The Brief | March 1, 2022

The Brief: Europe’s green shock, climate breakthroughs and climate resilience, agtech in India, digitizing solar energy, hydrogen sensors

The team at


Greetings, Agents of Impact!

Call No. 39: Operationalizing impact and ESG inside the enterprise. Cathy Clark of Duke’s Fuqua School of Business returns to The Call for a session on operationalizing ESG and impact inside corporations. Want to protect your enterprise from accusations of greenwashing? Interested in managing for impact without burdening your team? Looking to substantiate your public pledges and commitments? Clark will walk through a four-step process with Brendan Morrissey of Walmart, which is undertaking Project Gigaton to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the retail giant’s supply chain.

  • Join The Call, Tuesday, March 8, at 10am PT / 1pm ET / 6pm London. RSVP today.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine delivers a dose of green shock therapy. The invasion of Ukraine may have sparked what years of convenings, pledges, and “blah blah blah” (in the words of Greta Thunberg) have failed to achieve: a full-throttle green energy mobilization. “Russia may inadvertently trigger a faster energy transition,” Simon Flowers of the consultancy Wood Mackenzie wrote even ahead of Russia’s invasion. Heat pumps, for example, have jumped from near-obscurity to symbols of solidarity against Russian aggression. The energy-efficient appliances can both heat and cool homes and offices without burning fossil fuels.

  • Patriotic pumps. The appliances are having a moment as Europeans look for ways to wean themselves off Russian gas for home heating before next winter. “How many heat pumps could we make and send to Europe in the next six months,” tweeted Jigar Shah, the renewable energy champion who runs the U.S. Energy Department’s loan office. In a post headlined “Heat Pumps for Peace and Freedom,” climate activist Bill McKibben called on President Biden to invoke the Defense Production Act to spur American manufacturers to export heat pumps to Europe, “where they can be installed in time to dramatically lessen Putin’s power.”
  • Migration equation. The Ukraine crisis may similarly reframe views of global migration. The scenes of a half-million or more refugees entering Poland, Moldova and other countries played out just as the new report from the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change forecast that millions of people will be displaced by the accelerating pace of climate change. Instead of refugees going to relatively stable neighboring countries like Poland and Moldova, picture 10 or 100 times as many refugees pouring into countries that themselves have been knocked off-kilter by climate change. “Human induced climate change and the war on Ukraine have the same roots,” Svitlana Krakovska, head of the Ukrainian delegation to the IPPC, told the assembled scientists. “Fossil fuels, and our dependence on them.” More than 13 million people were displaced by extreme weather in 2019, according to the IPCC.
  • New world order. The disruption of the international order sparked by the invasion of Ukraine may come to be seen as part of a broader disruption in energy, transportation and food, as cleaner, cheaper and just plain better alternatives take off. “We’re seeing the collapse of the old and breakthrough of the new,” RethinkX’s Tony Seba tells ImpactAlpha. Extractive industries are correlated with authoritarian regimes, he says. Conversely, the new era of abundant, zero-cost clean energy, transport and food could lead to emissions reductions, local self-reliance and… peace. Technology disruptions have major implications “for both the collapse of the existing leading societies and the embrace of new societies,” Seba says. “We’re at that point in history.”
  • Keep reading, “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine delivers a dose of green shock therapy,” by Amy Cortese and David Bank on ImpactAlpha. 

Dealflow: Climate Tech

Aera VC raises $30 million – and launches a DAO – for climate breakthroughs. Derek Handley, who left Richard Branson’s nonprofit The B Team to launch Aera in 2016, has “sharpened the strategy and dropped almost everything that wasn’t climate-focused,” Handley told ImpactAlpha (for context, see “Q&A with Derek Handley: From B Team to Aera VC“). In scope: alt-proteins, carbon capture, industrial decarbonization, and data and analytics. Aera raised $30 million, mostly from family offices. Outside of Web3, “climate is probably the hottest place to build a company,” Handley says. In the spirit of Web3, Aera has stood up an investment DAO, or distributed autonomous organization, to facilitate crowdfunding and decision-making.

  • Follow-on capital. Aera’s first investment in 2017 was in Solugen, the Houston-based producer of decarbonized chemicals now valued at $1.8 billion. Other investments include Shiok Meats (Singapore), Carbon Chain (London), Noya and Twelve (San Francisco) and Fable Food (Australia). Handley says Aera portfolio companies have gone on to raise at least $1 billion in additional capital.
  • Crypto and carbon. Aera’s DAO, called Aera Force, can raise up to $6 million from accredited investors (via the crypto currency Ether) to provide early funding to blockchain projects targeting climate and carbon-related challenges.
  • Share this post.

