The Brief | November 6, 2023

The Brief: New wave of oceans investing, Pomona’s persistence, diabetes care in Egypt and India, Brookfield’s debt for renewable energy, job quality in India

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Greetings, Agents of Impact! Don’t miss these upcoming ImpactAlpha calls:

⚡ Plugged In: Local climate innovation. Join host Sherrell Dorsey in conversation with VertueLab’s Aina Abiodun live on LinkedIn, Wednesday, Nov. 8 at 10am PT / 1pm ET / 6pm London. RSVP today.

📞 Agents of Impact Call: Women as agents of change for climate resilience. Join Camilla Nestor of MCE Social Capital, Shally Shankar of AiiM Partners, Noramay Cadena of Supply Change Capital, and Samantha Anderson and Rose Maizner of Heading for Change, Wednesday, Nov. 15 at 10am PT / 1pm ET / 6pm London. RSVP today.

Featured: Sustainable Seas

Ocean-based startups ride a wave of funds seeking opportunities in the blue economy. Less than a decade ago, the number of ocean-focused impact funds could be counted on one hand. Now, a wave of private funds are emerging to supercharge the underfunded “blue economy.” The number of ocean-focused funds has quadrupled since 2018 and capital invested in the sector has more than quintupled from $700 million in 2021 to close to $4 billion in 2023, according to Kate Danaher, who manages S2G Ventures’ $100 million ocean and seafood fund. “We’ve been blown away by the innovation and the excitement in the oceans investing ecosystem, along with the number of opportunities to back dedicated entrepreneurs,” Danaher tells ImpactAlpha. “We’ve seen numerous ocean-focused funds and accelerators launch and many institutional investors enter the space.”

  • Pipeline progress. Regenerative ocean solutions have the potential to preserve and improve ocean health while driving economic growth for vulnerable coastal communities. The Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, with Monaco Asset Management, is seeking to raise €100 million ($108 million) for solutions to ocean plastic pollution, food production, green shipping and ocean data, restoration and protection. The partners have mapped out 700 ocean-focused companies, of which 100 align with the fund’s verticals and have €10 million or more in revenues. Such a fund would have been a non-starter just four or five years ago, said Olivier Wenden of the Monaco Foundation last week at a New York convening hosted by Capricorn Investment Group. “Things have completely changed.”
  • Ecopreneurs. S2G Ventures, which closed its $100 million oceans and seafood fund in 2020, is part of Builders Vision, Walmart heir Lukas Walton’s family office and impact group. Its portfolio includes Canada’s ReelData, which uses sensors and AI technology to help farmers manage land-based aquafarms. Israeli biotech venture ViAqua Therapeutics is developing a feed supplement to improve resistance against diseases for aquaculture. Sustainable Ocean Alliance’s new “ecopreneurs” cohort includes Photon Marine, in Portland, Ore., which is developing electric outboard motors to replace gas-powered motors in commercial boats. San Francisco-based Reefgen makes robots for planting coral and seagrasses to restore coastal ecosystems.

Sponsored by BlueMark

Impact management for asset allocators. Pension funds, family offices and other asset allocators face common blind spots when entering the world of impact investing. Among them: Measuring and managing impact throughout an investment’s life cycle. To help orient new asset allocators, BlueMark and CASE at Duke University have teamed up to produce “A field guide: Impact due diligence and management for asset allocators.” To accompany the report, BlueMark and CASE are hosting a discussion with leading asset allocators and asset managers.

  • Join the conversation. Join Luyen Tran of International Finance Corp., Leslie Kapin of Astanor Ventures, Emily Schiller of Jordan Park, and Kenza Himmi of the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund, in conversation with CASE’s Cathy Clark and BlueMark’s Sarah Gelfand, Wednesday, Nov. 8. RSVP today.

Dealflow: LatAm Impact

Pomona scores backing from the DFC and IFC for small businesses in Latin America. The Guatemala-based impact fund manager has made 28 investments since 2011 to support small businesses in Central America. It stretched a $2 million pilot fund across 20 deals. The firm is targeting more than $30 million for its second fund and expanding into Colombia and Ecuador, with a greater emphasis on women. The US International Development Finance Corp. and International Finance Corp., both existing backers, each committed $7.5 million. The two development finance organizations have “proven crucial to reach our fundraising target in a challenging environment,” Pomona said. Capria and IDB Invest backed the fund’s $10 million first close in 2021.

