The Brief | February 18, 2022

The Week in Impact Investing: Perceptions

The team at


TGIF, Agents of Impact! We’re taking a Brief break on Monday for the U.S. holiday. We’ll be back in your inboxes on Tuesday, Feb. 22.

🗣 Calibrated action. If Economics 101 teaches that supply will grow to meet demand in competitive markets, Econ 102 shows that markets fail all the time. Agents of Impact could teach a master class in how to mitigate risks or increase incentives to fix the failures in markets for essential goods and services like affordable housing, clean energy and regenerative agriculture. To warm commercial investors to climate adaptation, Lightsmith Group’s Sanjay Wagle and Jay Koh blended first-loss capital into their Lightsmith Climate Resilience fund. “At the beginning of any area of risk or investment transition, there is a lot of perceived risk,” Koh told ImpactAlpha. “Risk is in the eye of the beholder,” says Indian guru Sadhguru. “For the one who does it, it could be calibrated action.”

Political risk can be calibrated with intentionally and insight, says Ambar Amleh, who is bridging the early-stage funding gap for Palestinian tech entrepreneurs (see Agent of Impact, below). Term sheets can be calibrated to reward founders for their positive social and environmental impact, as with “impact notes” developed by the Oakland-based fund ICA. The Biden administration is calibrating “supply-side” growth policies to boost the supply of workers, housing, healthcare and green infrastructure (join The Call). And then there are institutional investors, who have embraced crypto currencies while citing “fiduciary duty” to slow-walk impact investing and ESG, as Imogen Rose-Smith highlighted in her Institutional Impact column. Demand is high for impact strategies to manage and mitigate risks, real and perceived. – Dennis Price

🎧 Impact Briefing. Host Monique Aiken and ImpactAlpha’s David Bank tee up impact investing’s policy agenda (and next week’s Agents of Impact Call) with comments from Satyam Khanna, ex- of the SEC, Cambria Allen Ratzlaff of the Human Capital Management Coalition – and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. And Dennis Price introduces Bosco and Maya Kante and the innovative “impact note” with which they financed their company, ElectroSpit. Plus, the headlines.

👋 Next week’s Call: Public policy. Private capital. Public good. Agents of Impact will key in on the upcoming rule-making by the SEC around ESG disclosure, climate risk reporting and human capital management. Join the U.S. Impact Investing Alliance’s Fran Seegull, former ESG advisor at the SEC and EPA Satyam Khanna, and Cambria Allen Ratzlaff of the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust and the Human Capital Management Coalition, Tuesday, Feb. 22 at 10am PT / 1pm ET. RSVP today. Background reading:

The Week’s Agent of Impact

Ambar Amleh, Ibtikar Fund: Putting Palestinian entrepreneurs on the map. The risk factors for a venture fund based in Ramallah, Palestine are obvious; the opportunities perhaps less so. “The Israeli occupation presents extra challenges for companies that rely on imports or exports,” says Amleh, who co-founded Ibtikar Fund six years ago with partner Habib Hazzan to bridge the early-stage funding gap for Palestinian entrepreneurs. “But technology is borderless. You can build great companies from here, supporting markets anywhere in the world, and it can be done profitably and effectively.” Investors seem to share that vision: Ibtikar has raised $15 million for its second fund from the Bank of Palestine, the Dutch Good Growth Fund, the International Finance Corp. and local and diaspora Palestinian investors. The firm is hoping to raise $30 million by the end of the year. “Our investors are excited to support a fund in Palestine in any way that they can,” Amleh says.

Amleh has spent more than a decade working to build Palestine’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. The Mexican-American MBA from California and Arizona arrived in Ramallah in 2011 with the Palestinian negotiations team, which had hired her to do marketing and public relations. After marrying a Palestinian man, she stayed to support FastForward, Palestine’s first startup accelerator, and the eZone entrepreneur hub. At Ibtikar, Amleh uses her seat at pitch sessions and investment committee meetings to support Palestine’s women entrepreneurs and to help companies get more women into leadership positions. Women lead 40% of Ibtikar’s portfolio companies, including Tawazon, an Arabic language meditation app. “I have been the only woman in the room many times in my life,” says Amleh. “That has to change. We need to see more women GPs throughout the world.” Half of the 26 companies Ibtikar backed through its first fund are still operating today, about on par with global averages. Ibtikar remains one of the few venture investors in Palestine. “In places like Palestine, it’s game-changing,” she says. “It’s stimulating for many reasons, including economic development, and putting Palestine on a map that is not only political.”

The Week’s Dealflow

Deal spotlight: Investing in health. The COVID era has put a spotlight on emerging market health ventures with technologies and products to improve human health and wellbeing. Remedial Health, which launched in 2020 to digitize Nigeria’s pharmacies and curb fake and expired drug supplies, raised $1 million in pre-seed funding. Also in Nigeria, Reliance Health raised $40 million in Series B funding, led by General Atlantic, to bring more affordable and accessible healthcare to major employers in emerging markets. 

