in catalytic loans, equity investments and guarantees. MacArthur’s John Palfrey said the foundation is deferring or forgiving as much as $25 million in loans from its program-related investment portfolio, following the foundation’s practice in the wake of the Gulf Coast hurricanes and the subprime mortgage foreclosure crisis (see, Investors that demonstrate flexibility and patience prove catalytic in COVID crisis).
  • Systemic approach. “We need a forklift, cranes and other stuff,” to break through systemic problems in health, education and inequality, said Rey Ramsey of The Nathan Cummings Foundation. “It takes this all-of-the-above approach.” Cummings has made $180 million in new impact investments since it announced that it would mission-align its full $450 million portfolio (see, Stretch goal for foundations: Shift power, as well as assets, for the post-COVID economy).
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France targets startups for COVID relief. France has cultivated a tech startup sector that last year raised a record €5.5 billion ($6 billion) and was on track to hire some 25,000 people. To help fill a financing gap for later-stage startups, President Emmanuel Macron mobilized €5 billion from institutional investors. COVID-19 threatened to undo much of that progress. In March, the French government announced €4 billion in tax credits, guaranteed loans and bridge financing to support French startups, making France the first country to specifically target startups with COVID-related aid. At least €1.5 billion in loans has been disbursed so far. “Creating an ecosystem of innovation and startups takes 10 to 20 years,” Paul-François Fournier of Bpifrance, the development bank running the program, told ImpactAlpha. “We want to make sure that all the work we’ve done over the last decade will be as much as possible preserved for the future.”

  • Following suit. European nations including Portugal and Switzerland have also deployed startup-focused COVID aid. The U.K. launched the Future Fund, a £500 million ($615 million) public-private co-investment fund for venture-backed startups. A separate £750 million program managed by Innovate UK offers grants and loans to research-focused firms.
  • Impact aid. France may direct a second round of COVID support next month at social enterprises. Leaders in France’s impact sector have called on the government to create a billion-euro fund for enterprises working on environmental and social challenges.
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Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

DC Green Bank seeks a chief investment officer… Walton Enterprises is looking for a senior analyst of investments in Denver… Gates Foundation is hiring a program assistant of philanthropic partnership in Seattle.

Thank you for reading.

–May 13, 2020