The Brief | April 20, 2022

The Brief: Upskilling workers in New York, housing for health in California, regenerative agriculture, Egyptian entrepreneurship, venture-led impact management

The team at


Greetings, Agents of Impact!

Featured: Returns on Inclusion

How Pursuit is upskilling low-income New Yorkers for high-paying coding jobs. Jukay Hsu’s mother worked multiple jobs after emigrating from Taiwan before going back to school to become a social worker when she was 40 years old. “Having access to a good job made a huge difference in her life and in mine,” says Hsu, the founder of Pursuit, a social enterprise offering technology training and career development to New Yorkers without college degrees who are stuck in low-wage jobs. Trainees in Pursuit’s program spend a year learning how to code and three more as full-time employees at companies such as Twitter, Spotify, Uber and Microsoft. Through an income-share agreement, graduates only repay Pursuit when they start making over $60,000 per year, at which point they pay 12% of their income for three years. “For as long as fellows don’t have a high-paying job, or if at any point their salary falls below a certain level,” says Hsu, “they pay nothing.”

Pursuit graduates saw their income increase from an average $18,000 per year to $85,000. More than two-thirds are Black or Hispanic and 40% are immigrants; half are women. To train another 1,000 people, the nonprofit has raised $10 million in debt capital through its “Pursuit Bond 2.0.” Investors include Switzerland-based Blue Earth Capital and the Inherent Foundation. Possible loan losses are backed by a $2.3 million first-loss reserve, including $1 million from tech executive Zac Smith, chair of Pursuit’s operating board. “I love working with the Pursuit fellows,” Smith told ImpactAlpha. He says he put up the catalytic capital “to buffer the risk of the rest of the investors to create a safer place for institutional capital to come in.” 

Dealflow: Investing in Health

Kaiser Permanente allocates another $200 million to affordable housing for health. The nonprofit healthcare provider is topping up the $200 million Thriving Communities Fund it launched in 2018 to respond to the negative health effects of housing instability. With the additional $200 million, Kaiser is looking to create and preserve 30,000 units of affordable housing by 2030.

  • Impact outcomes. The Thriving Communities Fund has created or preserved more than 7,000 affordable housing units in L.A., Portland, Sacramento, Atlanta, Seattle, Baltimore and Denver. It made a $50 million investment in real estate impact fund manager SDS Capital Group to catalyze an additional $100 million for affordable housing, primarily in California.
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Advancing Eco Agriculture raises $4.7 million for regenerative agriculture. The Ohio-based company provides sustainable fertilizer, consultations and data to farmers to transition to regenerative agriculture practices. Through its platform, AEA says farmers produce healthier soil, stronger crops and higher profits – and store carbon from the atmosphere in their soil. The investment “will accelerate the expansion of AEA’s geographic footprint and outsized impact on food quality, yield and farmer profitability,” said Paul Bergman of Tree Trunk Light, the New York-based impact investment firm that led the debt and equity round. Bergman also serves as executive chairman at AEA.

  • Regeneration. Regenerative agriculture consists of practices that increase carbon in the soil and otherwise improve soil health, protect and restore native habitats and biodiversity, eliminate harmful inputs, support grower livelihoods, and enhance human and animal welfare. According to the investor network CREO, more than $700 billion in investments will be needed over the next 30 years for regenerative agriculture in the U.S. alone.
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Dealflow overflow. Other investment news crossing our desks:

  • The Energy Department’s Loan Programs Office will loan $107 million to Syrah Technologies to build a plant in Louisiana to produce graphite, a key input in lithium-ion batteries.
  • CNote will manage a $5 million investment from global water company Xylem for community development financial institutions working in underserved communities.
  • Algebra Ventures secured $15 million from the International Finance Corp. for a venture fund that will invest in tech startups in Egypt, especially those led by women and/or serving rural communities.
  • Ellis, a neobank for international students looking to study in the U.S., scored $5.6 million in seed funding from Dreamers VC and Kindred Ventures and other investors.

Impact Voices: Impact Management

Putting ventures at the helm of impact measurement and management. A major grant to the Kenyan childcare venture Kidogo came with a catch: a requirement for a case-control study to prove the Kidogo model positively impacts child development. “Our model stalled for two years because we couldn’t change anything,” says Kidogo’s founder Sabrina Habib. Many companies design impact measurement and management, or IMM, strategies around the needs of funders. “But the qualities that help investors get what they need do not always drive value for their portfolio ventures,” IMM practitioners Laura Budzyna and Karim Harji write in a guest post on ImpactAlpha. “In fact, investor-centric IMM often does just the opposite.” Their new guidebook, Ventures at the Helm,” helps social ventures and their investors develop IMM strategies that boost positive impact. Budzyna and Harji will present the guide in a webinar, today at 3pm ET.

  • IMM journeys. Budzyna and Harji spent a year studying social ventures’ impact management practices. “We thought ventures’ impact measurement and management would start simple and get more complex as they scaled,” they write. “Turns out it’s more complicated than that.” Their guidebook identifies four phases of impact management. “These phases are non-linear,” the authors note. “They don’t always happen in the same order, and ventures may pass through the same phase again and again.”
  • Keep reading, “Putting ventures at the helm of impact measurement and management,” by Laura Budzyna and Karim Harji and check out the guide, which includes venture and investor worksheets.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Jane Flegal, formerly of the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, joins Stripe’s climate team and the Frontier carbon removal initiative (see, “Stripe leads a $925 million ‘advance market commitment’ for carbon removal”)CapRock is looking for two investment research analysts in Silicon Valley and a client advisor lead in New York…  Energy access venture Nithio is hiring an East Africa investment officer… Carbon Direct is recruiting a head of climate justice… Verdant Frontiers seeks a chief investment officer in Austin or remote.

Thank you for your impact.

– Apr. 20, 2022