The Brief | September 28, 2021

The Brief: Impact media boomlet, AI-enabled infrastructure, solar EVs, agri-processing in Nigeria, inclusive economic growth

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Greetings, Agents of Impact! 

Hop on today’s Call: Optimizing for impact. Hundreds of Agents of Impact have signed up for today’s hands-on impact management workshop, “Impact measurement and management for the SDGs,” led by Duke University’s Cathy Clark, with assistance from Beth Bafford of Calvert Impact Capital and Courageous Capital’s Laurie Spengler. Join Agents of Impact Call No. 31, today at 10am PT / 1pm ET / 6pm London. Zoom right in.

Featured: Impact Media

Media boomlet in climate and impact investing follows the money. Media outlets cite the flow of capital to ESG and climate funds as evidence of the arrival of impact investing. There’s another signal looking right back at them in the mirror. A spate of new climate, impact and ESG outlets, newsletters, websites and podcasts is itself a proxy for the mainstreaming of sustainable finance. The proliferation of media outlets reflects growing customer demand, increasing assets under management, rising employee headcount – and newly generous marketing budgets among financial institutions angling for position. In a year when live events have been disrupted by the pandemic, a survey of 500 investors in Pitchbook’s annual sustainable investment survey found for the first time that more people rely on investment industry publications, newsletters and podcasts (including ImpactAlpha) than on webinars or conferences. “The business of sustainable investing is beginning to take center stage as media cater to a growing professional class,” says Ben Thornley of the impact investing consultancy Tideline.

The new entrants range from the well-heeled, like Cipher, the climate news site backed by Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy launching this week, which reflects the trend of newsmakers publishing their own news… to the scrappy, like Impact Entrepreneur, an online magazine headed by Laurie Lane Zucker, which also launched this week. Canary Media, backed by the nonprofit RMI, launched in April, and a host of long-time climate reporters are setting out on their own, including, on Substack alone, founder’s Bill McKibben (The Crucial Years), former MarketWatch editor-in-chief David Calloway (Calloway Climate Insights), former VOX climate writer David Roberts (Volts), and ex- The New Republic reporter Emily Atkin (Heated). The big story is that the mainstream financial institutions are not only talking but starting to organize around impact, climate and sustainable investing, says Antony Bugg-Levine, the former CEO of Nonprofit Finance Fund. “The media and those people who organize ideas will follow.”

Keep reading, “Media boomlet in climate and impact investing follows the money,” by Amy Cortese and David Bank.

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Dealflow: Smart Climate Infrastructure

Blue Bear closes $150 million fund for AI-enabled climate infrastructure. The Houston-based fund received commitments from Goldman Sachs’ AIMS Imprint, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, ZOMA Capital, McKnight Foundation, and more than a dozen private equity investors and energy companies. Applying AI to the energy transition “is where Blue Bear sees the greatest investment and impact opportunity of our lifetimes,” said Blue Bear’s Ernst Sack. The fund will focus on clean energy and the electric grid, electric vehicle infrastructure, and transportation, and it will screen companies for the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

Lightyear raises $110 million for solar-powered electric vehicles. Electric vehicle makers are looking for an edge. Lightyear is counting on a built-in solar panel on the roof. Lightyear One can go 43.5 miles per hour daily using the sun’s power for months, according to the company. The starting price: $170,000. The investment round was backed by Dutch insurer Cooperation DELA and art collector Joop van Caldenborgh. Lightyear plans to bring the model to mass production in 2024.

