The Brief | January 7, 2022

The Week in impact investing: Next chapter


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TGIF, Agents of Impact!

Moving forward. Initial reactions to major economic dislocations are often reflexively nativist and xenophobic. As disruptive technologies, demographic shifts and social changes are absorbed into a new cycle of growth and opportunity, seemingly irreconcilable division can give way to a shared, expansive vision. President Biden yesterday asked Americans to step up to such a transformation. “Write the next chapter in American history,” the president said from the Capitol rotunda, “where January 6 marks not the end of democracy but the beginning of a renaissance of liberty and fair play.” 

It’s too early, and undoubtedly naive, to say we are post-January 6th, any more than that we are post-pandemic. But the COVID disruption already has turbocharged bio- and digital technology and tilted the balance of power to workers from bosses. Inflation, supply-chain breakdowns and worker and skills shortages are, after all, functions of an economy ready to roar. As ImpactAlpha’s Amy Cortese detailed this week, January 6th and associated threats to democracy are giving rise to a multi-movement engine to hold accountable not just elected officials but corporations and investors as well. In her Institutional Impact column, contributing editor Imogen Rose-Smith took stock of the limits of so-called ESG investing and found the stage set for such investors to stand up “with capital commitments, investment results and clearly beneficial real-world impacts.” Acumen’s Jacqueline Novogratz in a guest post took climate investors to task for ignoring the poor, but identified “an explosion of creative financial instruments” to let more people participate in the benefits of the transition to a new green economy.

By now, it’s well-known that the quirks and contradictions of the American system, from the filibuster to the gerrymander to the electoral college, pose high hurdles to majority rule. As frustrating as that might be, the mobilization of a super-majority to bust through such obstacles is a worthy challenge. Today’s nascent frameworks for sustainability, inclusion and stakeholder power are templates for an egalitarian realignment that can restructure ossified alliances. How Agents of Impact meld the common yearnings of diverse constituencies into a multi-movement engine for social and economic renewal is the next chapter ImpactAlpha is itching to write. – David Bank

Featured: Consumer Electrification Show

Mobile has a new meaning as EVs steal the spotlight at CES. “Electrify everything” could have been the motto of this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The annual electronics extravaganza in Las Vegas has morphed from a digital gadget-fest into a showcase for electric vehicles and e-mobility. Stars of this year’s show included GM’s electric Chevy Silverado pickup, which boasts a 400-mile range and will start shipping next year. Ford is doubling production of its hotly anticipated Ford F-150 Lightning pickup. Mercedes teased its solar panel-covered Vision EQXX, Sony said it is spinning up an EV unit and Turkey has its own EV startup in Togg. Even laggards like Chrysler are going all-electric.

  • Beyond cars. GM’s Mary Barra announced orders from Walmart and FedEx for the company’s BrightDrop delivery vans. Amazon snapped up Stellantis’s Ram ProMaster e-vans. Mass.-based Indigo Technologies unveiled delivery and rideshare vans with wireless charging capabilities. Pure Watercraft showed off an all-electric pontoon boat (in collaboration with GM). And Vancouver’s Damon Motors debuted its electric motorcycles. Then there was French startup Maca Flight, which offered a glimpse of its hydrogen-powered ‘carcopter.’ En avant!
  • Plug in.

The Week’s Agents of Impact

Insights from Agents of Impact to kick off 2022. Connecting climate and community. The how of investing. Impact’s cool factor. Agents of Impact offer words of wisdom for the year ahead.

  • BlocPower is electrifying buildings, reducing greenhouse gases and creating green jobs. “I’m a tech entrepreneur that believes that the best way to protect my family from the damage of climate change is for the company to be successful.” – Donnel Baird, BlocPower
  • Climate-impacted communities are an overlooked source of talent and great companies. “If we invest with this knowledge, we will be able to decarbonize faster, center equitable solutions and be better investors.” – Dawn Lippert, Elemental Excelerator
  • “The real solutions to the carbon nightmare will win because they’re cheaper, better, faster, stronger, simpler and just plain cooler than what’s available today.” – Chris Sacca, Lowercarbon Capital
  • Too often investors remain at a distance from critical issues. “Get proximate. Come closer.” – Konda Mason, Jubilee Justice
  • “My entire career has been focused on financial structuring. I believed from early on that how we fund impact matters as much as what we fund.” – Aunnie Patton Power, impact advisor and author
  • Heather Fleming’s entrepreneurship incubator has supported hundreds of Navajo and Hopi-run businesses in Navajo Nation. “If we can secure land and other resources for ourselves, people will see that it can be done. If we are able to lay the foundation, then eventually other organizations and businesses will just be able to ‘plug in’.” – ​​Heather Fleming, Change Labs

