The Brief | June 7, 2022

The Brief: Follow the climate talent, blockchain identities in Zimbabwe, GenZero in Singapore, alt-credit data in Nigeria, One Percent for America

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Greetings, Agents of Impact!

Featured: Follow the Talent

In Silicon Valley, talent follows the capital – and the optimists – into climate tech. Where you stand on the incipient tech slowdown may depend on where you sit. Investors and executives in climate tech are seeing – and welcoming – an upswell of talent. “We’ve never seen talent migration like this,” tweets Collaborative Fund’s Craig Shapiro. “The quality of talent wanting to work in climate right now is insane,” says Apoorv Bhargava of San Francisco-based WeaveGrid. “Huge demand for designers at climate tech companies!” reports Justin Hardin of upstart climate job-discovery platform Climatebase. Indeed, the downturn in other tech sectors could free up even more talent for important work on climate solutions, suggests Fervo’s Tim Latimer. “Let’s hope we continue to see a wave of smart people interested in climate.”

Follow the talent… to the long-term trend, even as the market turmoil might be resetting valuations for some startups. “We should not be doubling down but tripling down on clean energy, alternative policies and technologies,” Silicon Valley venture icon John Doerr opined at a recent tech conference. President Biden accelerated the shift this week with a moratorium on tariffs on solar modules manufactured in Southeast Asia and the invocation of the Defense Production Act to accelerate domestic production. “I think it’s actually going to be a very positive environment,” Saleforce’s Marc Benioff said at Davos last month. Benioff, who founded Salesforce in the recession of 2001, estimates that entrepreneurs at a quarter of all startups in Silicon Valley are focused on climate and environmental solutions. “I expect a lot of these eco-preneurs will be born in this recession as well,” he said. Climate science talent is moving into finance, with heavy recruitment at Generation Investment Management, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Fifty Years and Lowercarbon Capital (see, “Is your fund serious about climate? Show me your scientists”). “Talent is the X-factor in limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” tweeted Daniel Padilla of the Rocky Mountain Institute. “Young people everywhere are trying to work in climate and that type of talent is undefeated.”

Dealflow: Crypto for Impact 

Zimbabwe’s FlexID Technologies secures early funding for blockchain-based digital IDs. Many people in Africa lack formal identity papers, particularly in remote areas, making it harder to get agricultural support, financial services, healthcare and education. FlexID says it is replacing paper-based credentials, which are “expensive to issue, manage and verify in emerging market countries where there is no trusted identity infrastructure.” The company registers and verifies individuals’ identities on the Algorand blockchain platform and lets individuals manage their online IDs via mobile phone. Algorand’s philanthropic arm invested an undisclosed amount in FlexID via a “simple agreement for equity,” or SAFE.

  • Access to healthcare. Last year, FlexID partnered with healthcare provider Ubuntu Clinics to pilot the use of digital identification for 50,000 patients. “The challenge for healthcare systems worldwide is ‘doing more for less,’” said FlexID’s Victor Mapunga.
  • Dive in

Temasek commits $3.6 billion to accelerate carbon markets and climate solutions. The $283 billion sovereign wealth fund in Singapore is standing up GenZero to deploy long-term and flexible capital for technology and nature-based solutions “that can deliver positive climate impact by 2030,” said Temasek’s Frederick Teo

  • Portfolio and partners. GenZero already has invested in U.S.-based Newlight’s methane-based biomaterials, and in energy-efficient cookstoves in partnership with C-Quest Capital. Last year, Temasek teamed up with BlackRock to launch Decarbonization Partners with $300 million toward a $1 billion goal. Temasek also is working with Brookfield Global Transition Fund, which raised $7 billion last year to reduce emissions and energy consumption (see, “TPG Rise and Brookfield raise the stakes for climate funds”).
  • Nature-based. Temasek said natural ecosystems can provide cost-effective climate mitigation for more than one-third of the emissions reductions needed by 2050. GenZero has invested in New Forests’ second Tropical Asia Forest Fund and in Perennial, formerly Crowd Agronomics, which quantifies soil carbon sequestration for farmers. Sunny George Verghese, co-founder of the Singapore-based food distributor Olam, chairs GenZero’s board.
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Nigeria’s Indicina raises $3 million to underwrite loans for credit bureaus and banks. The woman-led company uses alternative data to gauge the credit risks of un- and underbanked people and businesses in Nigeria and Kenya for credit bureaus, banks and digital lenders. It is also looking to provide consumer credit profiles that are similar to Credit Karma’s in the U.S., TechCrunch reports. Indicina’s seed round was backed by Berlin-based Target Global, Greycroft and RV Ventures. Early investors include Catalyst Fund. Check it out

Dealflow overflow. Other investment news crossing our desks:

  • Colombia and China-based Pandas raised $6.3 million to provide inventory, credit and other financial services to Latin America’s small shopkeepers.
  • Mexico-based fintech venture Konfio secured a $10 million loan from Citibanamex, the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation and the Ford Foundation to boost lending to women entrepreneurs.
  • San Francisco-based Untapped Global raised $10.3 million to provide asset-based financing for small businesses in Latin America and Africa.

Signals: Ahead of the Curve

How simple, low-cost loans can clear a barrier to citizenship. Those newly naturalized Americans in the stirring pictures of immigrants taking the Oath of Citizenship? Every one of them paid a fee. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services runs on user fees that can run from $400 to $1,200 for eligible immigrants. At least partly as a result, as many as 90% of the nine million eligible immigrants each year never apply for naturalization. Many that do take out high-interest loans or run up credit-card debt. A new flexible, unsecured, 1% loan to cover such fees, dubbed One Percent for America, represents a modest, simple and practical way to unclog the immigration pipeline and enhance livelihoods, says Elyse Cherry of BlueHub Capital, which has already made more than 70 loans through the portal.

  • Immigrant ethos. The One Percent campaign uses imagery of Lady Liberty’s torch to evoke Emma Lazarus and America’s immigrant ethos. The name intentionally inverts the now-common meaning of “the 1%.” “It really is an effort to move away from the divisiveness that has characterized the country and say, ‘This is a place where most of us agree,’” says Cherry, who has led BlueHub, formerly known as Boston Community Capital, since 1997. “Let’s just leave the rest of it aside and make this happen.”
  • Low costs. The nonprofit community development finance organization launched the loan program from its own balance sheet and is also enabling other lenders to participate, even with as little as $25. The small loans have to be as close to cost-free as possible. There’s no underwriting and no credit scoring. “We think that folks who are in the process of applying for citizenship are going to be particularly diligent about paying back,” Cherry tells ImpactAlpha.
  • Keep reading, “One Percent for America: How simple, low-cost loans can clear a barrier to citizenship,” by David Bank on ImpactAlpha.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Bernadette Clavier is stepping down as director of the Center for Social Innovation at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. The center is recruiting its next director… French President Emmanuel Macron and Michael Bloomberg, U.N. Special Envoy for Climate Ambition, form the Climate Data Steering Committee “to monitor business climate actions and commitments in the global fight against climate change.” 

Green bank Aspiration appoints Olivia Albrecht, ex- of TCW Group, as chief sustainability officer… R.L. Condra of National Cooperative Bank is elected to serve as vice-chair of the board of the Consumer Federation of America… Bukie Adebo Umeano, ex- of WomensVCFund, joins Anthemis to focus on early-stage fintech investments… 60 Decibels is recruiting a chief of staff.

Thank you for your impact!

– June 7, 2022