The Brief | April 29, 2020

The Brief: Popular mobilization for public health, alt-protein demand, EV charging ahead, financial PPE, 10x challenge podcast, amplifying impact

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Greetings, Agents of Impact!

Impact Step Up. See below for two takes on the COVID challenge for impact investing. Have a listen to ImpactAlpha’s latest podcast, A disruption big enough to drive private capital for public good – or not.” And give Encourage Capital’s Ricardo Bayon’s Enterprise PPE and financial vaccines for COVID’s economic pandemic a read. Then, bring your ideas, initiatives and inspiration to Agents of Impact Call No. 16, this Thursday, April 30, at 10am PT / 1pm PT / 6pm London. RSVP now.

Featured: ImpactAlpha Original

Crushing the coronavirus is good economics. Hoping it goes away is not. Social distancing is becoming social mobilization. As some U.S. states move to re-open their economies while lowering the risk of new COVID-19 outbreaks, they are taking lessons from China, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Other countries, including Germany and Australia, have suppressed the virus by going beyond social distancing to contact tracing, testing, isolation, and treatment at scale. “Hunkering down, waiting, and hoping for a miracle” is useless, says Jim Yong Kim, the former World Banker and co-founder of Partners in Health. In a five-point public health offensive against the coronavirus, published in the New Yorker, Kim argues the only way to restart the economy for real is with “a decisive investment in a public-health initiative big enough to meet the challenge.” The cost of hundreds of billions of dollars is small, he says, compared with the costs of America’s puzzlingly passive federal response.

Some states are going on the offensive. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker is hiring 1,000 people for an anti-pandemic blitz in partnership with Partners in Health (Kim is an advisor). The goal: reach and test everyone in the state and get anyone that may have the virus into isolation or treatment. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Michael Bloomberg aim to recruit and train hundreds of contact tracers, including SUNY and CUNY students. California Gov. Gavin Newsom is building a contact-tracing army of 10,000 librarians, attorneys, investigators and other non-medical volunteers, while expanding the state’s testing capacity to 60,000 to 80,000 tests per day. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says testing and tracing will be big factors in the state’s re-opening strategy. “Public health creates economic health,” says New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, who plans to deploy up to 7,000 contact tracers as part of the state’s public health-driven plan to reopen. Other states, including Texas, Alaska, Georgia and Tennessee, are pushing to reopen without robust health plans or adequate testing. “Without a durable system in place,” says Kim, “we may find ourselves trapped in a cycle of lockdown and stimulus, waiting and hoping, with no end in sight.”

Keep reading, “Crushing the coronavirus is good economics. Hoping it goes away is not,” by Dennis Price on ImpactAlpha.

Dealflow: Follow the Money

Investors open their wallets for chickpea and duckweed-derived proteins. The COVID crisis hasn’t stalled demand or dealmaking for plant-based proteins. If anything, it may be accelerating it. While the U.S. government is forcing meat producers and slaughterhouses hit by COVID to continue operating, sales of plant-based meat alternatives have surged as much as 200% in recent weeks.

  • InnovoPro, an Israel-based startup deriving protein from chickpeas, raised $15 million in a Series B round led by Jerusalem Venture Partners. Early-stage food tech investor CPT CapitalCustos Privatstiftung and Austrian billionaire Wolfgang Leitner, CEO of plant engineering company Andritz, also participated.
  • Plantible Foods snagged $4.6 million to extract proteins from duckweed, a fast-growing aquatic plant said to be 100-times more protein-efficient than soybeans. Hong Kong-based Vectr Ventures and New York-based Lerer Hippeau led the round with participation from Kellogg’s venture arm, eighteen94 Capital and FTW Ventures. San Diego-based Plantible previously raised funding from Unshackled Ventures, an early-stage fund for immigrant-founded startups.
  • Rising demand. The carbon footprint of raising animals for meat was bad enough; the COVID crisis is highlighting additional risks of zoonotic diseases. Even as the stock market plunged in mid-March, Impossible Foods raised $500 million for its meat alternatives (see, The future of meat may be meatless).
  • Dig in.

AMPLY Power locks in $13.2 million for electric vehicle charging-as-a-service. The Mountain View, Calif.-based startup provides charging infrastructure and software for electric vehicle fleets, including California’s Tri Delta TransitSoros Fund Management and Siemens joined existing investors Congruent Ventures, PeopleFund and Obvious Ventures in the Series A round. AMPLY aims “to take the technical guesswork out of electrification infrastructure so fleets can scale their zero-emission deployments with confidence while delivering cleaner air for their communities,” said founder Vic Shao.

Podcast: Returns on Investment

A disruption big enough to drive private capital for public good – or not (podcast). In this episode of the Returns on Investment podcast, ImpactAlpha’s David Bank tries out four ways to tilt private capital markets toward the public good in the COVID recovery and beyond – and is promptly batted down by roundtable regular Imogen Rose-Smith. “Are they going to look at global risk differently? Yes,” Rose-Smith says of institutional investors. “Are they going to address the fundamental underlying problems? No.” The roundtable did find agreement in the end: Change won’t come from the investment office. “It will come from stakeholders, voters, organized labor and consumers forcing the change we want to see in the world,” Rose-Smith argued. “It’s finding new heroes and new ways of doing things.”

Impact Voices: Pass the Mic

Enterprise PPE and financial vaccines for COVID’s economic pandemic. It’s time to shift some attention from fighting the current crisis to fighting the crisis that is fast upon us. Just as masks, ventilators, testing, social distancing and contact tracing help us flatten the curve of coronavirus infections, says Encourage Capital’s Ricardo Bayon, “we can flatten the curve of the economic infection.” In a guest post on ImpactAlpha, Bayon lays out a three-phase plan for dealing with the pandemic’s economic fallout.

  • Impact step up. “It is time for high-net-worth individuals, small lenders, pension funds, insurance companies, and especially impact investors to define and invent new forms of financial PPE,” writes Bayon. “We need capital, and we need it delivered to people in new and innovative ways. And we need it to happen at a scale that is both daunting and exciting.” Join Bayon on Thursday’s Agents of Impact Call No. 16: Impact Step Up.
  • Keep reading, “Enterprise PPE and financial vaccines for COVID’s economic pandemic,” by Ricardo Bayon.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Amplifying impact at the Mission Investors Exchange. Foundations are using impact investments for COVID-19 response, racial equity and place-based investing. Mission Investors Exchange’s national conference will convene the foundation conversation online May 7-22 (and for the first time, MIE is opening part of the conference to non-members). Join Rockefeller’s Raj Shah, Ford’s Darren Walker, Annie E. Casey’s Lisa Hamilton, and Judy Belk of the California Wellness Foundation, and special guests Stacey Abrams and Andrew YoungRegister here.

Tammie Arnold, ex- of Generation Investment Management, joins Sonen Capital’s board of directors… The Kellogg Foundation is recruiting a program-related investment officer in Battle Creek, Mich… Green infrastructure B-Corp Greenprint Partners is hiring a director of finance / CFO in Chicago… Overdeck Family Foundation is looking for an impact asset manager in New York… RSF Social Finance seeks fellows for its Integrated Capital Institute in October… FoodFutureCo is accepting applications for the seventh cohort of its scale-up accelerator.

Thank you for reading.

–Apr. 29, 2020