The Brief | March 31, 2021

The Brief: Electric network effects, custom portfolios, good green jobs, micro-business lending, community investing alliance

The team at


Greetings, Agents of Impact! 

Featured: ImpactAlpha Original

Transformation of electricity grids shows this isn’t your grandparents’ infrastructure upgrade. The giant infrastructure investment plan to be unveiled today by U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to include as much as $100 billion to upgrade the nation’s aging electricity grids. The shape of that upgrade was signaled last September, when an order from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission removed barriers to “distributed energy resources,” including small-scale generators and battery storage. The electricity grid of the future, already under construction, will look more like the distributed, two-way internet and less like the centralized hub-and-spoke model of the 20th century. And like the emergence of the internet, which set off a super-cycle of technology innovation and investment, the transformation of the grid is spurring a rush to invest in the enablers and beneficiaries of the trend to “electrify everything.” Suddenly hot: Microgrids, stand-alone power systems, and community storage, as well as software and artificial intelligence for grid resilience and demand management. “Now we solve with software what you used to solve with large infrastructure,” Schneider Electric’s Emmanuel Lagarrigue told ImpactAlpha. “Software is much more efficient and much cheaper.”

Biden’s ambitious $2 trillion green infrastructure and jobs plan will put the federal government’s muscle behind clean water, public transit and other physical infrastructure projects as well. Also expected: $100 billion for job retraining to help buffer the shift to a low-carbon economy. But the government outlay will pale in comparison to the private investment it could unleash. “I think we’re going to see a huge boost in spending on core infrastructure and all of the good things that can result from that, such as clean electricity, electric vehicles and more efficient buildings,” said Climate Adaptive Infrastructure’s Dan Reicher. Rob Day of Spring Lane Capital agrees: “It will make a lot of stuff look more attractive for us to put money into,” and send a signal to institutional investors. “If this law looks likely to pass, all of a sudden it will make institutional capital want to allocate even more capital to sustainable infrastructure funds.” Game on.

Keep reading, “Transformation of electricity grids shows this isn’t your grandparents’ infrastructure upgrade,” by David Bank and Amy Cortese on ImpactAlpha.

Dealflow: Follow the Money

Ethic raises $29 million to grow customized sustainable portfolios for wealth advisors. The tech-driven asset management platform says it has grown assets under management ten-fold since its 2019 financing round, including $760 million in sustainable direct indexing strategies. “It’s increasingly clear that the future of asset management is personalized,” said Dan Petrozzo of Oak HC/FT, which led the new financing. 

  • Client demand. Existing investors including Fidelity Investments, Nyca Partners, Sound Ventures, ThirdStream Partners, Urban Innovation Fund and Kapor Capital also participated. Ethic has a strategic agreement with Fidelity and has partnered with several large U.S. advisory firms. Share this post.

ChargerHelp raises $2.8 million to repair EV chargers with good green jobs. The U.S. will need to add roughly 20 million electric-vehicle charging stations by 2030, per McKinsey. South Central L.A.-based ChargerHelp, founded a year ago by Kameale Terry and Evette Ellis, has inked maintenance and repair contracts with electric-vehicle charging networks, including EV Connect, ABB and SparkCharge. The company hires and trains electric vehicle service technicians, guaranteeing them at least $30 per hour in wages, as well as shares in the company. The founders want to “make sure that we are building a robust, equitable workforce for the local community,” said Ellis.

Uganda’s Tugende scores $3.6 million to expand micro-business lending. The Kampala-based social lender, which finances the purchase of motorcycle taxis for Ugandan and Kenyan “boda boda” drivers, is expanding to other income-generating equipment (see, “Tugende helps Uganda’s motorcycle taxi drivers survive the lockdown – and raises $6 million to grow again”). 

  • Expanded products. The extended Series A round, led by Partech and backed by Enza Capital and angel investors in the region, will help Tugende expand its financing to cars, boat engines and refrigerators. More.

Capital Impact Partners and CDC Small Business Finance create community investing powerhouse. Capital Impact Partners, a community development financial institution, has deep community roots. CDC, a nonprofit Small Business Administration lender, has a strong history of small business lending and advising. “Together we will be able to transform the system by rethinking how credit is evaluated and how capital flows into disinvested communities across the country,” said Capital Impact’s Ellis Carr, who will lead the combined enterprise, with nearly $3 billion in assets (see, “Agent of Impact: Ellis Carr”). CDC’s Kurt Chilcott will serve as board chair of both Capital Impact Partners and CDC Small Business Finance.

  • Scaling partnership. The organizations teamed up for a three-city pilot last year, backed by $6 million in grants from JPMorgan Chase and the Heron Foundation (see, “Can real estate financing + small-business lending = equitable community growth?“). The national strategy will align the organizations “to advance high-touch solutions at scale and ensure that traditional and mainstream financial systems are equitably serving Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous communities.” Share this post.

Dealflow overflow. Other investment news crossing our desks:

  • Student engagement platform Upswing raised $5 million in a round co-led by Imaginable Futures and JPMorgan Chase.
  • FTC Solar filed for an initial public offering with an eye to raising $100 million.
  • Heifer International and the Rwandan Ministry of Agriculture teamed up to invest in livestock and training for 23,000 smallholder farming households.
  • Chicago PACE secured $4.6 million to support clean energy at a commercial kitchen facility in Chicago.
  • U.K.-based VFC raised £2.5 million ($3.4 million) in seed funding to make plant-based fried chicken.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Today is Tahira Dosani’s last day as managing director of Accion Venture Lab (see, “Agent of Impact: Tahira Dosani”)CarbonTracker is hiring a head of investor outreach for Europe… Partners Group seeks an impact investment fellow in New York… Elemental Excelerator is recruiting a head of strategic partnerships and other roles in Hawaii or California… MUFG Investor Services launches an ESG reporting solution. 

Applications are open for Kroger Co. and Village Capital’s investment readiness program for U.S.-based startups working to prevent, recover and recycle food waste… The African American Policy Forum kicks off the “Her Dream Deferred Mini Film Fest” with a screening of Coded Bias, directed by Shalini Kantayya, today, Mar. 31. The festival will feature Oscar-nominated short A Love Song for Latasha, directed by Sophia Nahli Allison on Thursday, Apr. 1, and Still I Rise, directed by Sheri Shuster, will screen Friday, Apr. 2.

Thank you for your impact.

– Mar. 31, 2021