  • Green mobility. Polestar, backed by Volvo and actor Leonardo DiCaprio, will go public via a merger with Gores Guggenheim, a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC. The deal values the Swedish company, which is looking to build a 100% “climate-neutral” car by 2030, at $20 billion. Electric truck manufacturer Volta Trucks, also from Sweden, raised €37 million ($43.2 million) in Series B funding. Oakland-based Lilac Solutions scored $150 million in Series B financing to produce low-carbon lithium for car batteries.
  • Dig in

Alitheia backs Nigerian agri-processing venture ReelFruit. The Lagos-based company sources produce from local farmers for dried fruit snacks. ReelFruit’s $3 million Series A round will support a new factory, which will employ 200 people and produce 30 metric tons of dried fruit per month as the company gears up for exports to the U.S. ReelFruit is also launching farmer advisory services for its 250 mango and pineapple producers. Alitheia led the round to boost food production in Nigeria “through deliberate partnerships with local farmers, distributors, and retailers,” Alitheia’s Tokunboh Ishmael said. Samata Capital and Flying Doctor Healthcare Investment Company participated.

  • Nigerian agtech. Agrifood ventures still claim a small share of Africa’s venture capital funding. Among Nigeria’s successful agtech fundraises this year: Releaf’s $4.2 million raise for its palm nut processing equipment and VeggieVictory’s pre-seed raise for its vegan meat product line. Tomato processing venture Tomato Jos scored €3.9 million ($4.3 million) last year from impact investors Goodwell Investments, Alitheia, Acumen and VestedWorld.
  • Dig in.

Dealflow overflow. Other investment news crossing our desks:

  • Massachusetts-based Battery Resourcers raises $70 million to recycle and upcycle lithium-ion batteries and battery materials.
  • Mexico’s Atrato secures a $15 million line of credit to offer loans to retail and other small businesses.
  • Bayer’s venture capital arm leads soil-carbon mapping venture EarthOptic’s $10.3 million funding round.
  • U.K.-based Women in Safe Homes, a fund that invests in and refurbishes housing properties for women fleeing domestic violence, makes nine investments.

Signals: Policy Corner

U.S. lawmakers call on Biden to prioritize new rules for stakeholder capitalism. Dozens of investors and business groups led by The U.S. Impact Investing Alliance and B Lab have been pushing the Biden administration for new rules and incentives to reform American capitalism for the long term. A group of House and Senate members are joining the call. Senators Mark Warner (Va.), Chris Van Hollen (Md.), and Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), and Congressmen Dean Phillips (Minn.) and David Cicilline (R.I.), requested the creation of a White House Initiative on Inclusive Economic Growth to coordinate policy across the federal government to reshape the economy to work for all (for context, see “Capitalism reimagined for fair gainsharing and equitable prosperity”).

  • Lasting impact. The Senators say they support passing much of Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda through a budget reconciliation package. They want the administration to take executive action “to reform capitalism in such a way that short-term profits and shareholder primacy no longer take center stage.” Stakeholder capitalism and community investing are being embraced across industries, added the House members. “We believe the White House can tap into a growing movement and ensure we transform these ideas into lasting, impactful policy.”
  • Not The Onion. Separately, Florida Senator Marco Rubio introduced the Mind Your Own Business Act that would enable shareholders to hold accountable what the senator calls “woke” corporations. The legislation, according to Rubio’s website, “would require corporate directors to prove their ‘woke’ corporate actions were in their shareholders’ best interest in order to avoid liability for breach of fiduciary duty.”
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Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Oralia Alvarez, ex- of Founders First Capital Partners, joins Mission Driven Finance as director of business development… Closed Loop Partners is hiring an analyst / associate of private credit funds… Prime Impact Fund is looking for an investment operations associate / manager in Cambridge, Mass… Kapor Capital is hiring a principal in Oakland… Twilio seeks an impact fund manager at

Village Capital is recruiting an associate for its Abaca entrepreneur and investor services in Mexico City… Shift Conversations is hosting “How Can We Efficiently Mobilize Impact Capital for Climate Action and Climate Justice?” with Nicole Davis of Veris Wealth Partners, Alex Amouyel of MIT Solve, Christian Okoye of Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, Geoff Eisenberg of Ecosystem Integrity Fund, and Melissa Weigel of NatureVest, Thursday, Sept. 30.

Thank you for your impact.

– Sept. 28, 2021