The Brief | September 22, 2021

The Brief: Inclusive creator economy, streaming Audius, Bezos’ Earth funding, banking Egyptian workers, cellular meat, planet forward, China rethinks coal

The team at


Greetings, Agents of Impact! 

👏 Optimizing for impact. This is going to be big. Hundreds of Agents of Impact have signed up for a special hands-on workshop with Duke University’s Cathy Clark, based on her new course, Impact Measurement & Management for the SDGs.” Join The Call No. 31, Tuesday, Sept. 28 at 10am PT / 1pm ET / 6pm London. RSVP today.

Featured: Creative Economy

Expanding access and ownership in the creator economy. In the first half of 2021, private investors deployed more than $2 billion into Patreon, Mighty Networks, Stir and other U.S. companies in what might be called “the creator economy.” Last week, Canva raised $200 million – at a $40 billion valuation. The creator economy, “is a burgeoning new segment for all investors, art-lovers or not, who want to drive impact through quality jobs, community wealth-building, and diversity, equity and inclusion,” Ward Wolff of Upstart Co-Labs writes in a guest post. The boom is helping more creative people succeed, but is not yet living up to its promise – especially for women and creatives of color. Upstart sees opportunities in software and hardware tools, digital platforms that connect audiences with creators, monetizers to help artists cash in, and business management and fintech. Commercial investors already think the creator economy is a great financial bet, argues Wolff. “There is an opportunity for more impact investors to play an important role in shaping the power and potential of these new platforms.” 

  • Make, manage and monetize. In the pipeline: Artiphon makes accessible and intuitive electronic instruments. Trading.TV is a Black-led social livestream app for traders. Somewhere Good is a social platform for people of color that fosters community around shared interests. Rally helps creators mint their own (sustainably generated) tokens to monetize their relationships with fans. Youth on Record is launching a social impact creative agency.
  • Creating deaflow. Nas, Pusha T and Katy Perry are among the big-name artists backing blockchain-based music streaming service Audius with $5 million. Audius launched in 2018 to put musicians and creators at the center of the music industry (for context, see “Artists are startups and creators CEOs as technology decentralizes the creative economy”). Artists who upload to the platform get a share of the company and 90% of the take when users play their music. Go deeper.
  • Keep reading, “Investment opportunities in expanding access and ownership in the creator economy” by Ward Wolff on ImpactAlpha.

Sponsored by Morgan Stanley

Innovations selected for Sustainable Solutions Collaborative. Learn how Morgan Stanley is helping to advance breakthrough innovations for global sustainability. Meet the cohort.

Dealflow: Follow the Money

Bezos Earth Fund commits $1 billion in grants to nature conservation. The fund will begin deploying the capital this year to conserve and expand high-carbon natural resources in Africa’s Congo Basin, South America’s tropical Andes, and Central America’s Pacific Ocean. The Bezos Earth Fund will focus on Indigenous and local communities, and countries that have commitments to nature conservation. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has committed $10 billion by 2030 to protect and restore nature as a way to combat climate change. The conservation commitments will be followed by investments in landscape restoration and food system transformation.

  • 30×30 commitment. The billion-dollar commitment from the Bezos Earth Fund aims to advance an international effort to address the global biodiversity crisis. The 30×30 global campaign, led by France, the U.K. and Costa Rica, has a goal to protect 30% of the earth’s land and oceans by 2030.
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Dopay raises $18 million to bank Egypt’s businesses and their workers. The London and Cairo-based fintech offers financial services to businesses and then signs up their employees and gig workers. Two thirds of Egypt’s 100 million people are unbanked; Dopay estimates that hundreds of millions of businesses in frontier and emerging markets pay workers in cash. The registered digital bank helps businesses sign-up workers for personal accounts and pay them though its digital payroll platform. Dopay’s Series A round was backed by Force Over Mass Capital, Dutch development bank FMO, NN Group, Mbuyu Capital and Alder Tree Investments.

