The Brief | October 4, 2021

The Brief: Restorative economics, battery storage goes public, edtech in India, modeling climate risk, donor-advised fund reforms

The team at


Greetings, Agents of Impact! 

Call No. 32: Black tech, green solutions. Communities of color that too often bear the negative impacts of climate change also are uniquely positioned to identify and scale climate solutions. Taj Eldridge of Include Ventures, SaLisa Berrien of COI Energy, Kameale Terry of ChargerHelp, Donnel Baird of BlocPower and other Agents of Impact join ImpactAlpha and The Plug to talk opportunities for climate and social impact, Tuesday, Oct. 12 at 10am PT / 1pm ET / 6pm London. RSVP today.

Featured: The Reconstruction

Restorative economics: Creating community benefits by shifting who owns and controls assets. Black, Indigenous and other communities of color are often told that economic development projects will bring jobs and services to their neighborhoods. The benefits rarely live up to the promises, says Nwamaka Agbo, who leads San Francisco-based Kataly Foundation. Abgo’s vision of “restorative economics” seeks to shift ownership and control of community assets — think apartment buildings — to the people who live in them. Agbo and Kataly are re-imagining capital as a tool for justice and regenerative wealth-building to “build the type of community that we want to see.” On The Reconstruction podcast, Agbo and host Monique Aiken discuss Kataly’s strategy to spend down its endowment and redistribute wealth back to communities. Kataly, co-founded by Regan Pritzker, is one of the few foundations dedicated exclusively to building power and asset ownership in BIPOC communities. 

Kataly’s Restorative Economies Fund has provided grants and investments to East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative, which helps convert real estate into cooperative housing for existing tenants; CoFED, which partners with young people to build food and land cooperatives; and Asian Pacific Environmental Network, whose members are Laotian refugees and Chinese immigrants. Other community leaders are building on Agbo’s work. “For me, it always starts with who has the power? How can that power get disrupted?” Common Future’s Rodney Foxworth said in an earlier podcast, crediting Agbo’s influence on what he calls “reparative investing.” Agbo’s framework grew out of her campaigns for green jobs. “What I recognized is that we should have been dreaming bigger,” Agbo reflects. “We should have been positioning ourselves as the ones to be the business owners, to be the designers, the architects and the decision-makers.”

Dealflow: Follow the Money

Fluence Energy seeks to ride the energy storage boom in public offering. Storage for wind, solar and other renewable energy sources is critical for a more reliable grid. Arlington, Va.-based Fluence, backed by Siemens and AES Corp., is part of a wave of startups targeting this market opportunity. The company, which offers energy storage products and software, filed for an initial public offering. Others, such as Energy Vault, EOS Energy Storage and ESS Inc. are seeking to go public via special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs. Energy Vault raised $100 million for its gravity storage system in August.

Vedantu rakes in $100 million in India’s sizzling edtech market. The Bengalore-based online tutoring company, whose mission is to make after-school tutoring widely available and affordable through online lessons, will use the Series E investment to “to reach as many students as possible and create better outcomes,” said Vedantu’s Vamsi Krishna. Vedantu serves roughly 35 million users monthly. Singapore impact fund, ABC World Asia, led the round. Returning investors include Coatue Management, Tiger Global Management, GGV Capital and Westbridge Capital. Edtech continues to experience “meteoric growth in India,” said ABC World Asia’s Sugandhi Matta, who sees an opportunity to cater to students in underserved communities.

  • Impact unicorns. Vedantu’s latest round brings its valuation to $1 billion. Last year, the edtech startup closed its Series D round just three months after its $79 million Series C. Other impact-driven startups in emerging markets to achieve unicorn status include Konfio and Andela (see “Softbank funding helps make Konfio and Andela emerging market impact unicorns”). Nigeria’s digital payments company Flutterwave also reached unicorn status earlier this year.
  • Check it out

Dealflow overflow. Other investment news crossing our desks:

Impact Voices: Policy Corner

Power shifting boosts the potential of impact investments: charitable reform policies could help. Proposed reforms to charitable giving include speeding up distributions from donor-advised funds, or DAFs, via the proposed Accelerating Charitable Efforts Act. The Urban Institute’s Laura Tomasko sees an opening to shift power toward communities that have historically been kept at the margins, and to usher in broader social and economic change. “Unlocking impact capital can be a first step towards shifting power,” Tomasko writes in a guest post on ImpactAlpha. “In this emerging era of rethinking power and impact investments, how might new ideas in charitable giving reform help accelerate the engine of power shifting and social and economic transformation?” Read her full post.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Sébastien Duquet, ex- of responsAbility, joins SunFunder as chief commercial officer… Tibor Toth, ex- of The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, joins Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures as investment director… Social Finance is recruiting a director of impact investing… Goldman Sachs is hiring a natural capital analyst for its Sustainable Investing Group in New York… Maycomb Capital is looking for an analyst for the Community Outcomes Fund in Brooklyn… The Nature Conservancy seeks a natural climate solutions forester for NatureVestMission Driven Finance is hiring a marketing and communications coordinator… Impak is hosting “Beyond ESG: the Impact Assessment,” tomorrow, Oct. 5 at the Sustainable Finance Summit.

Thank you for your impact.

– Oct. 4, 2021