| October 17, 2023

The Brief: ImpactAlpha’s mission-aligned investors, Elemental’s first of a kind climate solutions, community finance guarantees, hydrogen hubs, creativity of local fund managers


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Greetings, Agents of Impact! 

Featured: A Special Note for ImpactAlpha Subscribers

Dancing with the ones who brought us. When we launched ImpactAlpha back in 2014, we set out to cover impact investing like a serious beat with the expectation that it would become one. It has. When we started charging for our popular daily Brief in 2018, we worried about whether we could cross the chasm to build a growing business based on recurring subscriptions. We did. Now we are setting out to enhance ImpactAlpha’s editorial leadership with specialty data products and services to make impact investing easier and more accessible for investors, advisors and entrepreneurs. We will. After reporting on thousands of impact investments, today we are announcing a Dealflow item of our own: Mission-aligned investors, led by the Ford Foundation and including Sorenson Impact Foundation, Common Future and media executive Aaron Kissel, have staked ImpactAlpha to $3.3 million in equity capital to finance our next stage of growth and help you amplify your impact. 

  • Media and data. You may have already seen some of the early fruits of this effort, such as The Liist, our new searchable database of impact funds and managers in the market raising capital. And our new Career Hub, with searchable listings of impact job opportunities and a helpful guide to impact investing careers. Coming soon, we’ll have upgrades to our ImpactSpace database of funds, ventures, deals and people. An expanded Climate Finance Tracker to identify climate funding gaps and opportunities to fill them. And a redesigned ImpactAlpha.com, to make our deep archive of posts, podcasts and profiles more accessible and, yes, our sign-in process more user-friendly. As always, drop us a line about what you’d like to see.
  • Gratitude. We often say Agents of Impact are our audience and our beat – and our stakeholders. We hope you’ll join us in welcoming the wider world of business to impact investing and sustainable finance (including by pointing your friends and colleagues to our attractive introductory offer). We also hope you’ll take pride and satisfaction in being early adopters and among the original Agents of Impact. We’ve certainly been proud of you, as your business models, investment strategies, financial products and management practices come to define the future of business and finance. So, keep it coming. Together, we are building a shared identity around integrity, inclusion, ambition and, we daresay, optimism. That shared identity will be even more important as we together find and finance solutions to the daunting challenges in front of all of us. It’s go time for Agents of Impact – and for ImpactAlpha right there with you.
  • Keep reading, “Dancing with the ones who brought us: A special note for Agents of Impact,” by David Bank on ImpactAlpha. 

Dealflow: Climate + Community

Elemental Excelerator backs 15 climate tech startups. The Hawaii-based climate tech investor is known for spotting talent working on community-centric solutions: BlocPower, ChargerHelp and DollarRide are among its alumni. For its 12th cohort, Elemental committed a total of $12.5 million to 15 companies working on carbon removal, sustainable ingredients and resources, and climate-resilient buildings and cities. New York-based C16 Biosciences makes a sustainable replacement for palm oil, a $61 billion market responsible for widespread deforestation. Olokun Minerals, a Black female-led startup in Los Angeles, is developing a way to extract minerals such as lithium from brine waste from desalination, e-waste recycling, and even oil and gas fracking. SparkCharge, in Boston, offers battery-powered mobile EV charging for commercial vehicles. “These are the innovators who are creating the huge companies of the future – ones that invest in workers, reduce pollution, restore our soils, and lower the costs of food and energy,” said Elemental’s Dawn Lippert.  

  • First of a kind. In its “project” track, Elemental provides $1 million to help startups deploy new or first-of-a-kind products, develop business models, or enter markets. Twelve members of the cohort, including C16 and carbon removal companies Capture 6 and Ebb Carbon, are deploying novel solutions. The latest funding brings Elemental’s investments to a total of $79 million across 150 companies.
  • Workforce development. Elemental seeks startups with positive impact on frontline communities, including by hiring and training locally. Black-led SparkCharge seeks talent in communities where it operates, with a focus on underrepresented groups. Gradient, a maker of window heat pumps, taps into green workforce development programs, including BlocPower’s Civilian Climate Corps in New York. Bedrock, which last week raised $8.5 million from Wireframe Ventures for its geothermal heating and cooling technology, is looking to transition oil and gas workers to green jobs (for background see, “Geothermal heat pumps”).
  • More

