The Brief | October 25, 2019

The Week in impact investing: Wearing your values

The team at


TGIF, Agents of Impact! 

Agents of Impact Call No. 11: Faith and investing. This month, John O’Shaughnessy of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary announced the “Catholic impact investing pledge.” We’ll dig in with O’Shaughnessy and other faith-based impact investors on Agents of Impact on Call No. 11, Thurs. Oct. 31 at 10:00am PT / 1pm ETRSVP today.

The Week’s Agents of Impact 

How the best-dressed at SOCAP wear their values. Some impact investors and entrepreneurs wear their ethics, beliefs and traditions on their sleeves – literally. ImpactAlpha’s Maura Dilley and photographer Arno Hesse zeroed in on SOCAP’s divas and dapper dons and asked, “What values are you wearing?”

  • Dawn Deck, South Carolina Community Loan Fund: “I am wearing my favorite Pashmina wrap to keep me warm from the chilly winds of racial inequity, wealth disparity, and gender bias.”
  • Sunwoo Hwang, SixUp: “Whether through style, brand or mission: don’t be everything to everyone, be something to someone.”
  • Jamie McGonnigal, SOCAP: “My favorite part of me is being a married gay dad, and I choose to celebrate that every way I can.”
  • Michelle Geiss, Impact Hub Baltimore: “I’m wearing #shoplocal, #madeinbaltimore, and #sfmade. Local economies are beautiful!”
  • Laurika Harris-Kaye, Candide Group: “Cultural expression, authenticity, gender nonconformity, divine feminine realness.”
  • VaShone Huff, SOCAP, Spectrum and Intentional Media: “Love, peace, community, creativity, equity, access, beauty and blackness.”
  • Vanessa Roanhorse, Roanhorse Consulting and Native Women Lead: “I wear my Indigenous brown woman self fully. I am warrior’d up to do the work I do.”

Have a look at 15 of this year’s best dressed at SOCAP. “Like” their story on Instagram.

The Week’s Big 5  

1. Seen and heard at SOCAP19.

  • Hunting for impact tech unicorns. Impact investors have long recognized the exponential possibilities in technology, but they still may have a thing or two to learn from tech venture capitalists. “The vast majority of impact investors are very uncomfortable with a company that has only a 20% chance of succeeding, but if it succeeds, could eliminate an entire category of problems,” Fifty Years’ Seth Bannon told ImpactAlpha’s David Bank in a discussion of tech’s turn to impact. “That’s a bet we would take all day long.” Maryanna Saenko of Future Ventures cited her firm’s investment in Commonwealth Fusion Systems. “If you can solve nuclear fusion, the market is there.” Both Bannon and Saenko are looking hard at carbon sequestration but haven’t placed any bets. “It can’t be a one to two percent improvement,” Saenko said. “It needs to be a 1,000X improvement.”
  • Next startup hubs. Long-standing tech hubs like San Francisco and New York have startup resources that often are in shorter supply in smaller cities: talent, capital, and well-developed ecosystems (see, “Creating physical spaces where innovation can flourish). But a little goes a long way outside of the coastal hotspots. “It may be harder to find pieces to make a robust ecosystem in a mid-size city, but it’s easier to assemble it,” said Bush Foundation’s Allison Barmann. The foundation is putting Minneapolis on the map as a hub for social entrepreneurs and Native founders —Shifali Gupta
  • Workforce tech. It seems like everyday a new coding bootcamp is raising funding. There are as many as 1,000 bootcamps around the country, according to Jason Palmer of New Markets Ventures. “Demand for tech jobs has reached all the way down to third grade.” Elizabeth Garlow of Lumina Foundation called for the U.S. to reexamine an old workforce training model: apprenticeships. “Other places in the world understand their role and value.”—Rohan Jha
  • Tech-enabled democracy. The flip-side to technology’s role in election interference and the spread of misinformation could be civic engagement and stronger democratic institutions. Long-term thinking is crucial, argued Allen Kramer of MobilizeAmerica. “Every presidential cycle, there are tools built that die after the election. We’re thinking about everything we can do in 2020, but also building long-term infrastructure.”—Bethany Wylie
  • New narratives. “I’ve become an evangelist in the locker room,” said KNGDM’s Derrick Morgan, who recently retired from the NFL to pursue impact investing (see, “Agent of Impact: Derrick Morgan of KNGDM Impact Fund.”). “I’d say, ‘Hey, I know you’re doing those football camps, but have you heard of impact investing?’” Asked Morgan Simon of Oakland-based Candide Group, “How can we tell our kids that I made money for you by locking up another family or polluting the earth?”
  • Bridging the gap. Finance touches everything, so social justice activists need to master it. “Top down is important,” said Transform Finance’s Andrea Armeni in a conversation about the future of capitalism. “The bottom-up needs to be combined with the levers of power that can actually do something about it.” Fran Seegull of U.S. Impact Investing Alliance calls it “subverting from the center.”

