The Brief | November 17, 2023

The Week in Impact Investing: Optimize

The team at


TGIF, Agents of Impact! 

🗣 Collective leadership. To “realize my full potential” at a recent conference, I took part in a vigorous morning session of “the mindful arts,” a combination of hapkido, tai chi and yoga (thanks, Jacques-Philippe Piverger and Anne-Christin Grimme!). As a result, I had to miss a session on “pausing,” which promised strategies for incorporating rest “without sacrificing performance.” As beneficial as such practices are, I’ve resisted the trend to fully optimize my life – I exercise intermittently, plan haphazardly and execute mostly on deadline. Fortunately, I have a great team that together covers for most of our individual flaws. 

At last month’s GIIN Impact Forum, Amit Bouri called for collective leadership to drive change. That was demonstrated on this week’s Agents of Impact Call, in partnership with Heading for Change, where fund managers Shally Shanker of AiiM, Noramay Cadena of Supply Change, and Camilla Nestor of MCE Social Capital described how applying a gender lens amplifies the impact of their climate strategies (see The Week’s Call, below). In laying out the case for an “ownership movement,” WES’s Smitha Das and Santhosh Ramdoss of Gary Community Ventures make the simple point that “sharing a small part of equity upside with those that are integral to creating value (workers, homeowners, community members) can be good for the investment overall.” As Dennis Price reports, JFF Ventures’ Yigal Kerszenbaum has restructured the fund to align the interests of partners, founders and the nonprofit Jobs for the Future. At Quantified Ventures, Tee Thomas is building on a decade of experience in outcomes-based financing to move from discovery to scale.

We like to think ImpactAlpha plays a part in fostering such collective accountability to impact. Contributing editor Robert Brown kicked off his Macro Impact column with an explanation of the interest-rate whiplash that is upending business strategies. Arjun Jairaj and Jess Clemans of the London-based VC firm A/O PropTech lay out five ways to supercharge energy retrofits. To identify other promising opportunities in climate finance, contributor Shefali Anand reported from the India Green Investment Forum in Delhi, and Oxford’s Abrar Chaudhury, Jamil Wyne and Minahil Amin surveyed more than 140 practitioners from 20 countries. To paraphrase the African proverb, if you want to realize individual potential, optimize yourself. To optimize for impact, let’s go together. – David Bank

The Week’s Podcast

🎧 Impact Briefing. Friends of ImpactAlpha Eric Horvath and Lucas Turner-Owens share an excerpt from their new podcast, Impact(ed). They speak with Tara Mei Smith of New York City’s Office of the Comptroller and Marcela Pinilla of Zevin Asset Management about creating change from the inside at pension funds, and their journeys as women of color investment professionals. 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.
  • Listen to Impact(ed). The new podcast features interviews with diverse practitioners working across the capital spectrum to unlock the power of investing for good. ImpactAlpha is partnering with Impact(ed) to bring the podcast to our audience. Read ImpactAlpha’s introduction – and listen to the first episode.

The Week’s Call

To be effective, climate solutions add a gender lens (video). That women are more adversely affected by climate change is well established in impact and development circles. Less known: that climate solutions have a greater chance of success when women are engaged in design, decision-making and adoption. “There is a growing body of evidence supporting this,” said Rose Maizner of Heading for Change on this week’s Agents of Impact Call. “We have to fully utilize women’s insights and intelligence and experiences.” Kicking off ImpactAlpha’s partnership with Heading for Change, three of the initiative’s portfolio funds delved into the deployment of capital at the intersection of climate + gender.

  • Strategic thesis. Heading for Change, the legacy fund of Suzanne Biegel and her husband Daniel Maskit, was created to integrate the two investment themes. But even to its experienced team, it wasn’t immediately clear what a climate + gender strategy should look like in practice. The key: “Truly leveraging gender and climate to create improved climate and financial outcomes means thinking about women as catalysts and as change agents instead of solely as beneficiaries,” said Maizner.
  • Full stack diversity. Supply Change Capital, which invests in food-related climate solutions through the lenses of gender and culture, looks for “full stack diversity,” said Supply Change’s Noramay Cadena. Internally, the fund is focused on its own team diversity and what service providers it works with. For the companies it invests in: “Who are the equity holders on the cap table? How did those companies build their own ecosystems? Who do they hire? Who are their suppliers? Are they thinking about gender and impact?”
  • Gender bias. Fundraising for climate + gender strategies is challenging. Half of the investors AiiM approaches drop out of the conversation when its climate lens comes up, said founder Shally Shanker. “And the moment we bring up gender, we’re typically asked to talk with the grant making teams.” MCE Social Capital has had an easier time because it targets mission-aligned investors, added MCE’s Camilla Nestor. “We are here to lead the way,” said Maizner of Heading for Change’s mission, “to break down barriers other investors might be feeling to come into this space, whether it’s not knowing how to evaluate funds and opportunities, not knowing what funds are out there, or what this universe looks like.”
  • Read the full recap – and watch the replay. Explore our new database of more than three dozen funds investing at the intersection of climate + gender. 

