The Brief | April 13, 2021

The Brief: Next-gen talent, eating worms, decarbonization partners, electric motorcycles in Africa, systems-level investing

The team at


Greetings, Agents of Impact! 

Featured: ImpactAlpha Original

Next-gen talent is the winner at MIINT competition and Sustainable Investing Challenge. Sustainable investing assets have boomed amid COVID-19, the climate emergency and a racial reckoning. Now comes the rush for sustainable investing talent. The final rounds of two showcases for such talent, the Kellogg-Morgan Stanley Sustainable Investing Challenge and the Turner MIINT competition, featured dozens of graduate policy, engineering and business students pitching financial vehicles and social ventures targeting mounting impact and sustainability crises. The students are “impatient for and insistent on change and rapid progress for the benefit of people and the planet,” said Kellogg School of Management’s Megan Kashner.

The BeeBank & Brokerage, which would pool loans and contract assurance to help beekeepers scale operations and conserve biodiversity, secured first prize at the Sustainable Investing Challenge for Oxford graduate students Noah Law, Dawn Musil, Emilé Radyté and Annabella Wainer. The winning pitch for the Turner MIINT competition (for MBA Impact Investing Network and Training), now in its tenth year, came from a team of business students from the Anderson School of Management at UCLA. For their successful pitch, Christy Tsui, Emily Dinino, Katie Quilligan, Lucy Maybank and Morgan Owens scored a $50,000 investment for Denver-based InScribe, which uses artificial intelligence to connect students with each other and with experts. Related: Student-managed investment funds are tilting toward impact as well. Nearly $70 million, or 10% of assets in 40 student-managed investment funds, have a clear sustainable investing strategy, according to Intentional Endowments Network

Keep reading, “Next-gen talent is the winner at MIINT competition and Sustainable Investing Challenge,” by Dennis Price on ImpactAlpha.

  • Bring ImpactAlpha to your school or alma mater. ImpactAlpha partners with the MIINT and Sustainable Investing Challenge to provide subscriptions to student teams. And more than two dozen policy and business schools, colleges and universities use ImpactAlpha in their curricula and programs to up-skill the next generation of talent. Email [email protected] to bring your school on board.

Dealflow: Follow the Money

Ÿnsect acquires Protifarm to produce mealworms for human consumption. The French agtech company, which has raised insects for animal feed and fertilizer since 2011, is expanding its production of human food made from mealworms. Ÿnsect is acquiring Protifarm, whose vertical farm and processing facility in The Netherlands produces roughly 1,000 metric tons of sustainable, edible ingredients made from mealworms annually. The European Food Safety Authority in January declared mealworms safe for human consumption. Protifarm’s Buffalo mealworms have “mild flavor, allowing consumers to focus solely on taste and enjoyment,” Ÿnsect said in a statement. Ÿnsect’s own Molitor mealworm is optimized for sports performance and food supplements.

  • Full production. Ÿnsect aims to scale Protifarm’s production to 20,000 tons per year. Combined with Ÿnsect’s two operational production sites, and another currently under construction, the company is looking to produce more than 230,000 metric tons of insect-based ingredients for humans, plants and animals annually (see, “Ÿnsect raises $372 million for carbon negative, vertical insect farming”). Last month, Ÿnsect announced it had achieved certification as a B Corp, “the first in the insect industry.”
  • Dig in.

Singapore’s Temasek and BlackRock team up as Decarbonization Partners. A venture capital firm launched by the two powerhouse asset managers will launch a series of funds to invest in emerging fuel sources, grid solutions, battery storage, electric and autonomous vehicles, buildings and manufacturing and other low-carbon solutions. Decarbonization Partners’ first fund, seeded with $300 million, is targeting a $1 billion raise. “This partnership will help define climate solutions as a standalone asset class that is both essential to our collective mission and a historic investment opportunity created by the net-zero transition,” BlackRock’s Larry Fink said. Decarbonization Partners could eventually manage more than $5 billion, Fink told Bloomberg.

Ecosystem Integrity Fund invests $3.5 million in Rwanda’s Ampersand to electrify motorbikes. Kigali-based Ampersand launched in 2019 to build and finance electric motorcycles that it says are cheaper, cleaner, and perform better than fossil fuel-powered motorcycles. The financing from Ecosystem Integrity Fund, which will help Ampersand expand its fleet of electric motorbikes and its electric battery swapping stations, is one of the largest VC investments to date in e-mobility in Africa, according to Ampersand. “We now have the momentum to scale our operations to electrify all of East Africa’s five million taxi motorcycles by 2030” said Ampersand’s Josh Whale.

