The Brief | April 22, 2021

The Brief: The Great Acceleration, ugly produce, diversifying leadership, payroll loans in the Philippines, land restoration in Latin America

The team at


Greetings, Agents of Impact! 

Featured: ImpactAlpha Original

2030 is the new 2050 as countries and companies compete on climate ambitions. Call it The Great Acceleration. Goals for cutting carbon emissions that seemed ambitious when the Paris Agreement was forged six years ago have become passé even before they’ve been achieved. Net-zero by 2050 no longer impresses. This Earth Day is marked by the confluence of a rising climate emergency with falling costs for renewable energy, battery storage, electric vehicles and other low-carbon solutions. Leaders in the low-carbon transition now have to show dramatic results – by 2030. That has flipped climate action from being a drag on financial performance and economic growth to being its main driver – and a competitive business and national advantage. “It’s not about 2050,” said President Joe Biden’s climate change adviser Gina McCarthy. “It’s about what we do in the next decade.”

For countries and companies, the FOMO is getting real – further fueling The Great Acceleration. Determined not to miss out, Biden is expected to announce at his Leaders Summit on Climate that the U.S. is targeting a 50% emissions reduction (from 2005 levels) by 2030. That’s not as ambitious as the European Union, which has a legally binding commitment to cut emissions by 55% by 2030, or the U.K., where Boris Johnson has pledged to slash emissions 78% from 1990 levels by 2035. Corporations will have to scramble to keep up. Ambitious targets and early investments will give leaders a competitive edge; lower operating costs (from all-electric fleets, for example) and increased innovation (via climate-smart everything) will be key corporate differentiators. And if 2030 is the new 2050 to avert climate catastrophe, 1.5º Celsius is the new 2º. Total global CO2 emissions will have to be halved by 2030; leaders have to overshoot that target to compensate for the laggards. The math is brutal – which is why accelerating the acceleration is the only way forward.

Keep reading, “2030 is the new 2050 as countries and companies compete on climate ambitions,” by Amy Cortese on ImpactAlpha.

Dealflow: Follow the Money

Misfits Market raises $200 million to sell ‘ugly’ fruits and vegetables. The raise brings funding for the New Jersey-based food startup to $301.5 million and pushes its valuation north of $1 billion. Misfits multiplied its customer based and order volume by five last year, shipping 44 millions pounds of food. In January, its food reuse peer Imperfect Foods raised $95 million. Investors are eyeing the $14 billion annual investment opportunity in halving U.S. food waste. Accel and D1 Capital led Misfits’ round. Valor Equity Partners, Greenoaks Capital, Sound Ventures, Third Kind Ventures and others also participated.

  • Supply chain. Instead of just focusing on end customers, Misfits supports food suppliers at every level, Accel’s Ryan Sweeney said. As Misfits moved to meet demand for online shopping during the pandemic, it leveraged a unique advantage. Founder Abhi Ramesh told TechCrunch, “Because we operate our own fulfillment centers and we have our own internal tech built around this, we were not constrained by the same constraints that physical grocery stores have.”
  • Share this post.

ExecOnline raises $45 million to diversify corporate leadership. Less than 1% of Fortune 500 CEOs are Black. Less than 10% are women. ExecOnline partners with business schools to offer leadership development to senior and middle managers at more than 500 global organizations. As such leaders emerge, “you move to a world where you’ll see more women and more under-represented minorities advance in the organization,” ExecOnline’s Stephen Bailey told The Plug. The company says more than 90% of participants complete its online training.

  • Edtech opportunity. Leadership development education “equates to a multi-billion dollar opportunity,” said Saar Pikar of OMERS Growth Equity, who led the round and joined the ExecOnline board. Kaplan, ABS Capital Partners, NewSpring and Osage Venture Partners also participated.
  • Share this post.

Lendable extends $15 million in debt to Philippines-based fintech Uploan. Manila-based Uploan gives employees of more than 100 major companies in the Philippines access to affordable payroll-linked financial services coupled with financial education. Uploan links loans to salary size to ensure monthly repayments do not create an unhealthy burden on customers. More than half the company’s borrowers are women, despite women representing only 35-40% of the Philippines’ labor force.

  • Debt capital. Lendable, which is raising funds to enable fresh loans of $120 million to $180 million this year, has emerged as a leading debt provider to fintech companies across emerging and frontier markets. The loan is Lendable’s first in the Philippines, said Lendable’s Aaron Collett. “Uploan is poised to scale further at a time when the broader financial sector is pulling back.”
  • Share this post.

Dealflow overflow. Other investment news crossing our desks:

  • BlocPower raises $1 million in project-level debt through “climate impact notes” on crowdfunding platform Raise Green. BlocPower in February raised $8 million in equity and $55 million in debt (see, “Agent of Impact, Donnel Baird, BlocPower”).
  • Lagos-based Okra secures $3.5 million to improve connectivity in Nigeria’s financial infrastructure.
  • Tokyo-based Samurai Incubate closes its second fund at $18.5 million to cut early-stage checks to African tech startups.
  • California-based Tribal Credit scores $34.4 million to offer digital credit cards to small businesses in emerging markets.

Signals: Ahead of the Curve

Fifteen startups offer solutions for land restoration in Latin America. Latin America a testing ground for innovative environmental financing and business solutions: Lending incentives supporting smallholder farmers. Partnerships with Indigenous communities on forest restoration. Carbon credits for Amazon restoration. And pay-for-success forest conservation. Fifteen entrepreneurs in the first Latin American cohort of the World Resources Institute’s Land Accelerator are rolling out solutions to restore 50 million hectares by 2030 (see, “Land Accelerator helps close financing gap for African soil startups”).

  • Land restoration. Salus Mundi in Colombia is helping farmers, cities and companies revitalize toxic and pest-infested land… Nicaforest in Nicaragua is regenerating degraded land to grow cacao, teak and other native trees… Prontal in Mexico is converting abandoned pasture into sustainable commercial plantations for harvesting dye… HEVEA in Costa Rica is giving farmers extra income from rubber trees grown on degraded pasture… Andean Pastoral Livelihood Initiative in Chile is supporting Indigenous communities’ livelihoods while replenishing grasslands. 
  • Regenerative agriculture. Adapta Group in Brazil designed an app to support food and beverage companies in adopting regenerative farming and agroforestry… Veggie chip brand Kiwa is teaching restorative farming in Ecuador to bolster sustainability in its supply chain… Rancho 4 Diamantes is producing ethically-raised beef in Guatemala.
  • Sustainable consumer products. Peru’s Forestbambu is making sustainable bamboo soap, cosmetics and beer and Inversiones Agroforestales Regenerativas farms ethical cosmetic ingredients… Te’etik in Mexico makes home furniture from certified ethically-sourced timber.
  • Conservation. Bellavista Cloud Forest Lodge is partnering with hotels and community groups in Ecuador on wildlife conservation and cloud forest restoration… Relicto in Chile works to conserve land deemed to have “high environmental value.”
  • Carbon markets. Nature Lab World in Mexico is ramping up carbon credit generation on its bamboo and native-tree plantation… Seamos Bosques in Argentina is linking forest owners to voluntary carbon markets.
  • Share this post.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

ISF Advisors is hiring a project manager and an investment associateLowercarbon Capital seeks a synthetic biology associate… Great Lakes Protection Fund is looking for a project development manager in Evanston, Ill.

Thank you for your impact.

– Apr. 22, 2021