The Brief | August 28, 2020

The Week in impact investing: Deeper

The team at


TGIF, Agents of Impact! 

Going deeper. If impact investing hasn’t gotten 10X bigger, it can at least try to go 10X deeper. That was the call from Bulbul Gupta and Jed Emerson, who challenged Agents of Impact “to bring all of our assets to bear upon the challenges before us to build back better and build a better world with racial and economic justice at its heart” (see No. 2, below). Likewise, Jessica Rose and Hilary Irby called on social impact investors “to become the agents of a sweeping economic transformation anchored in broad-based employee ownership” (No 3). With droughts and hurricanes more frequent and more disastrous, water investors must work even harder to craft solutions (No. 6). Players from the NBA and WNBA surely deepened their impact this week. No longer satisfied with their calls for justice from courts going unheeded, they shut down the courts (see Agents of Impact). And investors will have to go beyond statements to address systemic racism along with the systemic risks of inequality and climate change (No. 1). To generate meaningful social and environmental outcomes, investors need to go 10X deeper. Deeper intentions. Deeper engagement. Deeper impact. 

– Dennis Price

Impact Briefing. On this week’s podcast, host Monique Aiken explores equitable employee-ownership with the Democracy Collaborative’s Jessica Rose. We’ll hear from the women and men of the NBA and WNBA, who are putting justice above the game, and who are this week’s Agents of Impact. Plus, the headlines. Tune in, share, and follow us on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. 

The Week’s Big 7

1. Racism as a systemic risk. In a world where value is generated by talent, innovation and networks, a system rooted in exclusion, hierarchy and control is increasingly archaic and risky. On this month’s Agents of Impact Call, Living Cities’ Demetric Duckett, Sinclair Capital’s Jon Lukomnic, Cambridge Associates’ Sarah Hoyt and The Investment Integration Project’s Bill Burckart explore the nuances of systemic impact investing. Tune in

2. Blending finance for economic and racial justice. We know impact investors can generate competitive financial returns. The question is whether they can advance “the economic and racial liberation of communities and entrepreneurs,” write Pacific Community Ventures’ Bulbul Gupta and Blended Value’s Jed Emerson in a guest post. Too few foundations and impact investors provide such “reparative capital,” they say, and call on capital market intermediaries like PCV, along with their investors and supporters, to do more to close racial and economic gaps. Go deeper

3. Seizing the ‘equitable employee ownership’ moment. The COVID crisis could destroy as many as half of U.S. small businesses. Impact investors “could turn the current moment from crisis to opportunity, by ensuring that workers are positioned to receive a fair share of the wealth they help create, and that Main Street economies continue to be anchored by locally-owned enterprises,” write Jessica Rose of The Democracy Collaborative and Hilary Irby of Soros Fund Management. Hear them out.

4. ‘Mezzanine capital’ for Africa’s family businesses. Netherlands- and Uganda-based iungo capital is one of the rare capital providers in Africa extending working capital and inventory finance for small and growing businesses. “Most are family businesses,” iungo’s Roeland Donckers says. “They don’t want equity because they don’t want to give up ownership.” Read on

5. Crowdfunding during COVID. The Detroit City Football Club turned to its hometown fans rather than traditional investors for the capital it needed to weather the COVID crisis. Equity crowdfunding platform WeFunder hosted the club’s $1 million campaign. “If ever there was a historical moment for a democratic, community-based, people-powered approach to investing in startups and small businesses, this is that moment,” writes WeFunder’s Jonny Price. Get the full story

6. Water-related deals begin to flow. As much as $1.5 trillion a year in water and sanitation infrastructure investments will be needed globally by 2030 to mitigate and adapt to climate-related water threats. Water infrastructure investors like Upwell Water and WaterWorks, and water-tech investors like Mazarine, are helping to open the tap. Take a dip

7. India’s food future. By 2030, India’s 1.4 billion people will spend an estimated $1.6 trillion annually to feed themselves. The impact investor Omnivore laid out eight tech trends driving agrifood investing for India’s huge market. Dig in

The Week’s Agents of Impact

Professional basketball players. The women and the men. When the lineup of the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take the court on Wednesday, the players didn’t realize they’d be joined by the rest of the NBA. And then the WNBA. And then other professional leagues, from baseball to soccer to tennis. The sports world’s bottom-up, wildcat strike followed the police shooting of another Black man, this time in Kenosha, Wis., 40 miles south of Milwaukee. With Jacob Blake’s name going virtually unmentioned at this week’s Republican National Convention, the young men and women of the NBA and WNBA are filling a leadership gap. “The past four months have shed a light on the ongoing racial injustices in our African American communities,” the Milwaukee Bucks’ Sterling Brown read from the team’s statement. “Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action. So our focus today cannot be on basketball.” For months, the players have tried to do both. They’ve resumed the COVID-shortened season inside a Disneyworld bubble in Orlando, Fla., and their players association even helped fund a low-cost, open-source saliva test for the coronavirus. Throughout, the players maintained their support for the summer’s social justice protests and, increasingly, are stepping up to lead.

