The Brief | July 12, 2023

The Brief: Inclusive real estate wealth, independent media in India, lower-carbon cement, Australia’s Indigenous entrepreneurs

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Greetings, Agents of Impact!

Featured: Ownership Economy

Paths to inclusive wealth run through residential and commercial real estate. A “new wealth agenda” aims to increase by 10-fold the wealth of US households of color and those in the bottom half of the county’s range of wealth distribution. The Aspen Institute’s eight-part agenda, released last month, starts with measures to help households establish positive monthly cash flows and reduce their burden of medical, student-loan and other debts. To actually build wealth and set their families up for future prosperity, however, households need access to assets that appreciate over time. “When you buy real estate, as long as it’s increasing in value and you’re paying down the debt on that property, you’re creating equity,” says Talib Graves-Manns of Partners In Equity in North Carolina, which helps primarily Black business owners buy the commercial properties in which they operate. “You can sell it and get a cash windfall or you can use it as leverage to acquire other properties. That’s one of the biggest benefits of being an owner in real estate.”

  • Shared equity. In Denver, the Dearfield Fund for Black Wealth has provided interest-free down payment assistance loans to enable more than 100 local Black families to purchase their first homes (listen to our podcast conversation with Dearfield’s Aisha Weeks). For business owners such as accountants and day-care center operators, Partners in Equity provides cash for down payments, as well as help securing bank financing and redeveloping the property. Over time, and with payments to the bank, “there will have been a natural increase in valuation of that property, leaving enough equity for the business owners to both refinance and pay out our fund,” says Partners in Equity’s Wilson Lester.
  • Community ownership. On the east side of Kansas City, Black women-led Local Code is partnering with commercial real estate investors and developers. For the first five to seven years of ownership, “we let the investors who have the resources own the risks,” says Local Code’s Aija Morris. “Once the assets have been stabilized, that’s when they get turned over to the community.” Trend Real Estate Fund allows residents in predominantly Black communities to co-invest in community shopping centers. In the firm’s five deals in Chicago and Baltimore, nearly 350 local residents have invested $2,000 on average to purchase the shopping centers. “That’s the grandmothers, millennials, church leaders and others in the community,” says Trend’s Lyneir Richardson.
  • Keep reading,Paths to inclusive wealth run through residential and commercial real estate,” by David Bank and Roodgally Senatus on ImpactAlpha. 

Sponsored by Tideline

State of the impact investment market. Join Tideline for a conversation with leading practitioners to consider impact investing market trends, opportunities and risks – and where we go from here – in the consultancy’s third annual “State of the impact investment market” webinar, Wednesday, July 19. Register here.

  • Impact lineup. Speakers in Tideline’s Compass Series include Megan Reilly Cayten of Climate Asset Management, Rodney Foxworth of Worthmore, Laura Houët of CMS, Anthos’s Dimple Sahni, Temasek’s Eddie Madzikanda, and Tideline’s Jane Bieneman.

Dealflow: Independent Media

Acumen invests in Gram Vaani to increase accountability in India’s ‘media dark’ communities. If “democracy dies in darkness,” as the Washington Post says, there’s cause for concern in India, the world’s largest democracy. The country’s press freedom ranking has dropped to 161 out of 180 countries, after media raids and takeovers by people close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Delhi-based Gram Vaani’s content platform helps poor and rural communities create “inclusive, safe, and responsible spaces that allow people to learn, reflect, express themselves and collectivize for positive change,” said Gram Vaani’s Vijay Sai Pratap. The company reaches three million people in eight local languages with information on healthcare, agriculture, worker rights, child development and governance (see, “Gram Vaani: Social networks for the global poor“). Acumen led the company’s latest investment round. Gram Vaani didn’t disclose the amount of financing.

  • Social media. Gram Vaani received early funding from the Media Development Investment Fund, which invests in independent media companies in places where few such institutions exist or where they’re at risk. The service allows people “to talk about what is happening in their lives and surface that information while ensuring the accountability of those in power,” said MDIF’s Harlan Mandel.
  • Workforce development. Acumen counts Gram Vaani as part of its workforce development portfolio. “We believe that the platform has the potential to empower the disenfranchised section of society to become ‘consumers’ rather than mere ‘beneficiaries,’” said Acumen India’s Mahesh Yagnaraman.
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CarbonCure scores $80 million to commercialize lower-carbon concrete. The race is on to decarbonize heavy industrial materials like concrete, cement and steel. With customers in more than 30 countries, CarbonCure says its method of reducing concrete’s carbon footprint has curbed about 320,000 tons of CO2. Blue Earth Capital led CarbonCure’s latest round. The Canada-based green concrete maker is also backed by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Amazon, Microsoft and others.

  • Small savings. CarbonCure says its methods cut carbon emissions by about 5%. The company injects CO2 into concrete, sequestering carbon and strengthening the final product. The process also reduces concrete’s overall carbon footprint by using less cement in the manufacturing process.
  • Green cement. Cement, the key ingredient in concrete, is responsible for more than 7% of global emissions (see, “New incentives spur building industry to take concrete steps to decarbonize cement“). Material Evolution raised $19 million for its low-temperature cement production. Sublime Systems snagged $40 million for “electrified” cement, which it claims is a zero-carbon product. Last year, Brimstone Energy took in $55 million for “carbon negative” cement that uses calcium silicate as an alternative to limestone.
  • Check it out

Dealflow overflow. Other news crossing our desks:

  • Oklo, a small-scale nuclear fission startup, will go public via a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, headed by entrepreneur Sam Altman. Altman, formerly with Y Combinator, heads OpenAI, the developer of ChatGPT. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • First Australians Capital raised half of a targeted $30 million fund to invest in Australia’s Indigenous entrepreneurs. (Startup Daily)
  • French health tech company Sonio secured $14 million for an AI-powered device that automates ultrasound reporting and neonatal monitoring. (TechEU)
  • Lagos and Berlin-based Propel scored €2.5 million ($2.7 million) from investors including APX, an accelerator run in partnership between Axel Springer Digital Ventures and Porsche Digital, to support remote hiring of African talent. (TechCrunch)

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

The McKnight Foundation’s Tonya Allen is named co-chair of The Presidents’ Council on Impact Investing, alongside Surdna Foundation’s Don ChenIsaiah Oliver, ex- of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, takes the helm of the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, succeeding Nina WatersRunway has remote openings for a development director and a director of people and culture… 60 Decibels joins the gender-smart consortium 2X Global… The International Sustainability Standards Board takes over monitoring of corporate climate-related disclosures from the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial DisclosuresPrinciples for Responsible Investment will host “PRI in person,” in Tokyo, Oct. 3-5.

Thank you for your impact.

– July 12, 2023