  • Boda boda. Motorcycle taxis are one of the main modes of transportation in East Africa, where they are commonly known as boda bodas. In Uganda and Kenya, Tugende finances drivers’ purchases of their own motorcycle taxis. Also in Uganda, SafeBoda improving road safety for passengers and drivers.
  • Onward

Dealflow overflow. Other investment news crossing our desks:

  • Uber, PayPal and Walgreens are launching an $11 million vaccination access fund with the Local Initiatives Support Corp. to help get people in under-resourced communities to COVID vaccination sites.
  • Lithium-ion battery recycling and manufacturing company Battery Resources scores $20 million in Series B equity funding to process old batteries.
  • U.K.-based AgDevCo is investing $3 million in Uzima Chicken Limited to provide smallholder farmers in Rwanda and Uganda with baby chicks.
  • TDK Ventures closes a $150 million fund to back 50 early-stage, global startups in cleantech, healthtech and other tech sectors.

Impact Voices: Pass the Mic

21st Century Investing: Moving from tic-tac-toe to the three-dimensional chess of systems-level change. About five years ago, Bill Burckart was tapped to give an association of financial services providers a way to measure their tangible impact. He asked his colleague, Steve Lydenberg, to review his draft. “What you’re talking about is basically version 2.0 of sustainable investing,” Lydenberg told him. “What I’m working on now is integrating systems thinking.” Five years later, Burckart and Lydenberg, co-founders of The Investment Integration Project, are out with 21st Century Investing: Redirecting Financial Strategies to Drive Systems Change, which shows how a diverse set of investors have taken practical steps to incorporate global systems challenges into their daily investing (Burckart was a guest on the Agents of Impact call, “Rooting out racism as a systemic risk”).

“When we say systems, we are talking about those large social, financial, and environmental foundations of society necessary for any successful investment,” Burckart writes in a guest post on ImpactAlpha. Among the examples highlighted in the book: The KL Felicitas Foundation has “bet the farm” on impact investing and made it its mission to steer the global financial system toward positive social and environmental impact. Prudential Global Investment Management is using conventional tools in unconventional ways to address poverty alleviation, affordable housing, youth job training and income inequality. Private foundations like Heron Foundation are working across asset classes; fixed-income investments like muni and housing bonds, for example, are well-suited to public goods. NZ Super, a sovereign wealth pension fund in New Zealand, is using a range of tools to address a single system-level challenge: climate change. The big idea: “Not just a few investors but the whole financial community needs to move beyond a portfolio focus to a focus on entire systems,” Burckart writes. 

Read “Moving from tic-tac-toe to the three-dimensional chess of systems-level change,” by Bill Burckart on ImpactAlpha.

  • Book party. Join the launch event for 21st Century Investing and another new book, Moving Beyond Modern Portfolio Theory: Investing That Matters by Jon Lukomnik and Jim Hawley. Special guests include Prudential’s Lisa Davis, SEIU’s Renaye Manley and Graystone Consulting’s Kelly Major Green. Jump on today at 10am PT / 1pm ET / 6pm London. Register.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Ingrid Holmes, ex- of Federated Hermes, is the new executive director of the UK’s Green Finance Institute… Tim Short, Benoit Allehaut and Benjamin Droz, ex- of Capital Dynamics, join KKR’s Global Infrastructure team to source energy transition investments in North America… Amee Parbhoo is promoted to managing director at Accion Venture Lab… Verizon and Alley are launching an accelerator for climate-resilience startups… The Opportunity Finance Network seeks a chief strategy and operations officer in Washington, D.C.

Climate for Capital has openings for a head of research integration and a head of climate funds research and evaluation… Finance in Motion is recruiting a senior officer of impact and sustainability in Frankfurt… Impact Entrepreneur is hosting “How Racial Equity Finance is Reversing Gentrification and Displacement” featuring Bree Jones of Parity, Lyneir Richardson of the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, and SOCAP cofounder Kevin Jones

Thank you for your impact.

– April 13, 2021