The Brief | December 10, 2021

The Week in Impact Investing: Whole

ImpactAlpha
The team at

ImpactAlpha

TGIF, Agents of Impact! 

🗣️ Make us whole. The world’s largest purchaser of goods and services could become the largest off-taker for homegrown solutions to global warming and the racial wealth gap. U.S. President Biden this week directed the federal government to use its immense buying power to procure 100% clean energy, electrify its vehicle fleets, and make its buildings net-zero in carbon emissions by 2050 if not sooner. Last week, he directed agencies to boost spending with Black, Latino and other underrepresented small businesses. Together, the orders represent hundreds of billions of dollars in revenues for sustainable and inclusive businesses. But on both climate action and racial justice, as we wrote this week, “it will take not just the whole of government, but the whole of America.” 

On The Reconstruction podcast and beat, ImpactAlpha has tracked the public and private mobilization to redress systemic racism and address systemic change. In advance of next week’s Agents of Impact Call (RSVP), podcast host Monique Aiken reflected on two dozen conversations about moving capital toward justice, and we gathered the strands of what might be called Reconstruction investing. Leading investors, if not capital markets as a whole, have finally awakened to the risks and opportunities of ‘E,’ for environment (see Agent of Impact, below). The ‘S’ in ESG, for social, is even bigger. Good jobs, affordable housing, thriving communities and wealth creation for the new majority – economic liberation for all is a mega-trend investors won’t want to miss. As usual, Agents of Impact are ahead of the curve. – Dennis Price

🎧 Impact Briefing. On this week’s podcast, host Monique Aiken reflects on the themes of The Reconstruction podcast – rethink, redress, liberate – with selections from conversations with Anne Price, Rodney Foxworth and Nwamaka Agbo. 1863 Ventures’ Melissa Bradley discusses the surge in Black entrepreneurship and Aiken sets up next week’s Agents of Impact Call with a stirring call to action from… Frederick Douglass. Plus, the headlines. Follow us on Apple, Spotify or wherever you listen. Listen to this week’s episode.

📞 The Call No. 36: The Reconstruction This Time. The historic Reconstruction resonates in today’s efforts to expand voting rights, empower stakeholders and establish multi-racial prosperity. Melissa Bradley, Bill Fletcher Jr., ex- of TransAfrica Forum, and playwright Gene Bruskin will join ImpactAlpha’s Monique Aiken and David Bank to plumb the past, present and future of The Reconstruction, Tuesday, Dec. 14 at 10am PT / 1pm ET. RSVP now

🎬 Special showing. In advance of The Call, ImpactAlpha subscribers are invited to watch The Moment Was Now, a musical set in 1869 that imagines a rollicking intersectional debate between Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony and other historic figures (see “Retelling the history of the past to change the story of the future“). As Douglass orates in the play, we must “unite our great movements, before it is too late”: 

To create a plan for massive foment

In this moment

For moments came and moments pass

But moments don’t last forever

We cannot freeze them

We must seize them.

The Week’s Agent of Impact

Chris Sacca, Lowercarbon Capital. If climate tech is the new software, Chris Sacca is the new, well, Chris Sacca. The Google executive turned venture capitalist made early bets on Twitter, Uber, Instagram and Stripe, catapulting him to the top of the Silicon Valley league tables. In 2017, Sacca retired from investing and turned to philanthropy and politics, including the defense of democracy in the face of the Trump “shit show,” as he called it. Last year, Sacca returned with a new passion: combating climate change, or in his colorful phrasing, “unf**cking the planet.” Lowercarbon Capital, run by Sacca and his wife, Crystal, and Clay Dumas, started as a family office. Last August, Lowercarbon raised $800 million in outside funds – in just a few days. Sacca, who lives in Jackson, Wyoming, is mulling new funds to invest in fusion energy and carbon removal. “For life as we know it to have a chance at surviving the hangover of a 170-year all-you-can-eat oil and gas buffet, we have to both reduce emissions and suck CO2 out of the sky,” he explained in a tweet. 

