The Brief | March 5, 2024

The Brief: Women-led funds seeking climate solutions

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Greetings Agents of Impact!

In today’s Brief:

  • The Liist: Women-led funds and climate solutions
  • Upskilling healthcare workers 
  • Wrestling with the history of finance 

Featured: The Liist

Every day is International Women’s Day for female fund managers driving climate solutions. Women running companies and asset management firms continue to raise less than 2% of total invested capital. Nevertheless, they persist. This month’s Liist of impact fund managers that are in the market with funds features a new crop of female fund managers zeroing in on climate opportunities. Streetlife Ventures in New York is led by two female GPs targeting what they see as a $5 trillion opportunity for urban infrastructure resilience, adaptation modeling, energy efficiency and other solutions to cities’ climate vulnerability. Farmhand Ventures is addressing the compounding risks of climate change and labor shortages in US agriculture with a VC fund for technologies that improve human and natural resource efficiency on farms.

  • Climate + gender. Singapore-based New Energy Nexus is in the market with a catalytic early-stage fund that aims to de-risk new climate technologies and clean energy companies in Southeast Asia. Sahara Impact Ventures is cutting early equity checks to companies in East and West Africa that are curbing food waste, delivering clean energy access, and addressing knock-on climate impacts in finance, education and healthcare.
  • Women-led or women-focused. Singapore and Vietnam-based Beacon Fund is raising a fund to address a credit gap in Southeast Asia’s women-led small and mid-sized businesses. Global humanitarian organization Mercy Corps is in the market with its second venture fund, focusing on climate resilience for vulnerable populations in emerging markets, particularly women. Sustainability-focused Bay Bridge Ventures is raising its first climate fund; the Berkeley, Calif.-based firm is pledging 10% of its carried interest to climate-aligned nonprofits.

Dealflow: Inclusive Economy

Stepful scores $12 million to upskill workers for entry-level healthcare jobs. Detroit-based Stepful provides online and in-person training for medical assistants, ultrasound technicians, and pharmacy and other healthcare workers. More than 3,000 trainees have gone on to fill entry-level positions at CVS, Walgreens, Northwell Health and other employers. More than half of Stepful’s graduates identify as Black; a majority are women of color. “Our mission goes beyond training; it’s about creating pathways to prosperity from those in underserved communities,” said Stepful’s Carl Madi. Stepful connects graduates with new jobs within an average of two months. Trainees receive a full tuition refund if they don’t get a job offer within six months. Stepful says graduates have reported an average 25% increase in their salary. 

  • Edtech X healthtech. Alleycorp Impact, the early-stage impact venture fund of tech billionaire Kevin Ryan, led the Series A round. San Francisco-based edtech investor Reach Capital reupped via its fourth fund. Other participating investors include Y Combinator, SemperVirens, Company Ventures, Green Sands Equity and 01 Advisors.
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Adenia Capital acquires South Africa last-mile delivery platform The Courier Guy. E-commerce in South Africa is growing at an annual rate of 15%. The Courier Guy, through its network of 2,200 delivery drivers and 1,100 smart lockers, provides last-mile delivery services daily to thousands of business and individual customers in South Africa. “The acquisition of The Courier Guy underscores our collective belief in the vast potential of the last-mile delivery sector,” said Florent de Boissieu of Adenia, which is acquiring the company alongside co-investors Proparco, South Suez Capital and DEG, Germany’s development finance institution.

  • Growth equity. Adenia, a sustainability-focused private equity investor in Africa, made the investment via its fifth fund. The Courier Guy is the fund’s second investment. The fund purchased a majority stake in South African solar provider Enfin in October last year. 

Dealflow overflow. Investment news crossing our desks:

  • J&J Foundation’s Impact Ventures backed CareAdvisors to help social workers, medical facilities and community-based organizations improve access to critical services for their patients. (Impact Ventures supports ImpactAlpha’s coverage of Investing in Health.)
  • Greek insurance tech venture Hellas Direct raised €30 million ($33 million) for climate insurance in Europe from the European Investment Bank, Endeavor Catalyst and the IFC. (TFN) 
  • San Francisco Bay Area’s Range Energy raised $23.5 million to decarbonize commercial trucking with electric-powered heavy-duty trucks. (Range)
  • InSolare, which offers tech-enabled services for energy storage, green hydrogen and other clean energy projects in India, clinched 660 million rupees ($8 million) in growth funding. (Entrepreneur India)

Impact Voices: Returns on Inclusion

Wrestling with the greedy, predatory, wealth-hoarding history of the financial system. The Kataly Foundation is a philanthropic organization rooted in non-extraction, wealth redistribution and power-building in Black, Indigenous and all other communities of color. “Yet our work still requires that we participate in traditional (extractive) financial systems,” Kataly’s Lynne Hoey writes in the third part of her series on the investment strategies of the $450 million spend-out foundation. “The financial history of extraction, enslavement and predatory greed have been heavy on our minds.”

  • Slave markets. The first modern stock market was created in Amsterdam in 1611 to sell shares in the Dutch East India Company, which funded colonization and enslavement, Hoey writes. Deposit accounts, loans, property insurance, foreign exchange and capital raising for southern plantations were funded through the New York Stock Exchange. “Enslavement was so tied to New York’s prosperity that it proposed seceding from both the North and the South to protect its economic interests,” she says. Today’s major financial institutions all have acquired entities that date to that era. “That means each has benefited from the enslavement of stolen Africans.”
  • Rooted in community. “If we are being honest with ourselves, we know that there is no completely morally sound way to use the tools of an inherently racist and unjust system,” Hoey writes. “So we are left with the thorny challenge of finding the best possible way forward that allows us to support our grantee partners’ work, doesn’t cause further harm, and allows for much-needed transformation within the financial system.” Kataly is pursuing a strategy of blended returns between public and private asset classes “in order to support financial institutions that are rooted in community and not in enslavement.”
  • Keep reading, “Wrestling with the greedy, predatory, wealth-hoarding history of the financial system,” by Kataly Foundation’s Lynne Hoey. Read her earlier posts in the series, “How Kataly Foundation is divesting from Wall Street to reinvest in communities,” and “A spend-out foundation asks, ‘What is enough?’” 

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Fairchance Ncube in Zimbabwe, Agbo Chinenye in Nigeria, and Khiusha Uaila in Mozambique are among 44 innovators from a dozen African countries selected for the Wave fellowship program… Cambria Allen-Ratzlaff, previously with JUST Capital, and Rose Easton are named chief responsible investment ecosystem officers at Principles for Responsible Investment… John Biagioni of Lampin Corp. joins Massachusetts’ employee ownership advisory board. 

At Reach Capital, Caoimhe MacRunnels joins as a senior associate, and Gloria Liu and Demetrius Palmer join as analysts. Reach is also looking for an executive assistant in the San Francisco Bay Area… World Education Services seeks a remote investments platform manager… Kalamazoo Community Foundation has an opening for a senior investment officer… City Light Capital seeks an associate in New York… Also in New York, JPMorgan Chase is recruiting a corporate responsibility strategy associate. 

Village Capital is looking for an Africa regional lead in Nairobi… Enhanced Capital is hiring a summer intern… The Luxembourg Microfinance and Development Fund is recruiting a business development manager… Finance in Motion is on the hunt for a fund manager in Frankfurt… CrossBoundary Group is hiring an associate principal for the Latin America region… NosTerra Ventures is hosting “AI, deep fakes and democracy: The 2024 election battleground,” in Menlo Park, Calif., Tuesday, March 19.

👉 View (or post) impact investing jobs on ImpactAlpha’s Career Hub.

Thank you for your impact!

March 5, 2024