The Brief | August 19, 2022

The Week in Impact Investing: Talent

The team at


TGIF, Agents of Impact! 

🗣 X factor. Investors and operators are coming to understand the risks and opportunities around climate and impact. Policy is arriving. Now comes the “X factor” that will determine whether climate and equality goals are met: Talent. Techies, engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs and investors, artists and creatives, teachers and academics, architects, electricians and construction workers are rallying to work on the defining challenges of our times (some, like anti-ESG opportunist Vivek Ramaswamy, are swimming against the tide). The talent is attracted to long-term trends that will make building low-carbon solutions and serving new majorities the wealth-generating opportunities of our lifetime. This week’s example: Neobankers (Aspiration) are teaming with biodiversity investors (Cultivo) and crypto technologists (Chia Network) to attract world bankers (International Finance Corp.) to shore up the quality of carbon credits. “Talent is the X factor in limiting warming to 1.5 degrees,” tweeted Daniel Padilla of the Rocky Mountain Institute. “Young people everywhere are trying to work in climate, and that type of talent is undefeated.”

Agents of Impact, whose talents have helped build impact and sustainable marketplaces, are poised to lead. Charley Cummings is building Walden Mutual Bank in New Hampshire to finance the region’s resurgence of local, organic, artisanal agriculture (see Agent of Impact, below). Long-time community investors are positioned to deliver climate finance to low-income and disadvantaged communities, contend Annie Donovan of Raza Development Fund and Brenda Loya of Amalgamated Bank. Seasoned advocates are lining up to challenge the “poison pills” in the Inflation Reduction Act, writes ImpactAlpha’s David Bank. That includes talented community lenders who are spinning up solutions for accessing the IRA’s “green bank” facility to scale up climate lending programs, as ImpactAlpha’s Amy Cortese reports. Talented wonks inside philanthropic foundations like Ford, Rockefeller and MacArthur issued social bonds that provided almost $3 billion in fresh capital for communities most affected by the pandemic. Talented impact fund managers, like Arlan Hamilton and Havell Rodrigues, are rewriting the rules of venture capital to expand who and what gets financed. Follow the money. And keep up with the talent. – Dennis Price

🎧 Impact Briefing. Host Brian Walsh welcomes back roundtable regulars Imogen Rose-Smith and David Bank to dissect the anti-ESG backlash and the Inflation Reduction Act. Plus, the headlines. 

The Week’s Agent of Impact

Charley Cummings, Walden Mutual Bank: Sustainable lending for sustainable food. Within the next few weeks, if everything goes according to plan, customers will make their first deposits in New Hampshire-based Walden Mutual Bank, the first mutual bank in the U.S. to be chartered in five decades. As a mutual, the bank’s depositors will also be shareholders, with voting rights on any change of control or corporate structure. About three dozen local leaders serve as “corporators,” who elect the bank’s board of directors. Hundreds of years old, mutual banks “were ripe for reinvention in the modern era,” says Walden’s CEO Charley Cummings, who is racing a September 30 deadline for final regulatory approval. “The mutual structure truly offered the opportunity to build an institution for the long term, indefinitely.” Cummings launched Walden to fill a financing gap for farm and food businesses in New England and New York, where the resurgence of local, artisanal, often organic farm-to-table producers has made it the only region of the country where farmers, on average, are getting younger, not older.

Cummings identified the need while building Walden Local Meat Co., which works with about 100 producers of grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork, chicken and lamb, with its own slaughterhouse in Vermont. “We were always in the position of lending to our supply chain partners,” Cummings tells ImpactAlpha. Deposits being just about the cheapest source of lending capital, Cummings started jumping through regulatory hoops. To supply the bank’s core capital, he has raised about $21 million of a targeted $25 million in “special deposits” from more than 200 catalytic investors. The special depositors will get dividends equal to 30% of the bank’s post-tax profits. “The theory of change here is we can unlock a much brighter, much more significant rate of growth for this ecosystem by lowering its cost to capital,” he says. “You’ve got a lot of people saying, ‘Hey, there are other stakeholders that matter in the formation and running of a business, beyond shareholders alone.’”

The Week’s Dealflow

Deal spotlight: Addressing the nursing shortage. In the early months of the Covid pandemic, cheers would break out every evening in many cities to honor healthcare workers on the front lines. Nonetheless, many of these experienced health workers were soon leaving in droves due to burnout, long hours and insufficient pay. The U.S. could face a shortage of one million nurses by 2024. San Francisco-based Incredible Health raised $80 million this week to help fill the gap. The company’s algorithm-driven platform connects hospitals with nursing talent and helps nurses secure jobs they love and thrive. Incredible Health will use the Series B investment to expand from its California base and provide training, relocation and other services to the more than 10,000 nurses joining its platform each week. Base10 Partners, the lead investor in the round, will work with Incredible Health to provide scholarships to nursing students. 