Go deeper. “A dozen Agents of Impact who took leadership in 2021

The Week’s Dealflow

Deal spotlight: Waste to value. One person’s trash is another’s treasure. Companies that repurpose and reduce waste are poised to break out in a world awash in garbage. In Israel, Tipa raised $70 million to reduce plastic waste using biodegradable plastic packaging. In the U.S., Keter Environmental Services, which provides recycling and waste management services for more than 500 corporate clients, is acquiring M-PASS, an Atlanta-based waste recycling company. Sweden’s Motatos secured €24 million ($27.1 million) to sell excess and soon-to-expire goods that would otherwise end up in landfills.

  • Circular economyLanzaTech, which is using recycled carbon to make sustainable fuels and materials such as textile, rubber and packaging, is looking to go public. Ambercycle scored $21.6 million to convert end-of-life textile waste into premium fabric. 

Small businesses. Alliance Finance secures $5 million from Swiss impact fund EMF Microfinance Fund to support COVID-impacted small businesses in Sri Lanka… Kenyan fintech Paylend raises $2 million to expand financial access to small businesses in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Nigeria. 

Inclusive economy. Udaan, a Bengaluru-based B2B enterprise tech startup for small Indian merchants, secures $200 million via a convertible note and $50 million in debt… Lafaza Trading scores $1.5 million from Incofin to buy vanilla and spices from smallholder farmers in Madagascar at fair-trade prices.

Clean energy. PosiGen raises $100 million to close the clean energy affordability gap for low- and middle-income homeowners… India’s Annapurna Finance rakes in $35 million from Oikocredit, Accion and Encourage Capital to provide clean energy financing to rural borrowers.

Sustainability. Capricorn’s Sustainable Investment Fund takes a 20% stake in Norselab, an Oslo-based European impact investment manager… Indian agriculture solutions company UPL raises the second tranche of a $700 million sustainability-linked loan.

EV charging. San Francisco-based EV fast-charging startup ChargeNet scores $6.2 million in seed funding led by impact advisory firm Aligned Climate Capital… Israel’s StoreDot secures $60 million for ‘extreme fast charging’ EV batteries. 

Edtech. TPG Rise sells its stake in EverFi to Blackbaud… Slang secures $14 million to upskill English-language skills for Latam workers. 

Investing in Health. Ghanaian pharmacy venture mPharma raises $35 million to expand drug access in Africa. 

Impact tech. Cottonwood Technology Fund raises $75 million for deeptech impact.

The Week’s Talent

Sarah Bloom Raskin, former deputy secretary of the Treasury, has emerged as President Biden’s choice for vice chair of supervision at the Federal Reserve… Lauren Glickman, ex- of Renewcomm, joins Encore Renewable Energy as vice president of marketing… Ben Ratner, ex- of the Environmental Defense Fund, joins JPMorgan Chase as executive director of sustainability… 

Dana Barsky, former global head of sustainable finance at Credit Suisse, becomes president of Growth for Good Acquisition Corp., an “inclusive and sustainable” SPAC that last month raised $253 million… MSCI’s Linda-Eling Lee and Kimberly Gluck of Boston Trust Walden join the board of US SIF.

The Week’s Jobs

Nyala Venture is looking for a co-lead in Nairobi… Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation is hiring an associate and analyst in Boston or Menlo Park… Tennison Group seeks an investment analyst of ESG/impact investing in Denver… SJF Ventures is hiring an associate in Durham, a senior analyst based in San Francisco, and an analyst of portfolio acceleration in New York or Durham… Rockefeller Foundation is looking for an investment accounting manager in New York… Convergence seeks a senior advisor for Africa and one for Asia-Pacific. It’s also recruiting a director of market acceleration and design funding.

BlocPower is hiring a project manager in New York… Upstart Co-Lab is looking for an associate in New York or Los Angeles… Ford Foundation seeks a portfolio operations manager… Spring Lane Capital is recruiting a vice president, associate and senior analyst… Thomson Reuters Foundation is hiring a senior manager of inclusive economies in London… Rights CoLab seeks a part-time sustainability standards consultant and a full-time development manager (remote)… Impact Engine is hiring a senior associate of economic opportunity.

That’s a wrap. Have a wonderful weekend. 

– Jan. 7, 2022