The Brief | August 23, 2023

The Brief: Today’s Call: Indigenizing catalytic capital, stabilizing homeownership, affordable cancer care, Ramaswamy’s anti-woke revolution

The team at


Greetings, Agents of Impact! 

👋 Hop on today’s Call: Indigenizing catalytic capital. Effective catalytic capital requires terms and timelines tailored for the needs of Indian Country. Oweesta’s Chrystel Cornelius, First Peoples Worldwide’s Kate Finn, Navajo Power’s Brett Isaac, Siċaŋġu Co’s Clay Colombe and Change Labs’ Heather Fleming will discuss the how as well as the why of investing in Native communities. 

  • Zoom in to today’s call at 10am PT / 1pm ET / 6pm London (no RSVP required, but be prepared to sign in or create a Zoom account).

Featured: Ownership Economy

Blackstar Stability is replacing predatory loans with stable mortgages to build equity and wealth for homeowners of color (Q&A). Over the decades, discriminatory practices have blocked many US households of color from the kind of affordable home mortgages that help families build equity and wealth. Some turned to more predatory forms of financing, including contracts for deeds, or CFDs, in which the seller transfers ownership only when the buyer finishes making payments. The Blackstar Stability Distressed Debt Fund, based in Washington, DC, has raised $100 million to purchase thousands of single-family homes encumbered by CFDs. Blackstar Stability then refinances the homes with traditional mortgages that offer the largely low-income and minority home buyers better interest rates, lower monthly mortgage payments, and the ability to build home equity over time. Blackstar has purchased about 200 homes so far. “In these predatory-like products, the families we work with take on the obligations of ownership but really don’t enjoy the benefits of outright ownership,” John Green, a real estate veteran and co-founder of Blackstar Stability says in a Q&A with ImpactAlpha. “What happens when we transfer ownership to the families is that the equity becomes theirs right away.”

  • Property ownership. Blackstar Stability is among a new set of models that are using ownership of residential and commercial properties to bridge racial wealth gaps. In Denver, Dearfield Fund for Black Wealth provides interest-free down payment assistance loans to Black families to purchasing their first homes. LocalCode Kansas City is pioneering a shared-ownership model that offers local residents access to ownership in commercial real estate developments (see, “On east side of Kansas City, LocalCode adds community ownership to the real estate toolkit”). In North Carolina, Partners in Equity helps primarily Black business owners buy the commercial properties in which they operate.
  • Debt reduction. Blackstar aims to help at least 9,000 low-income and minority families gain access to equitable homeownership and to transfer more than $125 million in home equity over five years. Blackstar estimates it can save families more than $150 million in interest payments. “For us, what was really important is their solution around a very predatory-like product that definitely affects low-income households, but households of color even more when you look at the history of contract for deeds,” says Akobe Sandy of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which backed Blackstar with a $4 million program-related investment (disclosure: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supports ImpactAlpha’s Muni Impact coverage). Other investors include the Kresge and Packard foundations, Deutsche Bank, World Education Services and Living Cities‘ Blended Catalyst Fund.
  • Keep reading, Blackstar Stability’s John Green’s Q&A with Roodgally Senatus on ImpactAlpha.

Dealflow: Investing in Health

Town Hall Ventures leads $60 million investment in cancer care provider Thyme Care. Nashville-based Thyme Care is building a network of oncology treatment and care providers to help lower-income, elderly or remote patients navigate a fragmented healthcare system. The company’s online service, Thyme Box, connects patients to doctors, specialists, and support services including transportation, housing, food, behavioral health, financial assistance and palliative care. “The best medicine in the world isn’t effective if a patient can’t afford treatment or get a ride to the office,” said founder Bobby Green. Foresite Capital co-led Thyme Care’s Series B round with Town Hall Ventures. 

Dealflow overflow. Other news crossing our desks:

  • The US Department of Energy is allocating $70 million to historically-Black colleges and universities and other institutions serving diverse populations to diversify science, technology, engineering and mathematics talent and research. (DOE)
  • Toyota Ventures’ Climate Fund, Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Lowercarbon Capital and Breakthrough Energy Ventures backed Yard Stick, a tech startup developing a process for measuring soil carbon. (Yard Stick)
  • Autolab raised $4.1 million to help independent auto mechanic shops in Mexico and Colombia digitize operations and schedules and find new customers, such as corporate fleet owners. (LatamList)
  • Cressey & Company acquired Health Drive, a service provider to long-term care facility residents, from Bain Capital Double Impact. Bain Capital’s impact fund acquired a majority stake in the company in 2018. (Cressey & Company, Health Drive)

Signals: ESG Backlash

Ramaswamy spins business chops into politics while attacking politics in business. A year ago, Vivek Ramaswamy, then an upstart asset manager, thought his attacks on ESG investing had been misunderstood. The author of “Woke Inc.: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam,” Ramaswamy said he wasn’t against social justice or climate action or racial equity. Or even necessarily against corporate action on such issues. What rankled him most was the argument that such actions increased shareholder value. “Political questions should be resolved through the political process,” Ramaswamy told ImpactAlpha at the time. “Leave politics to the politicians. As companies, we focus on what allows us to be most successful as businesses, period.” Politics, it turns out, was irresistible to the smooth-talking striver, who has gone from relative unknown to third in the polls for the Republican nomination for president (see, “ESG opponents get political under the guise of getting politics out of investing”). As Ramaswamy takes his message to the national stage tonight at the first Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee, he’s distancing himself from the “anti-woke” frenzy he helped stoke. “The use of labels can often be confining and even limiting to the quality of that debate,” he said last year.

  • Anti-assets. Ramaswamy may be getting more traction as a Republican runner-up than he did as an asset manager. As the anti-woke backlash gained steam, he positioned his firm, Strive Asset Management, as a vehicle to vacuum up assets pulled from BlackRock and other financial firms banned by politicians in Florida, Texas and other Republican-led states. Strive’s flagship ETF, a fossil-fuel stuffed energy fund with the ticker DRLL, had roughly the same amount of assets under management in June as it did when it was launched last summer, according to researchers at Yale, Ramaswamy’s alma mater. Strive’s shareholder proposals to rescind Home Depot’s racial equity audit and Chevron’s Scope 3 emissions targets bombed. Strive isn’t the only conservative fund struggling: 2nd Vote Funds, launched in 2020, plans to liquidate its ETFs after failing to attract enough assets, according to its CEO, David Black. The American Conservative Values ETF, which has ridden anti-woke boycotts of Target, Disney and other US corporations, has attracted a mere $40 million – and underperformed the S&P 500. 

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Don’t miss these upcoming ImpactAlpha partner events:

Jeff Barker, ex- of KBR, joins Nexus PMG as head of corporate business development… JPMorgan Chase is recruiting a vice president of impact finance credit solutions… Big Society Capital is hiring a venture investment manager in London.

Google seeks a program manager of global sustainability stakeholder engagement in New York or Reston, Va… Quantified Ventures is hiring an associate director of water and climate finance… AlTi Tiedemann Global, Brainbest, CalSTRs and Fidelity International are among 22 investors in TIIP’s system-level investing cohort. 

Thank you for your impact.

– Aug. 23, 2023