Dealflow overflow. This week we’ve seen a number of catalytic grants cross the news desk:

  • Mackenzie Scott donated $12 million to Locus Impact Investment’s Community Investment Guarantee Pool. The pool catalyzes finance for affordable housing, small businesses and climate resilience by providing financial guarantees for community finance intermediaries. Scott joined the Kresge, Annie E. Casey, Robert Wood Johnson and numerous other foundations and philanthropies backing the pool. (Locus)
  • The Tipping Point Fund awarded $950,000 to five organizations, including Opportunity Finance Network, Pacific Community Ventures and the Center for American Progress, that are pushing public policies for better corporate disclosure and community investing. (Tipping Point Fund)
  • The US Department of Energy selected proposals from seven regional hydrogen hubs to share $7 billion to jumpstart domestic hydrogen production, storage and transportation. More than half of the hubs include fossil fuels, or “blue” hydrogen (see, “With incentives and investment, ‘green’ hydrogen gains momentum”). (DOE)
  • The Wells Fargo Foundation awarded $11 million in grants to 28 Native-led and -focused organizations to support affordable housing, small businesses, and sustainability in tribal communities. (Wells Fargo)

Impact Voices: Local Fund Managers 

Tapping the creativity of local fund managers to scale small business finance. Traditional financial institutions are reaching the limit of small business finance because of regulation, credit underwriting models, and collateral requirements. Local fund managers are the key to unlocking capital, writes Susan de Witt of the Collaborative for Frontier Finance in a guest post. CFF polled 60 local fund managers in Africa and the Middle East for its annual survey and found that more than 90% use non-traditional investment structures to support local businesses. Amam Ventures in Jordan, for example, uses self-liquidating instruments to provide patient, non-dilutive capital and flexible repayment options to female founders. Local capital providers are “nimbly, creatively and economically identifying the types of financing local businesses truly need, and proving both the financial and impact case for rethinking small business finance,” de Witt says.

  • Tapping local investors. The managers in CFF’s network have collectively raised $260 million of a $1.5 billion goal. Many are ramping up their engagement with local investors. Ghana-based Mirepa Investment Advisors raised half of its targeted $10 million fund from Ghanaian backers. Zimbabwe-based Vakayi Capital is finding that local investors share fund managers’ views on perceived and actual risk.
  • Unlocking development finance. Development finance institutions have contributed less than 5% of the network’s committed funds. “DFIs played a pivotal role in developing private equity and venture capital in emerging markets,” observes de Witt. “They have been largely absent in catalyzing private small business finance funds.” (See, “Risk-averse development finance institutions are more often catalyzed than catalytic.”) Data transparency, she says, “is critical to unlocking small business finance, because it teaches capital holders about the real risks, lessons and opportunities in the sector.”
  • Keep reading

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Don’t miss SOCAP23, Oct. 23-25 in San Francisco. Use the code s23_impactalpha to save $250. 

ImpactAlpha’s David Bank will moderate “American Democracy: A new investment imperative for impact investors,” Wednesday, Oct. 25 in San Francisco. 

Mark Manning will step down as the UK Financial Conduct Authority’s sustainable finance strategist at the end of the year… The Colorado Gives Foundation seeks a vice president of community impact… Enterprise Community Partners is hiring a Low-Income Housing Tax Credit investor relations analyst in Los Angeles… Melinda Gates’ Pivotal Ventures is looking for a director of equity and belonging in Seattle… UBS is on the hunt for a head of social impact and philanthropy programs in New York.

The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change seeks a director of climate and energy policy in the UK… Oikocredit is recruiting an innovation specialist in the Netherlands… Novo Nordisk seeks a director of climate and nature in Denmark… Research Triangle Institute in Durham, NC is looking for short- and long-term technical climate experts to work on USAID funded programs… NYU adjunct assistant professor Steven Godeke is hosting a one-day ESG and impact investing bootcamp on Friday, Nov. 17.

👉 View (or post) impact investing jobs on ImpactAlpha’s new Career Hub.

Thank you for your impact!

– Oct. 17, 2023