The Brief | September 29, 2022

The Brief: Actionable impact data, clean mobile power, working capital for African enterprises, inclusive real estate developers, climate-resilient timber

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Greetings, Agents of Impact! 

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Featured: Impact Management

To understand the impact of electrifying schools in Colombia, ALIVE Ventures listens to parents and teachers. Bogota-based Acumen Latam Impact Ventures, or ALIVE Ventures, raised $28 million in 2020 to back a dozen early-stage social ventures, primarily in Colombia and Peru. Sunco, one of the fund’s portfolio companies, has reached over 100,000 beneficiaries with solar installations in off-grid areas of Colombia. “But we know this isn’t impact,” writes Alan Pierce of ALIVE in a guest post for ImpactAlpha. ALIVE speaks directly to people and businesses affected by the products and services it backs. “Sunco understands, in a deeper way, the ‘ripple effect’ of their school-based solar installations,” Pierce says. Validating a portfolio company’s impact thesis, he adds, can improve relations with stakeholders, onboard new clients and improve recruitment and retention.

  • Beneficiary voices. ALIVE worked with impact measurement firm 60 Decibels to survey more than 300 school administrators and parents of students at rural schools where Sunco had completed installations and provided educational tools. Among the results: More than 80% of parents and 90% of school administrators said the products had improved the educational experience. A third of school administrators reported that their school is being newly used for community activities. The results “take Sunco several steps further from simply saying how many lives they have impacted,” Pierce says.
  • Keep reading, “To understand the impact of electrifying schools in Colombia, ALIVE Ventures listens to parents and teachers,” by ALIVE’s Alan Pierce on ImpactAlpha.

Dealflow: Electrify Everything

Moxion Power secures $100 million to decarbonize mobile power. Construction sites, outdoor events, film productions and disaster response teams need temporary power generation. “There’s enormous demand for cleaner alternatives to the fossil-fuel-burning generators that these industries have historically relied on,” said Moxion’s Paul Huelskamp. The Richmond, Va.-based company, launched in 2020, makes electric mobile energy storage products. The Series B investment will help Moxion scale up production; the company is building its first facility in Richmond and plans to open another in 2024. The two facilities will have a combined annual capacity of seven gigawatt-hours, the company says, and create hundreds of manufacturing jobs.

  • Replacing diesel. Sunbelt Rentals, an equipment rental service, has committed to a purchase agreement with Moxion through 2025. “Our customers are increasingly looking for cleaner options for their temporary power needs,” said Sunbelt’s Brendan Horgan. Sunbelt also invested in the round, led by Tamarack Global. Other investors include Energy Impact Partners, Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund and Microsoft’s Climate Innovation Fund.
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Numida raises $12.3 million to provide loans to small businesses in Uganda. The Kampala-based fintech startup provides unsecured working capital loans, ranging from $100 to $5,000, to micro and small enterprises, approving capital in as little as two hours. Serena Williams’ Serena Ventures led the $7.3 million equity portion, with participation from Launch Africa, Soma Capital, MFS Africa, Y Combinator and others. Lendable, which provides debt financing for fintech startups targeting mostly low-income and women borrowers, provided a $5 million loan. Numida will use the pre-Series A equity and debt round to grow its customer base and expand to Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt and Kenya.

  • Financial inclusion. Numida launched in 2015 to provide microfinance institutions with better data to underwrite loans to small and informal businesses. The fintech venture is using the data model to underwrite its own working capital loans. Numida gains insights into the operations of small business owners, who use Numida’s mobile app to manage their inventory, cash flows and employees.
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Dealflow overflow. Other investment news crossing our desks:

  • SINAI Technologies snagged $22 million in Series A funding, led by Energize Ventures, to help companies decarbonize their operations and supply chains.
  • Chicago-based Bridge Money raised $5.8 million in seed financing from Kapor Capital, Acumen America and Ulu Ventures to help low-income Americans earn supplemental income.
  • Philadelphia-based SHIFT Capital secured $1 million in equity from Woodforest National Bank to support impact-focused minority-led real estate developers (for context, see “Philadelphia’s impact investors step up to finance local job-creation and a storefront revival”).
  • Bangalore-based climate tech startup Carbon Masters scored an undisclosed amount of pre-Series A funding to turn waste into eco-friendly organic manure and compressed natural gas.