Off the court, Lebron James, the WNBA’s Renee Montgomery and a roster of other high-profile athletes are putting millions into More than a Vote, a campaign to recruit poll workers and support polling stations in Black precincts. The women of the WNBA have been beating the drum for social justice since the summer of 2016 – well before even Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid began taking a knee during the national anthem. Players from the Atlanta Dream have faced off with Georgia senator and team owner Kelly Loeffler, who has fought the WNBA’s support of Black Lives Matter. This week’s strike represents the finest tradition of collective action. “It was important for us to collectively come up with something that we feel would make a very bold statement,” said Ariel Atkins of the Washington Mystics. “We’re Black women. We’re used to people trying to tell us to shut up. We don’t care. We’re here. We’re going to say what we gotta say and say how we feel.” An emotional Chris Weber told the players not to listen to cynics who said the protests won’t matter. “If not now, when?” said the former NBA star. “You are starting something for the next generation and the next generation to take over.” – Dennis Price

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The Week’s Dealflow

Access to… Esusu raises $2.3 million to dismantle barriers to housing… Affordable housing startup PadSplit closes $10 million… SparkMeter clinches $12 million to expand reliable electricity in emerging markets… Mali’s Energy+ raises $1 million to expand access to off-grid solar products.  

Agrifood investing. China’s Starfield Food & Science Technology snags $10 million for plant-based meat… Finnish vertical farming startup iFarm raises $4 million… Ankur Capital invests in seafood tech venture Captain Fresh. 

Impact bonds. Japan’s Hulic Co. issues bond that punishes for missed environmental impact targets… With a ‘green sukuk,’ Leader Energy raises $62 million for Malaysian solar projects… The Skill Mill floats a social impact bond for an employment program for ex-offenders.

Impact tech. Motiv secures $15 million to convert trucks to electric vehicles… Algae-based materials company Checkerspot raises $36 million… Trellus Health raises $5 million to help patients and health providers manage chronic conditions. 

Returns on inclusion. Merger of Broadway Financial and City First Bank aims to boost capital for underserved areas… Microsoft seeds Siebert Williams Shank’s small business fund with $25 million… Minnesota-based Finnovation Lab selects social impact fellows.  

Fund news. Movens Capital raises €13 million to back tech startups in Central and Eastern Europe. 

Frontier finance. Ortus Africa Capital to back Uganda’s COVID relief-focused startups.

Inclusive fintech. WorldRemit acquires Africa-focused remittance app Sendwave for $500 million.

The Week’s Talent

Mark Carney, ex- of the Bank of England, joins Brookfield Asset Management as vice chair and head of ESG and impact fund investing… Rachel Robasciotti launches Adasina Social Capital to align investors with social justice movements… Aniyia Williams, founder of Black & Brown Founders and co-founder of Zebras Unite, joins Omidyar Network as principal of beneficial technology. Deldelp Medina is the new executive director at Black & Brown Founders… KKS Advisors’ Anuj Shah joins Nossa Data as an advisor.

The Week’s Jobs

CalPERS is hiring a human capital manager… Overdeck Family Foundation seeks a program analyst for its early impact portfolio… Cartica Management is looking for an analyst in Washington, D.C… Tideline is recruiting an analyst in New York or San Francisco… Provenance Capital Group is seeking an investment associate in San Francisco or New York… BlackRock is looking for a sustainable investing platform strategist in Hong Kong.

Amazon is hiring a sustainability and circular economy program manager in Sunnyvale, Calif… UNDP is hiring a gender-lens investing and impact management and measurement expert in Amman, Jordan… Vivid Economics seeks a principal of sustainable finance in London… Neuberger Berman is looking for an ESG portfolio specialist in London…  UNICEF USA is recruiting an impact investing associate or senior associate for its Impact Fund for Children in New York.

ECMC has an opening for a corporate development and impact investment associate in Minneapolis… The Global Impact Investing Network is looking for a fall research associate… TZP Group is looking for a vice president on its impact investing team in New York… Calvert Impact Capital is hiring an analyst and officer/senior officer in Bethesda, Md… Van Leer Group seeks a mission-related investments consultant in the Netherlands.

Thank you for reading.

–Aug. 28, 2020