  • Climate + gender. Early deals in Pomona’s second fund include Mexican neobank Vexi, which supports financial inclusion for the un- and underbanked, and Tunart, a Guatemalan fish processing company that works with more than 200 independent fishers. Pomona is increasing its focus on climate-related sectors like agriculture, renewable energy and water (see, “Pomona Impact’s ‘big push’ strategy for agriculture in Central America“). Part of the IFC’s investment in Pomona is tied to the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative, or We-Fi, a DFI-led initiative to help female entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
  • Critical infrastructure. Separately, the DFC announced a collaboration with IDB Invest, part of the Inter-American Development Bank, to finance critical infrastructure projects in Latin America and the Caribbean. The partners earlier supported Ecuador’s debt-for-nature swap to protect the Galapagos Islands. The DFC and IDB Invest say they have $3 billion in projects lined up.
  • Check it out

Women-led Amouneer raises $3.6 million for diabetes care in Egypt. In Africa and the Middle East, 40% of adults are obese and/or are diabetic or prediabetic. Egypt’s Amouneer offers digital tools for health clinics to connect diabetes and obesity patients with doctors and help them monitor their conditions. The company serves about 120,000 patients. Its seed round was led by Global Ventures, a women-led, Dubai-based venture capital firm. France’s Proparco and Digital Africa’s Bridge Fund also participated.

  • Investing in health. Separately, Bangalore-based raised $11 million in a round led by MassMutual Ventures to help patients with diabetes and pre-diabetes management. The two-year-old company, which offers continuous blood sugar-level monitoring, works with about 25,000 patients.
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Dealflow overflow. Other investment news crossing our desks:

  • Brookfield Asset Management bagged $6 billion for a third global infrastructure debt fund. The fund, more than double the size of its predecessor, will focus on renewable energy. (Real Assets)
  • India’s Fibmold raised $10 million in a round led by Omnivore and Accel to make plastic alternatives from bamboo, wheat straw, recycled paper and other natural fibers. (Omnivore)
  • Norrsken22 raised $205 million to make growth-stage investments in African startups at a time when fundraising is difficult across the continent (and globally). (TechCrunch)
  • Closed Loop Partners took a majority stake of Sage Sustainable Electronics, which helps businesses recover, reuse or safely dispose of IT assets. (Waste360)

Signals: Good Jobs

Investors want to know: Do investments in ‘good jobs’ meet the needs of jobholders? From automotive plants in the US to garment factories in Bangladesh, improving job quality is a key to bringing millions of people around the world into the middle class. While some investors remain wary of the rising power of workers, others view dignified jobs as an indicator of long-term business success. “Decent jobs matter whether you’re in the Global North or Global South,” says Kate Cochran of Upaya Social Ventures, which earlier this year launched the Dignified Jobs Collaborative to shift capital towards businesses that create good jobs at scale. Now, Upaya and the half dozen investors in the collaborative are benchmarking the quality of jobs created by India-based companies in their portfolios. As investors, Cochran tells ImpactAlpha, “we need to take responsibility that the jobs we trumpet in our impact reports are decent jobs.”

  • Employee voices. For the study, Upaya turned to 60 Decibels, which has separately started a “Quality Jobs Index” to better understand company-level performance on issues like employee pay, wellbeing, skill development and worker rights. The impact measurement firm spoke to nearly 1,000 employees from companies operating in low-income regions in the portfolios of Upaya, as well as Acumen, Ankur Capital, Beyond Capital Fund, Elea Foundation, Yunus Social Business and S3IDF.
  • What they learned. The findings: Increased income among jobholders (reported by 64% of respondents) has not resulted in increased savings (say four of five respondents). While the majority of employees are happy with their work culture, only a third report having a good understanding of their rights at work. On the upside, nine of 10 jobholders found their work to be meaningful. “We believe in openly sharing what we’re learning so that we can all do a better job at fighting extreme poverty,” says Cochran. “We’re heartened by the answers but sometimes we find ways to improve.”
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Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Climate activists are mourning the death of Saleemul Huq, a Bangladeshi scientist and writer who helped persuade wealthy nations to back a “loss and damages” fund at COP27… Blue Earth Capital names Daniel Perroud, ex- of BlueOrchard Finance, managing director and head of fundraising and investor relations… Kelsey Weber, ex- of Common Justice, joins Ownership Works as a finance and operations associate.

Jasmine Browner, ex- of JBG Smith, joins Zeal Capital Partners as an executive assistant… New York Mayor Eric Adams appoints Sideya Sherman, ex- of New York City Housing Authority, as chief equity officer and commissioner of the newly-created Mayor’s Office of Equity and Racial Justice; and Linda Tigani, ex- of NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, as chair and executive director of the NYC Commission on Racial Equity. 

Participant Media names Baratunde Thurston of PBS and Chi-hui Yang of the Ford Foundation to its impact advisory council… PolicyLink is hiring a remote senior associate for corporate racial equity… Acumen seeks an associate for its health team in San Francisco… Impact Capital Managers is on the hunt for a finance and operations manager in New York… Summit Impact is accepting applications for its 2024 climate fellowship through Tuesday, Nov. 14. 

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

Thank you for your impact!

– Nov. 6, 2023