The Week’s Dealflow

Deal spotlight: Getting federal funding to where it’s most needed. The historic wave of federal funding has sparked a cottage industry of organizations helping entrepreneurs, project developers and municipal leaders take advantage of the opportunity. “You have all these big promises right now about social justice, union jobs, Black and Brown communities, undoing redlining,” says Bracken Hendricks, co-founder of clean energy project developer and financier Urban Ingenuity. “But it’s not inevitable that you’ll get those social and economic outcomes through the ordinary functioning of markets, because they’re stuck in those places.” This week, San Francisco-based Pioneer snagged $2.9 million for an AI-powered platform that helps climate tech startups identify and apply for government funding opportunities. Invest in Our Future, a donor collaborative to help underserved communities obtain federal funds for climate-resilient projects, has grown its pooled capital to $240 million, up from an initial $180 million.

  • Scaled pools. Other intermediaries making sure the federal funds are equitably distributed: Build US, another philanthropic collaboration, has raised $50 million from funders including the Skoll, Hewlett, Kellogg and Marguerite Casey foundations. The Milken Institute’s 10,000 Communities portal connects projects in underserved communities with state and federal funding resources. Urban Ingenuity in August raised a $5.3 million Working Power Impact Fund to provide pre-development and construction loans to community-owned solar projects. “There is huge interest in the capital markets in investing in scaled pools of justice-centered clean energy that is advancing community based resilience,” Hendricks told ImpactAlpha.
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Agrifood investing. Agriculture and Natural Solutions Acquisition Corp., a low-carbon agriculture SPAC, raised $300 million in its IPO… Aigen raised $12 million to build solar-powered robots for crop management… Supernova Invest and Crédit Agricole are partnering to invest in European startups supporting a low-carbon diet, preserving natural resources and producing food with a low-waste approach.

Carbon markets. Manulife raised $225 million to generate carbon credits from sustainably-managed forests… German-Brazilian InPlanet clinched €5.6 million to remove carbon and regenerate soil through an enhanced rock weathering process.

Circular economy. SuperCircle scored $7 million to help fashion brands and retailers reduce textile waste. 

Energy transition. Easy Solar scored $7 million for energy access in Sierra Leone and Liberia… Cox Enterprises invested $250 million in DSD Renewables, a developer and operator of solar and storage projects in the US… Otovo, an online marketplace for residential solar and battery storage installations in Europe, secured €40 million… San Francisco-based Zero Emission Industries snagged $8.8 million to develop hydrogen fuel cell power systems for shipping.

Electric vehicles. Evenergi Labs raised $5 million for its software to help commercial fleets transition to EVs… Niron Magnetics raised $33 million to commercialize an earth magnet technology for more sustainable and cost-effective EV motors… Revolv raised $25 million to electrify medium to heavy-duty vehicle commercial fleets.

Inclusive economy. Bangalore-based Bimaplan scored $3.5 million in seed funding to provide affordable insurance to low-income households… Jack Dorsey’s Block backed First Australians Capital for Indigenous-led enterprises… Novastar Ventures secured $40 million for African impact startups… The Families and Workers Fund clinched $110 million for its philanthropic collaboration to upskill American workers for the green transition.

Impact management. Bangalore-based clinched $2 million to help industrial businesses in India with their net-zero emission goals.

Investing in health. Ananda Impact Ventures led Resistomap’s €2 million to detect and quantify antibiotic-resistant bacteria from wastewater and soil samples… The Case for Her backed Saudi Arabia-based Mauj for women’s sexual wellness in the Middle East… Beyond Capital Ventures backed Lapaire for affordable eye care in Africa.

The Week’s Talent

South Pole founding CEO Renat Heuberger stepped down from the troubled company. The company’s Asia-Pacific commercial director John Davis will become interim CEO until a permanent successor is found… Nuveen named Nick Moss, ex- of Rabobank and UNEP’s AGRI3, as head of nature-based solutions. 

Elizabeth Roberts, ex- of Aegis Ventures, joined SJF Ventures as a senior analyst… ArcLight Capital Partners appointed Andrew Ott, former president and CEO of PJM Interconnection, as a senior advisor… The Funders Network promoted Dion Cartwright to president and CEO, effective January… Michael John, ex- of Bridgespan Group, joined Social Finance as an associate.

The Week’s Jobs

US Jobs

In Washington, DC, World Wildlife Fund is looking for a director of agriculture and innovative finance; Opportunity Finance Network is hiring a chief investment officer; and Calvert Impact seeks a technical services and impact senior officer.

Jefferies is hiring an equity research associate for ESG public policy in New York… Mastercard seeks a senior vice president of ESG products in Purchase, NY… CapShift is looking for a client experience managing director in Boston… Texas Center for Employee Ownership seeks a program manager in Dallas. 

The California Endowment is looking for an impact associate for mission-related investments… Acumen is hiring an economic justice principal in San Francisco… In Atlanta, Energy Impact Partners is on the hunt for an analyst or associate for its research and innovation group, and Forest Investment Associates has an opening for a sustainability manager. 

Global locations

NatureVest is recruiting an impact investments director in London… Telos Impact has an opening for an analyst intern in Brussels… The Norwegian National Advisory Board for Impact Investing is on the hunt for a new CEO.

Allianz Global Investors is hiring a sustainability and impact investing intern in Munich… Media Development Investment Fund seeks a Serbia-based director for its Western Balkans fund… Trevor Noah’s foundation is recruiting an impact and learning assistant director in Johannesburg.

💼Share the week’s impact jobs. View dozens of other jobs on our new job board. Want to post a listing? Submit it here.

That’s a wrap. Have a wonderful weekend. 

– Nov 17, 2023