Catalyst Fund backs fintech startups to boost resilience in climate-vulnerable communities. The new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes clear that nature-dependent and low-income communities are being hit disproportionately hard. “Existing tools designed to help them understand and prepare for climate risks, and to bounce back from climate shocks, aren’t reaching them due to cost and access barriers,” Catalyst Fund’s Maelis Carraro told ImpactAlpha. The half-dozen startups from Latin America and Africa in the tenth cohort of Catalyst’s fintech accelerator are designing financial services with a climate-resilience lens.

  • Inclusion lens. Mexico’s Koltin is offering digital health insurance and preventative care to a growing senior population. Argentina and Mexico-based Mujer Financiera is helping underserved women improve their financial health and literacy. Kenya’s Tulix has designed a digital payments wallet for African migrants and the beneficiaries of their remittance payments.
  • Climate fintech. Catalyst Fund’s recent investment brief identifies opportunities for early-stage and catalytic investors to climate-related fintech, including agtech startups, Carraro says, “can embed financial services to smooth the incomes of smallholder farmers and increase their resilience to shocks.” Kenya and Nigeria-based TopUp Mama provides inventory credit to small restaurant owners. Kenya’s AquaRech is helping fish farmers monitor their fish stock, source feed and access markets and credit. In Nigeria, ColdHubs is providing solar-powered cold-storage on an affordable, pay-as-you-go basis.
  • Share this post.

Ankur Capital backs Krishify’s farmer network and Offgrid Energy Labs’ green batteries. The Mumbai-based impact tech fund invested in Krishify, which puts a business-to-business spin on social networks, connecting India’s smallholder farmers, agribusinesses, traders and retailers. Ankur backed the agtech venture’s $6.2 million round alongside Omnivore, Omidyar Network India and Orios Venture Partners.

  • Green batteries. Ankur also invested in Offgrid Energy Labs, which is developing rechargeable zinc-based batteries for electric vehicles and minigrids. “It’s a low cost, commonly available, and eco-friendly material that can meet the technical requirements for various applications,” Ankur’s team said of the technology. “Even better, production can happen on the back of existing battery manufacturing infrastructure.” Shell and APVC also backed the company. Ankur invested in both deals from its $45 million second fund.
  • Check it out

Dealflow overflow. Other investment news crossing our desks:

  • Two Sigma Impact’s portfolio company Circle of Care acquires Empower Behavioral Health, a provider of therapy treatment for children diagnosed with autism.
  • Aurora Solar rakes in $200 million in Series D financing from ICONIQ, Fifth Wall and Emerson Collective to digitize solar energy.
  • H2scan raises $70 million to make hydrogen sensors for electric utility and industrial partners, including Shell and ExxonMobil.
  • Germany’s Resourcify secures €5 million ($5.6 million) in a round led by Ananda Impact Ventures to help businesses track and manage waste.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Founding partners of Mondiale Impact, launching today, include Rosemary Addis, Dolika Banda, Mario Calderini, Karim Harji, Rajiv Lall and Laurie Spengler, who “will act as thought partners and coaches, working directly alongside leaders to guide, challenge and support them in delivering on commitments to positive impact,” Addis says.

Olivia Wassenaar, Apollo’s head of sustainable investing, will lead the firm’s new sustainable investing platform… Sanjiv Sanghavi, ex- of ClassPass, joins Day One Ventures as a partner focused on climate tech… Nathalie Molina Niño of Known Holdings and Elizabeth Ross-Ronchi of American Express join Accion Opportunity Fund’s board of directors… Swally’s Nesha Mutuku joins the Lupoff / Stevens family office as an entrepreneur-in-residence.

Mercy Corps is looking for a crypto and climate pilot lead… Pacific Community Ventures is hiring a senior credit analyst and other roles in Oakland… Salesforce seeks an analyst on its Salesforce Ventures Impact Fund… Arthur Wood of Total Impact Capital will present “It’s Time for a New Finance Paradigm in Development,” in conversation with TBLI’s Robert Rubinstein, Thursday, Mar. 3 (read Wood’s “Memo to the Impact Task Force” on ImpactAlpha)

Climate and Culture will host “Increasing Black and Brown investors in climate tech,” with partners including LACI, ChargerHelp and Include Ventures in Los Angeles, Saturday, Apr. 23… Change Labs’ Kinship Lending program is accepting applications from small businesses in Indian Country… Whole Foods Market launches an accelerator for local and emerging producers.

Thank you for your impact.

– Mar. 1, 2022