  • Investing in health. Cambridge, Mass.-based Nanopath raised $10 million for its rapid diagnostics testing designed for women’s healthcare providers… Tennessee-based CareHarmony raised $15 million in Series A funding to deliver low-cost virtual healthcare services… In Indonesia, digital pharmacy startup Lifepack scored $7 million in Series A funding to provide affordable prescription delivery to patients.
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Energy transition. Bangalore-based Renkube snagged $300,000 for its solar-tracking glass that improves the efficiency of solar panels… Vespene Energy raised $4.3 million to convert landfill methane gas emissions into electricity for Bitcoin mining… BlackRock acquired Akaysha to deploy $700 million for battery storage in Australia… Gridserve secured £200 million from Infracapital to build a network of clean energy-powered electric vehicle charging stations… Lowercarbon Capital and Toyota Ventures backed an $11 million round for Bangalore-based electric scooter manufacturer River.

Fund news. Golding Capital Partners raised €65 million in the first close of its inaugural impact fund to invest in global agrifood tech, fintech and climate tech companies… IFC partnered with Aspiration in a $10 million fund to lift the quality of carbon credits… Urban Innovation Fund’s smart cities fund secured $121 million… Verod-Kepple Africa Partners received an undisclosed investment from Toyota Tsusho Corp. to invest in startups focused on healthcare, consumer goods and carbon-neutrality in Africa.

Agrifood investing. Mexico City-based Atarraya secured $3.9 million for its sustainable shrimp farming tech… Swiss digital farming startup xFarm Technologies raised €17 million to help farmers adapt to climate change and improve their sustainability.

Circular economy. Canada-based Reusables, which provides reusable food packaging to reduce food waste, scored $100,000… Canadian biotech venture Genecis snagged $10 million to commercialize its technology that turns waste into biodegradable plastic.

Inclusive fintech. Nigeria’s TeamApt scored backing from QED for digital banking in rural Africa… Uellbee raised $2.3 million to help Mexican consumers refinance debts.

Investing in Africa. Deere & Co. took a minority stake in Nigerian tractor leasing service Hello Tractor… Lori Systems clinched an investment from Google to improve the flow of goods across Africa… Village Capital and Moody’s accelerate 45 startups shaping the future of work in Africa.

Returns on inclusion. Brown Venture Group secured $1.5 million from the Bush Foundation to invest in Black, Latinx and Indigenous tech founders…Latinx-focused early-stage venture fund L’Attitude Ventures secured $100 million from a roster of big-name banks and financial institutions.

Small businesses. Majoo scored $10 million in Series A financing backed by Quona Capital to provide software solutions to small enterprises in Indonesia… Pastel clinched $5.5 million in a seed round backed by Ulu Ventures to digitalize Africa’s micro and small businesses.

The Week’s Talent

Neo Gim Huay, managing director of the World Economic Forum’s Center for Nature and Climate, will join LGT Bank’s board of directors. En Lee, LGT’s head of sustainable and impact investments in Asia, will also join the board… Jared Blumenfeld, California Secretary for Environmental Protection and an Environmental Protection Agency official in the Obama Administration, is named president of the $3 billion climate organization Waverley Street Foundation.

Eric Van Nostrand, former managing director and head of research for sustainable investments at BlackRock, will join the U.S. Treasury Department as a senior adviser on economic issues tied to Russia and Ukraine… Mark Carney, vice chairman at Brookfield and U.N. special climate envoy, will be promoted to chair the firm’s asset management arm when it lists on the Toronto and New York exchanges in November.

Arabella Advisors appoints Rick Cruz, who has been leading day-to-day operations and strategy at the firm, as president and CEO… Kavita Vijayan, ex- of Reinvestment Fund, joins ImpactAssets as director of strategic marketing communications… Agent of Impact Lucas Turner-Owens, ex- of Boston Ujima Project, joins TMV as a principal… Simon Stiell, former environment minister of Grenada, will head the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Week’s Jobs

Zeal Capital Partners is recruiting for several roles, including a chief of staff, investment analyst, and vice president of operations in Washington, D.C… Global Partnerships seeks an investor relations analyst in Seattle… Connect Humanity seeks a remote investment director or manager… New Markets Support Company is hiring a senior fund accountant and for several other roles in Chicago.

San Francisco’s Department of the Environment seeks a racial equity senior coordinator… Galvanize Climate Solutions is hiring a vice president of science and technology in New York or San Francisco… The city of Asheville, N.C. is recruiting a sustainability coordinator… Ownership Works is hiring for several roles in New York, including a marketing analyst, a director of data and research, and a director of culture and employee engagement.

ICA seeks a part-time accelerator program associate in Oakland… Palladium is hiring a senior manager in Washington, D.C… The Families & Workers Fund seeks a program associate and a communications and philanthropy associate… Majority Action is looking for a remote director of communications… Reactive is recruiting a remote community solar product manager… UNDP seeks a sustainable finance advisor in New York.

That’s a wrap. Have a wonderful weekend. 

– Aug 19, 2022