TGIF, Agents of Impact!
🗣 Catalyst at large. When you put capital into the hands of women – as fund managers, as entrepreneurs, as consumers – good things happen. That was the mantra of Suzanne Biegel, founder of GenderSmart (now part of 2X Global) who passed away this week. Biegel was among the most consistent and clarion voices across ImpactAlpha’s posts, podcasts and Agent of Impact calls. Suzanne herself was the quintessential Agent of Impact, present at the creation of the field of gender lens investing and a tireless champion for its growth (see, “Making markets work for women and the world”). Her Project Sage identified more than 300 private equity, venture capital, and private debt funds that invest with a gender lens. Her GenderSmart summits convened the doers and advanced the conversation. Heading for Change, the legacy project Suzanne created with her husband, Daniel Maskit, centers women in climate solutions (see, “With climate + gender fund, Suzanne Biegel is heading for change”). “Gender-smart climate finance will be the norm in 20 years’ time,” Biegel liked to say. “But we don’t have 20 years. We’re out of runway.”
At ImpactAlpha, we felt that urgency – Suzanne’s legacy – this week, as Amy Cortese and Roodgally Senatus fanned out across Climate Week NYC (and reported back here, here and here). “Legacy is something everyone must think about,” Amy shared on our team’s Slack channel. “What did you do when there was still time to stop the climate catastrophe, address inequality and end poverty?” Suzanne defined, aggregated, advocated, connected… and catalyzed. “Be a first mover,” she told Jessica Pothering last year, encouraging investors to back first-time women fund managers. Heading for Change’s Samantha Anderson penned a thoughtful remembrance. “She’s gone,” Maskit wrote. “But she is beautiful and had a beautiful end.” Among the hundreds of testimonials:
- She spoke her convictions without filter or fear; she tapped her deep sense of purpose in shaping a field; she inspired so many to find their courage and convert it to action. – Laurie Spengler
- (Suzanne’s) legacy is a thing of much magic, power and inspiration. – Shalaka Joshi
- Thank you Suzanne for the impact you had on my career and the space you created for female fund managers like me across the world. – Adesuwa Okunbo Rhodes
- We considered her our magical professional fairy godmother from afar. – Soraya Darabi
- We have lost a bright light, as Suzanne was a champion for women and girls, and our climate, around the world. – Ayesha Khanna
- She would empower, gladden and make me smile every time we met. She embodied the value of keeping on. She will be missed, yet she will still inspire us. – Clara Miller
The Week’s Podcast
🎧 Impact Briefing. David Bank is joined by Marjorie Kelly of The Democracy Collaborative, who challenges impact investors to “move beyond the portfolio level, imagining together the broader, deeper, truly radical changes we need, including in policy and culture.” In her new book, “Wealth Supremacy: How the Extractive Economy and the Biased Rules of Capitalism Drive Today’s Crises,” Kelly asks, “How do we shift the role of capital so it’s no longer in charge of, but in service to, the public good?” Host Monique Aiken has the headlines.
- Listen to this week’s episode, and follow all of ImpactAlpha’s podcasts on Apple, Spotify or wherever you listen.
- Read Kelly’s essay on ImpactAlpha, “Challenging wealth supremacy to realize the dream of systemic change.”
The Week’s Dealflow
Deal spotlight: Rockefeller’s Zero Gap Fund is fully deployed, yet gaps remain. The Rockefeller Foundation launched the $30 million Zero Gap Fund with the MacArthur Foundation four years ago to supply catalytic capital to unstick stubborn sustainable development challenges. The fund has helped mobilize more than $800 million for projects and portfolios that support access to energy and healthcare, women’s economic inclusion, and affordable, essential services for the world’s emerging consumer class. Yet the Sustainable Development Goals are “woefully off track,” according to the UN, and face trillions of dollars of annual financing deficits. That’s not the fault of the Zero Gap Fund, of course, just as the fund can’t claim full credit for that $800 million. Its first-in capital, flexible structuring, guarantees, and other mechanisms did serve to crowd in some private investors.
- Food for thought. Zero Gap made its final investment in Colorado-based Trailhead Capital, which closed a $50 million agtech fund. Rockefeller is keen to expand its focus on regenerative agriculture. “If we do our jobs right, you will continue to see that kind of outsized impact against the food agenda,” including landscape-scale transitions and the creation of more just and nutritious food systems, Rockefeller’s Liz Yee told ImpactAlpha. The foundation’s recent impact report is the rare self-assessment that acknowledges missteps, including in pandemic preparedness, Opportunity Zones and “smart markets” for food in Africa. “It made us reflect on what we felt was transformational impact, and on where we didn’t do so well,” Yee says.
