The Brief | October 12, 2021

The Brief: Today’s Call: Black tech, green solutions, low-carbon lithium, reimagining capitalism, emissions accounting, impact finance careers

The team at


Greetings, Agents of Impact! 

👏🏾 Hop on today’s Call: Black tech, green solutions. Solve for climate justice and you’ll drive not only racial justice, but solutions that are ready to scale. “Too often, for so many of us, climate change feels like there’s not a damn thing we can do about it to stop it,” BlocPower’s Donnell Baird told The New York Times this weekend. “But no, we can actually green all of America’s buildings.” The step-change in private and – Congress willing – public climate financing offers a generational opportunity for health and wealth creation in communities of color that have disproportionately suffered from pollution and neglect, and which are also uniquely positioned to identify and scale solutions.

BlocPower is retrofitting apartment buildings in low-income neighborhoods with renewable energy (see, “Agent of Impact, Donnell Baird”). Baird will join Taj Eldridge of Include Ventures, Kameale Terry of ChargerHelp and SaLisa Berrien of COI Energy to talk about how entrepreneurs and investors are finding the Black edge in the green economy with The Plug’s Sherrell Dorsey and ImpactAlpha’s David Bank. Jump right in to LinkedIn Live, today at 10am PT / 1pm ET / 6pm London. Here’s a handy cheat sheet: 

  • Black investors are gaining an edge in the green economy. “We need to have founders and investors who have relationships with the communities that will have the greatest impact of climate change,” says Eldridge of Include Ventures, which is nurturing a new crop of diverse climate fund managers. Eldridge is part of Greentech Noir, a network of Black investors, entrepreneurs and operators mining innovation from their proximity to communities and their own lived experience.
  • Accelerating community-driven solutions. ChargerHelp, which is building a workforce to service tens of thousands of EV charging stations, got a boost from the L.A. Cleantech Incubator. “We want to be in the room to dictate what it looks like to do equity,” says ChargerHelp’s Terry (see, “Agent of Impact, Kameale Terry”). Accelerators like Elemental Excelerator are modeling support for diverse, community-driven climate solutions.
  • Alternative capital. Berrien is building COI Energy as a platform to detect and manage energy waste in buildings. She has raised venture capital, public financing and equity crowdfunding, along with support from SheEO and Google’s Black Founders Fund. “Gone are the days of us waiting on others,” says Berrien. “We must lead.”

Dealflow: Climate Tech

Lilac Solutions raises $150 million to ramp up low-carbon lithium production. Electric vehicle and battery makers are facing a shortage of lithium, an essential element for production. Most of the world’s lithium reserves are found in brines, or natural deposits of salt water. Oakland-based Lilac Solutions’ ion-exchange technology extracts lithium more efficiently. Expanding lithium production is urgent, “otherwise the transition to electric vehicles will be delayed,” says Lilac’s Dave Snydacker. The round was backed by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Lowercarbon Capital, Earthshot Ventures, MCJ Collective, BMW i Ventures and others. Prime Coalition backed Lilac last year. Separately, EnergyX raised $20 million in May to commercialize its own process to extract lithium.

  • The EV race is on. General Motors and Ford are gearing up to take on Tesla. GM is rolling out dozens of electric car, truck and delivery van models, while Ford is investing $7 billion to build three U.S.-based plants for electric batteries and pickup trucks.
  • Check it out

Omidyar Network commits $10 million in grants for reimagining capitalism. Markets can be, and are being, reshaped by movements, policies and investments. Omidyar Network, which has spun off a half-dozen venture funds into separate organizations, has made ‘reimagining capitalism’ an overarching priority. The social impact venture is allocating $10 million to organizations with new models and policy planks to incentivize investors for impact and empower stakeholders to hold companies accountable. Recipients include Americans For Financial Reform, B Lab, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, The Shareholder Commons, The Value Reporting Foundation and United4Respect.

Dealflow overflow. Other investment news crossing our desks:

  • Two Sigma Impact acquires Eclipse Advantage, which employs about 5,000 workers in outsourced warehouses and distribution centers in the U.S. and Canada. Two Sigma has made four investments in workforce development.
  • Proceeds from Autodesk’s $1 billion sustainability bond will finance projects in sustainable water and wastewater management, renewable energy and energy efficiency, and green buildings.
  • Zeal Capital Partners, led by first-time fund manager Nasir Qadree, backs New York-based fintech venture Stratyfy to help financial institutions create fair access to credit (see, “Agent of Impact, Nasir Qadree“).
  • German climate tech startup Made of Air raises €5 million ($5.8 million) in a round led by Norwegian sustainability-focused family fund TD Veen to produce zero carbon thermoplastics. 

Impact Voices: Impact Talent

10 tips to speed your transition to an impact finance career. Follow the talent: Impact investing is attracting career-switchers looking to align their careers with their values. If you’re among those aiming to make a switch, “a career-transition plan will keep you on track and help you save time,” advise Ashley Lewis and Aunnie Patton Power of Impact Finance Pro, an impact-focused career site. That starts with getting clear on the impact you’d like to have, researching the employment landscape, and mapping out the roles and organizations that would be a good fit (ImpactAlpha and Impact Finance Pro both offer job listings). “Look at your transition as a series of steps,” advise Lewis and Power, “as opposed to one giant leap.” Read the full post

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Maygen Moore, ex- of the Corporation for Supportive Housing, joins the Low Income Investment Fund as director of national lending initiatives. Emma Chávez, ex- of Boston Private Bank, will be LIIF’s Western region market director. Ken Stewart, ex- of Bellwether Enterprise Real Estate Capital, joins as deputy director for the Mid Atlantic region… DBL Partners is looking for a director of impact in the San Francisco Bay Area… The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta is hiring an impact investment manager in Atlanta.

In Oakland, Kapor Capital is recruiting a principal; CNote is looking for a director of marketing; and PolicyLink has several job openingsBreakthrough Energy Catalyst is soliciting requests for information to identify global projects in green hydrogen, direct air capture, sustainable aviation fuel and long-duration energy storage (for context, see, “Breakthrough Energy planning “blended finance” fund to marshal billions for next-gen climate tech”). 

Thank you for your impact.

– Oct. 12, 2021