The Brief | February 2, 2022

The Brief: Ross Baird’s local blueprint, charging electric trucks, putting carbon credits on blockchain, upskilling India’s tech workers

The team at


Greetings, Agents of Impact! 

Call No. 37: Carbon is $100 a ton. Now what? With prices rising in markets around the world, carbon is suddenly driving fund strategies, conservation financing, corporate accounting and crypto speculation. Join ReGen Networks’ Gregory Landua, CDP’s Paula DiPerna, Emmanuel Lagarrigue of General Atlantic’s BeyondNetZero, Delton Chen of Global Climate Reward, and other Agents of Impact leveraging carbon finance for climate action. How are you seeing carbon prices show up in deals and business plans? Let us know and we’ll call you up on The Call. 

  • Join The Call, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 10am PT / 1pm ET / 6pm London. RSVP today.

Ross Baird’s blueprint for equitable real estate in southern ‘Zoom towns’ (Q&A). Ross Baird has made a career of plugging capital gaps for promising ideas in their earliest stages. Before “accelerator” and “angel investor” and “seed stage” were household terms, Baird built Village Capital to fund early-stage startups outside of Silicon Valley. With Blueprint Local, Baird is marshaling local investors, longer-term investment horizons, and Opportunity Zone tax breaks to capitalize early-stage real estate development projects that otherwise would not get financed. The projects aim to make housing more attainable and give local businesses a place to grow in Baltimore, Charlotte, Atlanta, Austin, Huntsville, Ala. and other “Zoom towns.” Migration to second and third-tier cities in the Southeast and Sunbelt, accelerated by COVID-19, has put pressure on the region’s already short supply of housing and weak infrastructure, and exacerbated already high wealth inequality. “Growth tailwinds. Historic disparities,” says Baird. “There’s a lot of opportunity.”

In a Q&A with ImpactAlpha, Baird shares why private equity investors don’t have the stomach for community investing and what to make of the impact of Opportunity Zones. Blueprint has made 15 investments in nine cities since 2018 and manages $150 million across a series of funds and special purpose vehicles. Early projects include the revival of Baltimore’s historic transportation hub, Penn Station. The Current, a block-sized development in the distressed Manchester neighborhood of Richmond, will have over 200 units of mixed-income workforce housing, commercial space for homegrown startups, and a food incubator for local food entrepreneurs. Baird says neither project could have been financed without Opportunity Zone incentives. “On the local level, the reaction to Opportunity Zones in general and the projects that we’re involved in are nearly all positive,” Baird says. “ I think the additionality of Opportunity Zones is real.”

Dealflow: Green Infrastructure

BlackRock partnership commits $650 million to charging infrastructure for electric trucks. A lack of charging infrastructure for commercial vehicles is slowing the deployment of electric trucks. A joint venture between BlackRock, German commercial vehicle manufacturer Daimler Truck and U.S. electric utility NextEra Energy aims to start construction next year on a network of charging stations on freight routes along the U.S. East and West Coasts and in Texas. The stations will be designed for battery-electric medium and heavy-duty vehicles but will also accommodate light-duty vehicles and hydrogen fueling stations for fuel-cell trucks.

  • Green infrastructure. BlackRock joined the partnership via its Global Renewable Power group, which last year closed a $4.8 billion climate infrastructure fund. The fund has backed companies including Australia’s JOLT and Germany’s Ionity.
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Moss.Earth raises $10 million to put carbon credits on blockchain. A raft of startups are merging the hot, if volatile, worlds of crypto and climate finance to bring transparency and accountability to carbon credits and payments (for context, see “Climate is a crypto play”). offers carbon credit tokens that companies and individuals can purchase to offset their carbon footprints. “We are providing the tools to foment a new economic system and a new model for protecting the forest. That is our goal,” the company says. The Brazilian crypto venture works with more than 200 companies and has facilitated $26 million for Amazon forest conservation projects in 18 months, Latin America Business Stories reports. Moss raised its Series A round from P Ventures, Acre Ventures Partners, Jive Investments, The Craftory and Flori Ventures, the venture investing arm of the blockchain platform Celo.

  • How it works. Moss tokenizes carbon credits sourced from certified environmental projects. Each of its MCO2 tokens represents one ton of carbon and is tradable on cryptocurrency exchanges like Coinbase and Brazil’s Mercado Coin. “The coding of contracts into blockchain enforces intrinsic self-regulation and thus leads to an improvement to the quality and credibility of the carbon credit system globally,” the company argues in a white paper.
  • Halal crypto. Separately, crypto platform MRHB DeFi secured $5.5 million to build ethical and sustainable crypto options for the Muslim world.
  • More.

Scaler Academy secures $55 million to upskill India’s tech workers. Only about 1% of India’s graduating software engineering students find meaningful employment. This “has opened up opportunities for avowed status-quo disruptors like Scaler to push a new kind of thinking,” said Scaler’s Abhumanyu Saxena. Scaler’s online classes help students improve their coding and programming skills and give them access to mentors and career coaches at Amazon, Google, Facebook, Netflix, Twitter and other companies. Scaler’s graduates have gone to work at Microsoft, Uber, Paypal and Adobe, earning about $90,000 per year, said Saxena. Close to half of the company’s 700 employees are women.

  • Good jobs. Scaler is “democratizing the privilege of working in technology for millions of Indians,” said Divya Venkatavaraghavan of Lightrock India, which led the round with participation from Sequoia Capital India and Tiger Global.
  • Check it out

Dealflow overflow. Other investment news crossing our desks:

  • Australia’s Plato Investment Management launches a fund to short stocks of carbon-intensive companies.
  • Africa-focused venture capital firm TLcom Capital scores $70 million for the first close of its second fund.
  • Vox Capital and Lever VC invest $5 million in Brazil’s carbon-neutral oat milk producer Nude.
  • India’s B2B agri-trading platform Bijak raises $19.4 million from Bertelsmann, Omidyar Network India, Better Capital, Sequoia Capital India and others.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Rohit Aggarwala, former sustainability advisor to Michael Bloomberg, is appointed New York City’s chief climate officer and commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection… Mission Driven Finance brings on Catherine Rotchford, ex- of Gemini Finance Corp., and promotes Andrew Moncada, Laura Olivas and Crystal Sevilla… SK Capital Partners hires Anne Kolton as its first chief sustainability officer… Peter Seligmann, chairman of Conservation International and CEO of Nia Tero, joins Engine No. 1 as a senior advisor. The activist investment firm is hiring an equity analyst intern in San Francisco. 

Kwabena Asante-Poku, ex- of PwC, joins CDC Group as its Ghana coverage director… LAVCA appoints Elevar Equity’s Johanna Posada, Vinci Partners’ Bruno Zaremba and CPP Investments’ Tania Chocolat to its board. The non-profit association for private capital investment in Latin America is seeking an executive director… Anthem is hiring a sustainability and ESG analyst… Acumen America seeks an investment manager in San Francisco… Lafayette Square is recruiting an executive director of the Lafayette Square Foundation in New York… Conduit Capital is looking for a director of impact in London.

Tideline and the Institutional Limited Partners Association are hosting “Putting Diversity Promises Into Action,” featuring Tideline’s Jane Bieneman, ILPA’s Jennifer Choi, Ford Foundation’s Roy Swan, Cherrise Cederqvist of PGIM Investments, and Katie Moore of Hamilton Lane, Tuesday, Feb. 8… MIT Solve is accepting applications for its 2022 Global Challenges and Indigenous Communities Fellowship.

Thank you for your impact.

– Feb. 2, 2022