- Climate forward. Altogether, Rockefeller Foundation will lay out $1 billion over five years to advance climate solutions integrated with energy, health, food and finance. The groundwork for the strategy has already been laid. In 2021, the foundation seeded the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet, with the IKEA Foundation and Bezos Earth Fund, with a commitment of $500 million—its largest single investment. Last year, it launched its $105 million Global Food Strategy to “reimagine our food systems to make them more resilient for the future.”
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Agrifood investing. Astanor Ventures closed €360 million for its second fund to focus on sustainable agtech… Indigo Ag scored $250 million to ramp up the carbon credits side of its ag inputs business… ICA Fund invested $350,000 in Happy Moose Juice via an “impact note”… Emata snagged $2.4 million for East Africa’s smallholder farmers.
Carbon markets. Plan A, a woman-led Scope 1, 2, and 3 carbon accounting startup for large companies, scored an additional $27 million for its ongoing Series A round… UK-based Treefera snagged $2.2 million to improve the quality of carbon offsets using AI and data from a trillion trees.
Climate tech. Lowercarbon Capital raised $550 million for two climate tech funds… European Investment Fund plugged €40 million into Blume Equity… Galvanize Climate Solutions closed Innovation + Expansion fund with more than $1 billion… Biodiversity-focused investor Superorganism invested in 11 companies.
Electric vehicles. A GreenMax Capital and Tradable partnership will add 75,000 electric vehicles to African roadways by 2025, starting with a $5 million pilot project in Nairobi… Germany’s Fernride raised a $50 million Series A round for its autonomous and electric yard trucks.
Energy transition. Chile-based CleanLight raised $3.2 million to manufacture power generators and other renewable energy hardware products… CrossBoundary scored $10 million for solar mini-grids in rural Africa… Israel’s Prisma Photonics raised $20 million for AI-powered grid monitoring… The billionaire family behind Danish shipping giant Maersk formed a new company to produce three million tons of green methanol by 2030… Nevada-based battery recycler Redwood Materials acquired Redux Recycling… Verkor said it raised €2 billion for a battery gigafactory in northern France.
Financial inclusion. Incofin sold its stake in Unguka Bank in Rwanda… Lupiya snagged $8.2 million in Series A funding to bring financial services to Zambia’s underbanked… Mottu raised $50 million for motorcycle rentals for Latin American gig workers.
Muni impact. University of Hawaii campus tapped the bond market to finance student housing.
Small business finance. Open Road Alliance has disbursed $50 million in short-term bridge loans through its impact fund, launched in March 2020 to help businesses weather the pandemic… New York Life committed $50 million to Momentus Capital to make small business loans tailored to entrepreneurs from underserved communities.
Sustainable business. Rabobank spun out Colesco, a company providing debt to middle-market companies in Europe to help them achieve sustainability goals.
The Week’s Talent
Daniel Barker, managing director of Halcyon Incubator, will replace Kate Goodall as Halcyon’s CEO. Goodall and chief investment officer Dahna Goldstein are leaving in January to co-manage a new fund… Kristi Cunningham Whitfield, ex- of the DC Department of Small and Local Business Development, will join Nathan Cummings Foundation as its chief impact officer and director of racial justice… Drawdown Fund, managed by Tiger Grass Capital, hired Lisa Schule as managing director… Luminate promoted Toyin Akinniyi to vice president of Africa.
The Week’s Jobs
In New York: Ford Foundation is recruiting a mission investments technology fellow… Pursuit is hiring an impact investment associate… Morgan Stanley seeks a sustainable real assets senior associate or vice president.
The Beacon Fund is hiring a social impact officer in Denver… The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation seeks a healthy communities deputy director in Princeton, NJ… ImpactAssets is recruiting a remote senior accounting manager or controller.
Quona Capital is on the hunt for an investment associate in Singapore… Also in Singapore, Nuveen is recruiting an impact investing associate… Convergence is looking for a Toronto-based senior associate for design funding and market acceleration… AXA Investment Managers has an opening for a real assets responsible investing intern in France… Zubi Group is looking for a head of impact investor relations in Madrid.
That’s a wrap. Have a wonderful weekend.
– Sept. 22, 2023