Signals: Farmland and Timberland

Alder Point Capital aims to make sustainable real assets climate-resilient as well. Among alternative investments, real estate and real assets have long been prized for both yield and appreciation. Then came “sustainable real assets” which layered in premiums (or in some cases, subsidies) for benefits like organic certification, conservation easements and, more recently, carbon credits. Now comes “climate-resilient sustainable real assets,” for investors eyeing inescapable trends like resource scarcity, supply-chain disruptions and regional food insecurity. “We’ve been realizing over the last 10 years that these assets are being exposed to more and more climate risk,” Alder Point Capital Management’s Chris Larson, a longtime real assets investor at New Island Capital, tells ImpactAlpha. Alder Point, formed with two other New Island veterans, is seeking to raise a $200 million fund, offering investors access to “high-quality U.S. sustainable real assets, with an emphasis on income yield, decarbonization and, of increasing importance, climate resilience,” Larson said in announcing the fund.

  • Permanent crops. In the Pacific Northwest, Alder Point is looking at both forestlands and permanent crops like organic hazelnuts, blueberries and cranberries. In the Upper Midwest and across Pennsylvania and New York, the firm is supporting organic production of staples like corn and soybeans as well as niche, specialty crops. “Even in these relatively climate-resilient regions, there’s a lot of adaptation and resilience investment that we need to make in order to ensure that we can still grow enough food in this country,” Larson says.
  • Community benefits. The fund may invest in supply-chain improvements and local capacity infrastructure, like sawmills and food processing plants, or affordable multi-family housing so portfolio enterprises can field a workforce. “There’s a real risk of being beholden to a small number of residences for your workforce and also a single off-take for your product,” Alder Point’s Jessamine Fitzpatrick said in an interview. The company says it is committed to diverse, local ownership to foster inclusive economic opportunity.
  • Managed exits. Driving cash flows from sustainable commodity production is the key to ensuring attractive exits, Larson says. The ravages of climate change will make truly resilient assets even more valuable. “As we exit properties in the 2030s, we are confident that investors and local operators will want what the fund seeks to develop,” Larson says, “low-carbon, climate-resilient, income-yielding farmland and timberland assets.”
  • Keep reading, “Alder Point Capital aims to make sustainable real assets climate-resilient as well,” by David Bank on ImpactAlpha.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Heather Zichal, the former CEO of the American Clean Power Association, joins JPMorgan as global head of sustainability… Micheline Ntiru, ex- of Stanford University accelerator Stanford Seed, joins Convergence as its Africa lead… Meg Massey, ex- of Chloe Capital, will join Upaya Social Ventures as director of strategy outreach… Kickstarter appoints Everette Taylor, ex- of Artsy, as CEO… Catalytic Capital Consortium, or C3, is hiring a remote program officer for grantmaking.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation seeks a senior program officer for solution delivery in Seattle… The Rockefeller Foundation is recruiting a manager of innovative finance in New York… Also in New York, Syntax Indices is looking for an ESG associate… The Schmidt Family Foundation is hiring a senior associate for impact investing in San Francisco or Los Angeles… DFC seeks a senior equity investment policy officer in Washington, D.C… Bamboo Capital Partners is hiring a fund financial manager in Luxembourg. 

Airlink seeks a humanitarian programs associate…  The World Health Organization is looking for a specialist for information management… Arctaris Impact Investors is recruiting a private equity credit analyst or an associate for its deal team in Boston… LISC seeks an assistant general counsel for government contracts in New York… BerlinRosen is hiring an account supervisor for global social and economic impact in Los Angeles.

Thank you for your impact!

– Sept. 29, 2022