The Brief | September 1, 2020

The Brief: Voices for electoral justice, drone intelligence, Costco backs LISC, DC angels, 10x’ing impact assets

The team at


Greetings, Agents of Impact! 

Featured: Impact Voices

These impact investors are stepping up to support voter registration and ‘electoral justice.’ Agents of Impact on ImpactAlpha’s Call last month agreed that political disengagement is a luxury impact investors can no longer afford. “We see our civic engagement and our political work as being fundamental to how we engage as investors,” Blue Haven Initiative’s Liesel Pritzker Simmons said on The Call. Indeed, the impact of November’s U.S. election arguably dwarfs the impact of all impact investments. “This is beyond politics. This is about who we are and what we stand for,” Beeck Center’s Sonal Shah said in a followup exchange. In separate guest posts on ImpactAlpha, Align Impact’s Jenn Kenning, Jesse Simmons and Ishita Shan and Propel Capital’s Sarah Williams have vetted a range of organizations working to mobilize and register voters and ensure they have access to polling places or mail-in ballots.

Some individuals are contributing to candidates, of course. But with voter registration deadlines approaching, families and individuals can make grants and donations to build organizations that will persist beyond the election. “Our firm is seeing a desire amongst impact investors to elevate voting rights and civic engagement as a priority for racial justice-focused philanthropy,” writes Kenning, an investment adviser in California. Among the organizations Kenning and her team recommend: Movement Voter Project, Black Voters Matter and Voto Latino. The election, and elected officials, will deeply affect many of the issue areas in which impact investors work, argues Williams, who suggests Fair Fight, Movement For Black Lives and Win Black, among other organizations. “We must use the social and financial capital we hold as investors to protect our democratic norms in these critical months to come,” she writes. “The future of the just economy we have been working to build as impact investors depends on all of us taking action now more than ever.”

Read, “How impact investors can help ensure racial justice includes electoral justice,” by Align Impact’s Jenn Kenning, Jesse Simmons and Ishita Shan and “Impact investors have a role to play in preventing worst-case election scenarios,” by Propel Capital’s Sarah Williams.

Dealflow: Follow the Money

Raptor Maps raises $5 million for drone intelligence solar companies. The Boston-based company is helping rooftop solar companies scout and monitor installation sites with aerial data. The drones scope out issues like tree cover and panel damage. “Our mission is to build software that enables the solar industry to scale,” said Raptor’s Nikhil Vadhavkar. The company’s Series A round was backed by Blue Bear Capital, Data Point Capital and Buoyant Ventures as well as Congruent Ventures, Powerhouse Ventures, Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and Y Combinator. 

  • Climate impact. Raptor Maps is the first deal for Chicago-based Buoyant Ventures, which backs early-stage digital ventures helping businesses and communities find opportunities for reduced emissions and positive climate impact, Buoyant’s Amy Francetic told Chicago Inno.
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Costco commits $25 million to LISC’s Black Economic Development Fund. Costco’s commitment matches $25 million from Netflix, which helped launch the Local Initiatives Support Corp.’s fund in June. LISC is targeting $100 million to invest in Black-owned banks and minority businesses, along with charter schools, affordable housing projects and athletic facilities in Black communities. LISC has become the go-to manager for a number of community lending programs, including the $100 million New York Forward Loan Fund, as cities, corporations and other organizations look to meet the current racial justice movement in the U.S. and the COVID economic crisis. More

Angel network of Halcyon incubator backs edtech and solar startups. The D.C.-based nonprofit recently launched an angel network for residents of the D.C. metro area to invest in impact startups. Its first two investments are a $400,000 commitment to MajorClarity, an edtech startup focused on remote learning, and $230,000 for community solar startup Solstice. 

  • Access to capital. Halcyon has been incubating D.C.-area startups since 2017. Last year, it announced plans for its angel network to support its incubatees with early capital. The fund was seeded by a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce. 
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Signals: Ahead of the Curve

Investors 10x their impact assets in response to COVID crisis. Here’s a solid example of a 10x response: Total impact investments by clients of San Francisco-based ImpactAssets increased tenfold to $170 million in the first six months of 2020. In the first half of last year, ImpactAssets clients deployed about $17.5 million in private mission-driven businesses and impact funds. “Our clients have stepped up with a profound commitment to support critical solutions to the pandemic and provide essential financial support for vulnerable communities, small businesses and impact entrepreneurs,” said ImpactAssets’ Margret Trilli. While the firm has added new clients, including some large ones, Amy Bennett told ImpactAlpha that the uptake is “mostly about our current clients stepping up.“ Clients of ImpactAssets also provided $82 million in grants, up from $20 million last year.

  • COVID critical. Capital is flowing to funds and firms providing finance in: local communities, including The Working World/Seed Commons and Hope Enterprises; food security, such as One Acre Fund and Komaza; racial justice, like CNote, Employment Technology Fund and Impact America Fund; and COVID testing and treatment, including Geneticure and Hawthorne Effect.
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Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Renée Johnson joins Public Private Strategies as a senior advisor… Echoing Green seeks a director of corporate and foundation relations in New York… The Nature Conservancy has an opening for a director of public advocacy and engagement in Washington, D.C… Nonprofit Finance Fund is hiring a senior associate of knowledge and communications… Startup India and Prosus have launched a competition for India-based startups addressing accessibility challenges for individuals with disabilities. Applications are open until October 12.