The Brief | October 17, 2019

The Brief: BALLE’s common future, de-risking digesters, bamboo diapers, new gender-lens funds

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Greetings, Agents of Impact!

Free passes. ImpactAlpha is giving away two tickets to SOCAP19 in San Francisco, Oct. 22-25. There’s still time to enter. Just follow @ImpactAlpha on Instagram, then comment and tag two friends. Winners will be announced Friday, October 18th and are responsible for their own transportation and other expenses. Void where prohibited!

Featured: ImpactAlpha Original

Q&A with Rodney Foxworth: Redistributing wealth, democratizing power and shifting economic control for our Common Future. The median wealth of African Americans is on track to drop to zero by 2050. The lack of progress on the racial wealth gap is spurring Rodney Foxworth to find new ways to shift capital into economically marginalized communities and help investors deploy that capital more effectively. The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, or BALLE, which Foxworth leads, has helped channel $150 million into underserved communities and high-impact projects through the community foundations in its network. “How do we get that to $1 billion? How do we get that to $100 billion?” Foxworth asked in a Q&A with ImpactAlpha. “We have to make sure that we’re marshaling resources and capital to make change in communities and shift and disrupt power dynamics.”

Foxworth, who is co-hosting this weekend’s community capital, or COCAP, conference in Oakland ahead of next week’s larger SOCAP gathering, will unveil BALLE’s new brand and new positioning: Common Future. As BALLE, the organization built a network of entrepreneurial fellows working in communities from Jackson, Miss., to Renner, S.D. It also facilitated learning circles for place-based foundations and high-net-worth individuals looking to shift their money toward racial justice and rural economies (see, “Rural Arkansas powers an entrepreneurial revival on camelina and biofuels). Common Future will champion the group’s locally-based fellows as stewards of the work of shifting capital into economically marginalized communities. That will require challenging what Foxworth has called the “fallacies” of impact investing, including incremental change and market-rate returns. “The urgency is there,” he says. “We don’t have decades and decades to sit on this. There are opportunities to invest right now.”

Keep reading “Q&A with Rodney Foxworth: Redistributing wealth, democratizing power and shifting economic control for our Common Future,” by Amy Cortese on ImpactAlpha.

Dealflow: Follow the Money

Soros spinout spots Leyline $150 million to de-risk clean energy projects. Leyline Renewable Capital is working to ramp up the pipeline of clean energy deals by backing solar and biogas projects at the pre-development stage where many investors fear to tread. “Development is risky business. Many banks and investors just aren’t ready to put money to work until a project has been de-risked,” Leyline founder Erik Lensch told ImpactAlpha. The firm has raised $150 million from Newlight Partners, a spinout of Soros Fund Management, to provide developers with debt and equity financing as they clear permitting hurdles, secure contracts, and break ground. Leyline targets utility-scale solar and anaerobic digesters that produce biogas from food, animal and landfill waste, and has invested in 18 early-stage renewables projects since 2016. “We get up every day to accelerate that process,” Lensch says. “Environmentally, we’re running on borrowed time.” Read the full story.

HCAP invests in bamboo diaper subscription service DYPER. California-based HCAP Partners invested an undisclosed amount in Arizona-based DYPER’s compostable diapers. The U.S. throws out 20 billion disposable diapers each year, generating 3.5 million tons of waste.

M&T Bank invests $5 million to support rural U.S. businesses. The bank committed the capital to Blue Highway Capital, which is raising a planned $50 million fund for companies in small towns in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions. The fund will make equity investments of $2 to $5 million in manufacturing, logistics, technology, healthcare, energy and natural resources companies.

Signals: Ahead of the Curve

More than two dozen new funds that are investing with a gender lens. Women’s slice of the venture capital pie is stuck in the low-single-digits. Dozens of new funds are working to bridge the gap, according to Project Sage, a research collaboration between Catalyst At Large and Wharton Social Impact Initiative. “I’m getting calls regularly from people who are starting new funds or who want to reshape the funds they already have to include a gender lens,” Catalyst At Large’s Suzanne Biegel writes in a guest post on ImpactAlpha that provides a sneak peek of some of the new funds:

  • Corporate venture capital. Female-focused dating app Bumble launched a fund to cut small checks for women of color and underrepresented founders.
  • Women entrepreneurs. The new Ilu Fund from Deetken Impact and women’s empowerment organization Pro Mujer is investing in women entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Carribbean, including, yep, Pro Mujer. Ethiopia-based impact fund Renew is rolling out a mini-fund for female founders.
  • Basic services in Japan. The Japan Impact Investment II Limited Partnership, which is focused on childcare, nursing care and new workstyle-related businesses, completed its first close at JPY2.2 billion (more than US$20 million).
  • Take a peek.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Monica Edwards, former president of Bridge Impact Capital, is Oakland’s new chief Opportunity Zone officer… Guardian Media Group achieved B Corp status, a first for international news organizations… The California Endowment is looking for an impact investing analyst and associate… Fast Company added an impact investing category to its annual World Changing Ideas competition. Applications are open.

Thank you for reading. 

– Oct. 17, 2019