Read ImpactAlpha’s full report from SOCAP. ICYMI: Our evergreen SOCAP cheat sheet on the 10 impact investing themes.

2. Rockefeller Foundation, impact fund manager. To deploy catalytic philanthropic capital and leverage more commercial capital to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, the Rockefeller Foundation has created a registered impact investment asset management company to invest in billion-dollar financial innovations from the foundation’s “Zero Gap” grant portfolio. Catalytic capital.

3. Terra Silva, tropical forests fund of funds. The Packard and MacArthur foundations helped create a $90 million tropical forestry fund to stand up eight to 10 sustainable-forestry fund managers. The goal: a viable asset class of carbon-negative forestry investments. A third, undisclosed mission-driven private investor is contributing equity capital and will manage the fund. Building a market.

4. Flexing community capital in Oakland. Across the Bay from SOCAP, the community capital, or COCAP, conference showcased a deeply engaged community of activists developing new models for channeling capital to African American entrepreneurs, preserving land for community use and putting power in community hands. Locavesting.

5. More diligent impact investing. Pacific Community Ventures’ Impact Due Diligence Guide offers practical tips and guidance for developing and implementing impact due diligence approaches. A raft of new resources and reports aim to strengthen accountability and spotlight opportunities in impact investing. Get smarter.

The Week’s Dealflow

Returns on inclusion. Techstars and Harlem Capital join forces to back diverse founders… South Africa’s Enygma Ventures rolls out $6.8 million women-focused fund… Mastercard and other philanthropies grant $71 million for ‘inclusive growth’… Mexico’s InnoHub secures $13 million for startups supporting small businesses.

Locavesting. Russell Family Foundation invests $6 million for Puget Sound vitality… TitletownTech’s venture fund raises $25 million for Wisconsin innovation… Facebook, under scrutiny in Washington DC, pledges $1 billion for affordable housing in California.

Catalytic capital. Ford Foundation, Citi and OPIC earmark $100 million to guarantee loans to social enterprises… Indonesia’s BMT Bina issues “sharia compliant” bond on blockchain… Global Partnerships taps catalytic capital for its Impact-First Development Fund.

Climate finance. Winnebago backs Motiv to convert trucks to electric… World Bank’s KCIC extends loan to precision ag startup Lentera… Circulate Capital secures $15 million from oil company Chevron Phillips.

Fund raises. Open Society Foundations, Omidyar Network back “anti-monopoly” fund… Inclusive fintech accelerator Catalyst Fund clinches $13 million from UK Department for International Development.

Energy access. VentureBuilder launches to invest in Africa’s off-grid solar startups.

The Week’s Talent 

Sunwealth’s Ryan Dings joins cleantech incubator Greentown Labs… Laura Weidman Powers joins Echoing Green as head of impact.

The Week’s Jobs 

FFLabs’s Employment Technology Fund is recruiting a managing director… Social Finance is hiring an associate director in Boston, Austin or San Francisco… The Global Impact Investing Network seeks a manager of finance and operations in New York… Project Drawdown is searching for an inaugural director of Drawdown Labs.

Acumen is hiring an associate director for curriculum and learning design in New York or San Francisco… The Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund seeks an impact investing manager in San Francisco… Phenix Capital is looking for an events manager in Amsterdam… Living Cities seeks a chief operating officer in New York or Washington DC.

Thank you for reading. 

– Oct. 25, 2019