The Brief | March 18, 2022

The Week in Impact Investing: Vision

The team at


TGIF, Agents of Impact! 

Eyes on the prize. It wasn’t supposed to be like this halfway to the 2030 deadline to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (No. 16: Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies). Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine is a reminder that things can go backwards, and fast. But Ukraine’s heroic resistance – and even the mobilization of finance, says Imogen Rose-Smith – equally testifies to the possibility of collective action for good. Other examples: the half-dozen Black-led community development financial institutions that joined forces, as Roodgally Senatus reports, to raise the $29 million Black Vision Fund to create a pipeline of loan capital for Black-owned small businesses. Or the multi-movement engine that is revving up to hold corporations accountable for climate action, civil rights and political spending at this spring’s annual general meetings, as Amy Cortese reports. 

Even the emergence of entrepreneurs tackling the exploding crisis of homelessness puts a new spin on an old issue. “Do we just sit back and say, ‘OK, maybe someday we’ll get more affordable housing,’” says Nancy Pfund of DBL Partners, which this week invested in Pallet’s modular mini-homes for transitional supportive housing. “Or do we try to catalyze more solutions?” The goals are clear. The tools are in place. The capital is abundant. The challenges are immense, but so are the opportunities. – David Bank  

🎧 Impact Briefing. Host Monique Aiken talks Ukraine, climate action, racial justice and more with Confluence Philanthropy’s Dana Lanza, fresh from Confluence’s annual gathering. Plus, the headlines.

The Week’s Agent

Carmen Correa, Pro Mujer: Standing by low-income women to lift Latin America. Billions of dollars of venture capital are flooding into Latin America. Everybody wants to be a gender-lens investor. And the digitalization of emerging-market small businesses has become one of the hottest trends in tech (see Dealflow, below). Yet a gap remains at the base of the economic pyramid. “We are still one of the few organizations working with low-income women in the region,” Pro Mujer’s Carmen Correa tells ImpactAlpha. Since she took the helm of the 30-year-old nonprofit investor this year, after five years in other roles, Correa has focused on coaxing more gender-lens and impact investors to move down-market. A $35 million fund in partnership with Canadian impact investor Deetken Impact has leveled-up Pro Mujer’s mission by expanding its lending to other women-centric organizations and giving it an impact investing platform to experiment with new financial instruments to serve low-income women. 

At this week’s Latin American Impact Investing Forum, or FLII, in Mérida, Mexico, New Ventures’ Rodrigo Villar challenged impact investors “to think more radically.” Correa raised the ante: “There is a need for innovative gender instruments for the lower economic segments,” she says. Low-income women are the backbone of Latin America’s informal economy, which provides more than half of all jobs in many countries. The Inter-American Development Bank estimates the financing gap for women in Latin America is $86 billion. For impact investors, “that is where the pipeline is,” Correa says. Pro Mujer has provided more than $4.4 billion in loans and other resources to advance financial inclusion and empowerment for the region’s low-income women. The Ilu Women’s Empowerment Fund has loaned out $25 million to 25 companies, including Mexican financial services firm Avanza Sólido. The fund dialed up investments through the pandemic, when demand spiked for healthcare, job training, lending and energy services provided by its portfolio companies. The down-market is up and coming.

The Week’s Dealflow

Deal spotlight: Financing informal retailers. The $125 million Series B financing round for Nairobi-based Wasoko (formerly Sokowatch) is among the largest-ever focused on informal retailers. “Informal retailers capture the vast majority of consumer spending in Africa, and they are dramatically underserved by existing distribution and financial infrastructure,” said Andrew Sugrue of Avenir Growth, which led the round with Tiger Global. Emerging market economic development efforts have long focused on banks, microfinance institutions and other financial services providers, to limited effect. A new wave of entrepreneurs and investors is coming at the small-business financing challenge from a different direction: enterprise tech. In December, Nigeria’s TradeDepot raised $110 million in debt and equity. Kenya’s MarketForce raised $40 million last month.

Impact fintech. Colombia’s Yuno raises $10 million to bring digital payment and fraud detection to businesses in Latin America… Moove raises $105 million for revenue-based vehicle financing in emerging markets… Stellar raises $7 million to help everyday consumers pay bills and build credit… Wagely secures $8.3 million to give low and middle-income workers in Indonesia and Bangladesh access to earned wages. 

Smart energy. Boston-based Perch Energy raises $7.2 million in Series A funding to build a community-solar-as-a-service business… Tibber secures $100 million for smart home-energy devices… Tunisia’s Wattnow scores $1.3 million led by Norwegian climate impact fund… Katapult Climate to help businesses in Africa and the Middle East reduce their energy consumption… TPG Rise backs Monarch Bioenergy’s renewable natural gas and bio-fertilizer.

Gender lens. India’s Aavas Financiers snags $50 million in debt funding from the U.K.’s CDC Group to provide real estate financing for women… Turkish development bank TKSB secures $100 million from the International Finance Corp. to create jobs for women and improve access to financing for women entrepreneurs.

Low-carbon transition. Powerhouse Ventures raises $70 million for decarbonization tech for energy, utilities, mobility and finance… Nautilus Labs secures $34 million to decarbonize shipping… Redwoods Acquisition Corp., a blank check company targeting carbon-neutral and energy-storage businesses, files to raise up to $100 million in an initial public offering.

Fund news. Black Founders Matter raises $3 million to establish ‘Black as an investment vertical’… The InsuResilience Investment Fund acquires a minority stake in Ghanaian micro-insurer Vanguard to expand insurance products to low-income and rural customers.

Investing in health. Founders Fund and General Catalyst back Alinea Health to help Brazil’s workforce navigate health benefits programs… Israel’s NGT HealthCare raises $92 million to invest in life sciences companies and support early-stage health founders from Arab communities.

Circular economy. Austin-based Loveseat snags $7 million to auction online furniture returns, most of which end up in landfills… Boston-based food tech company Mori raises $50 million to slow food spoilage and reduce waste. 

Inclusive communities. Chatterbox snags over $2 million to connect tech-skilled refugees with jobs… DBL Partners and Citi Impact back Pallet’s modular shelters as a response to homelessness.

The Week’s Talent

B Lab names Eleanor Allen, ex- of Water for People, as lead executive; co-founders Andrew Kassoy and Bart Houlahan will remain as board members and senior advisors… Perch Energy names Bruce Stewart, ex- of Direct Energy Home and Centrica US, as CEO… Nora Mead Brownell, a former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission member under President George W. Bush, joins Clean Energy Ventures as a venture partner… North Sky Capital promotes Andrew Harris to managing director… Lisa Schule, ex- of Global Environment Fund, joins Generate Capital as a managing director. Darryl Carbonaro is promoted to general counsel.

The Week’s Jobs

Invest-NL seeks an impact investing intern in Amsterdam… LOCUS Impact Investing is hiring a remote marketing and communications manager… New Island Capital Management has openings for a real estate associate and a vice president for real estate asset management… C40 Cities is hiring a city advisor on climate change mitigation in Pretoria, South Africa… BFA Global seeks a climate change economist in Nairobi… Also in Nairobi, Root Capital is hiring an impact evaluation manager.

Impact Community Management has openings in San Francisco for an executive administrative assistant, an investment analyst for impact investing, and an underwriter for mortgage investments… Pacific Community Ventures is hiring business advising relationship managers and credit analysts… The Community Foundation of South Jersey seeks a community impact manager… Sorenson Impact is looking for a student associate in Salt Lake City… Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is looking for a program associate in Redwood City, Calif.

That’s a wrap. Have a wonderful weekend. 

– Mar 18, 2022