  • Health equity. In India, Insaan Group and Artha Impact co-invested in Aakar to make affordable, eco-friendly menstrual products. In the U.S., S2G Ventures backed NourishedRx’s efforts to integrate healthy food into health insurance plans. Catch up on all of ImpactAlpha’s coverage of Investing in Health.

Fund news. SWEN Capital Partners raises €95 million ($108 million) for its Blue Ocean Fund to invest in ocean health… Nuveen closes its inaugural impact fund at $218 million… Ibtikar’s second fund raises $15 million for Palestinian tech… Global Cleantech Capital raises $75 million for growth-stage clean energy companies… The U.N.’s Joint SDG Fund invests $54.5 million across five projects in Kenya, Madagascar, North Macedonia, Suriname and Zimbabwe “to rescue the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Climate finance. Agreena raises $22.5 million to help farmers earn carbon credits – that they can sell – for storing and tracking carbon in their land… Novoloop scores $11 million in Series A financing to upcycle plastic waste into materials used in footwear, apparel, sporting goods and electronics… North Sky Capital exits four green infrastructure investments… Protix raises €50 million to expand insect farming business globally.

Inclusive fintech. Nigeria’s Flutterwave rakes in $250 million at a $3 billion valuation… Village Capital invests in Morocco’s Chari and Mexico’s Finerio Connect through its Financial Health Innovation Fund, backed by MetLife Foundation… Crowdforce raises $3.6 million in pre-Series A funding to improve access to cash withdrawal ATMs for Nigerians in underserved communities… Spanish bank BBVA adds $300 million to its stake in Brazilian neobank Neon.

Economic inclusion. Favelas Fundos raises $3.8 million to invest in entrepreneurs in Brazil’s slums… The Harbor Bank of Maryland and fintech Cerebro Capital will provide $50 million in loans to minority small businesses in the Washington-Baltimore metro area.

Electric vehicles. Soros Fund Management buys 20 million shares of electric vehicle startup Rivian… EV maker BasiGo clinches $4.3 million to transition Kenya’s mass transit vehicles to electric vehicles.

Innovative finance. Brazil’s Velvet raises $200 million to give early emerging market venture investors an exit… Kizmet Impact Capital’s forthcoming fund on Canada’s NEO Exchange will let retail investors invest in high-impact food, health and technology companies in the U.S. and Canada.

Returns on inclusion. The Growth Collective, a Black woman-owned advocacy group and investment firm, receives $450,000 in grants to help Black developers in Philadelphia raise capital… University Growth Fund secures $50 million to recruit students of color.

Inclusive communities. SDS Support Housing, a private equity impact fund that finances permanent supportive housing for individuals experiencing homelessness, invests $8 million to develop housing in South L.A.

The Week’s Talent

Jonathan Berman, ex- of AIP Investors, joins Shell Foundation as CEO… Paige Nicol, ex- of Luminate, joins BlueMark as director for Europe… Sydney Hulebak, ex- of WildArk, is named impact investment manager at the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.

The Week’s Jobs

Kiva is hiring a senior director of impact in Portland, Ore., or San Francisco… UBS seeks a head of community impact programs in New York… Powell Tate seeks an accounts director for social impact in Washington, D.C… Dropbox is recruiting a social impact and sustainability program manager… Propel seeks a vice president and chief financial officer… Media Development Investment Fund has a number of openings in Europe, Latin America and Africa.

ImpactAlpha is hiring a director of subscription growth… The City of Boston is recruiting a cabinet-level senior advisor to help implement Boston’s Green New Deal… Palladium Impact Capital is hiring an analyst and an associate director in Washington, D.C. or New York… Mercy Corps Ventures seeks a U.S.-based venture platform lead and a Blockchain for Refugees team lead in Uganda.

Mission Driven Finance seeks a real estate strategist and other positions… CapEQ seeks an advisory services consultant… The Georgia Social Impact Collaborative is hiring a part-time director in Atlanta… LA28, the organization hosting the 2028 Summer Olympic and Paralympic games, seeks a vice president of impact… Tiedemann Advisors is recruiting a vice president for impact in New York or Wilmington, Del.

Salesforce is hiring a senior director of sustainability operations in San Francisco… Energy Foundry is looking for a director of market intelligence in Chicago… Bloomberg Associates is hiring a sustainability program manager in New York… Omidyar Network seeks a principal of belonging in Redwood City, Calif. or Washington, D.C… Chordata Capital is recruiting a client services associate… Imaginable Futures is looking for a contract and grants manager.

That’s a wrap. Have a wonderful weekend. 

– Jan 21, 2022