  • Cashless payments. Dopay’s business customers include local shops, McDonald’s franchises and ride-sharing company SWVL. Enrolled workers get a Mastercard debit card and Dopay’s app for handling personal financial transactions.
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Citi Impact Fund adds seven new investments. The $200 million fund launched last year to invest in companies addressing workforce development, financial inclusion, sustainable energy and water use, and high-impact infrastructure. It has backed 23 companies, more than half of which are led by women and/or people of color. New investments include Daylight, a fintech for the LGBT+ community; Jetty, a rental-housing startup that simplifies the application process; Pathstream, a digital upskilling platform targeting working adults; and RTS Green, a waste collection and recycling company.

  • Racial equity. Google for Startups’ second $5 million Black Founders Fund awarded $100,000 in grant funding each to 50 Black founders. Nearly one-quarter of the recipients have graduated from historically black colleges and universities. Google launched its first Black Founders Fund last year as part of its $175 million initiative to promote economic opportunity for Black Americans (for context, see “Scaling the ‘capillary banking system’ to expand access to capital“).
  • Climate cohort. Urban-X, a partnership between Urban US and BMW-Mini, welcomed a cohort of startups working to reimagine cities via climate action. Companies in the 10th cohort include Climatebase, a networking platform connecting talent to high-impact climate jobs; Plentify, a smart energy company retrofitting home appliances; and LimeLoop, a reusable packaging logistics company.
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Dealflow overflow. Other investment news crossing our desks:

  • Eat Just’s cellular meat company, Good Meat, adds $97 million to the $170 million it raised in May. The company launched the first lab-grown meat in the consumer market.
  • Japan’s MPower Partners, a woman-led venture capital firm, backs climate-risk data and analytics venture Jupiter.
  • Bangalore-based BharatAgri secures $6.5 million from Omnivore, India Quotient and 021 Capital to offer digital agronomy services to India’s farmers.
  • Earthshot Ventures makes its first investment in Planet FWD, which helps consumer brand companies track the climate impact of their products (for context, see “Elemental Excelerator spins out Earthshot Ventures with $60 million for inclusive climate tech“).
  • Index Ventures backs Sourceful’s $12.2 million round to help businesses manage environmental impact in their supply chains.

Signals: Run-up to Glasgow

China pledges to end (foreign) coal financing. With less than six weeks until the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, global leaders are stirring to (modest) action. China’s Xi Jinping won the day with a pledge to stop financing foreign coal plants. China is by far the largest financier of coal around the world (see End Coal’s finance tracker), and has plans to build more than 56,000 megawatts of coal power from Brazil to Vietnam. South Korea and Japan, the second- and third-largest financiers of foreign coal plants, made similar pledges earlier this year. Not mentioned: China’s domestic coal expansion. China added the equivalent of one large coal plant per week in 2020 – more than was retired by the rest of the world.

  • Mixed message. Also at the U.N. General Assembly this week, U.S. President Joe Biden promised to double annual funding to help developing nations combat climate change, to $11.4 billion by 2024. Europe upped its contributions as well. Back in the U.S., coal-loving Senator Joe Manchin is in charge of writing climate policy in the Democrats’ spending bill. The New York Times Paul Krugman and others are making the case: “Coal Isn’t Your State’s Future.”
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Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Eric Clement, ex- of New York City Economic Development Corp., joins RXR Realty to lead sustainability investments… Amir Kirkwood, ex- of Opportunity Finance Network, is named president and CEO of Virginia Community Capital, succeeding Jane Henderson, who plans to retire… Project Drawdown is looking for a (remote) climate finance senior research fellow… Blue Earth Capital seeks a head of funds and co-investments in London… The Bezos Earth Fund (see above) is hiring for a number of positions… Kiva is looking for a (remote) director of communications… Health Finance Institute and Sandclock are hosting “Blockchain and the Democratization of Philanthropic Giving,” today, at 4pm ET.

Thank you for your impact.

– Sept. 22, 2021