Known for his cowboy shirts and appearances on the TV shows Shark Tank and Billions, Sacca is amassing a portfolio of “kickass companies” tackling some of the thorniest climate challenges. Among his 40-plus investments: electric airplane maker Heart Aerospace, sustainable lithium miner Lilac, and fusion energy contenders Zap Energy and Commonwealth Fusion Systems (which last week raised $1.8 billion). Machine learning and shared lab space, computing resources and other infrastructure mean these startups can scale faster than an earlier generation of clean tech hopefuls, he says. Sacca supports President Biden’s climate agenda, but his faith lies with the market. “Markets already understand that it’s too damn expensive to keep powering our economy by digging up and burning old dinosaur bones,” he says. “The real solutions to the carbon nightmare will win because they’re cheaper, better, faster, stronger, simpler and just plain cooler than what’s available today.”

The Week’s Dealflow

Spotlight: The digitization of small businesses. It’s the emerging markets impact story of the year. Enterprise tech and fintech startups in Africa, Latin America and Asia have raised billions of dollars to bring small and informal businesses and gig workers online and expand their access to financing. This week’s big deal: Lagos-based TradeDepot took in $110 million in debt and equity to connect informal shopkeepers with inventory from fast moving consumer goods companies. The funding will help TradeDepot expand buy-now pay-later inventory financing for merchants.

  • Economic inclusion. “More investors and serious entrepreneurs are being awakened to the opportunity” to support micro and small business owners, said TradeDepot’s Ignatius Akpabio. Also this week: Nigerian digital payments giant Flutterwave backed CinetPay, a payments processor in Côte d’Ivoire. Togo-based Gozem raised $5 million for its “super app” for francophone Africa’s gig drivers. And Clubbi snagged $4.5 million to support small food retailers in Brazil.

Energy transition. Community Choice raises $2.2 billion from clean energy bonds in California… BP buys Amply to expand EV charging in the U.S… Energy software provider Voltus to go public via a SPAC… Denmark’s Hyme raises $12 million to store energy in ‘molten salt’… Oil and gas investor Lime Rock Partners raises $375 million for clean energy.

Gender lens. Nigeria-based Herconomy, which offers financial services, training, jobs and networking for the female workforce, raises $600,000… Woman-led Goalsetter raises $15 million from financial institutions, venture funds and celebrity investors to instill financial literacy in kids… Women-led GoCoach grabs $3.5 million, led by Panoramic Ventures, to help companies upskill and retain employees.

Returns on inclusion. Northwest Mutual and Bank of America back Black Operator Ventures to make early-stage investments in Black-led startups… Nairobi-based Pariti scores $2.9 million, led by Harlem Capital, to help founders in emerging markets raise capital and hire talent… Black-led startup Therify raises $1.3 million to build a network of mental healthcare providers for underserved people.

Circular economy. India-based CanvaLoop Fibre raises a pre-seed round to convert agricultural waste into textile fibers… Circulate Capital backs three U.S. biotech and recycling startups.

Climate finance. Jeff Bezos committed an additional $443 million of his $10 billion Earth Fund climate pledge… Third Derivative launches carbon removal partnership and accelerator cohort.

Community finance. Secondaries fund secures $11.5 million to create a market for CDFI loans… Enterprise Community Partners raises $365 million for a pair of Low-Income Tax Credit funds to create and preserve more than 3,500 homes in 17 states.

Crowdfunding. Republic buys U.K. equity crowdfunding platform Seedrs.

Financial inclusion. Probus Insurance secures $6.7 million, led by Swiss impact investor BlueOrchard, to expand insurance coverage in India.

Fund news. BlackRock Global Impact Fund secures a $152 million allocation from Danish pension fund Danica Pension.

Independent media. Media Development Investment Fund invests in Nigeria-based Dataphyte and Mozambique-based Zitamar News.

The Week’s Talent

Clara Barby, ex- of Bridges Fund Management and Impact Management Project, joins Just Climate, the investment subsidiary launched by Generation Investment Management… Caspian Equity promotes Saurabh Johri, former CFO of Caspian Group, to executive director and CEO… Annie Chor Joyce, ex- of MSCI, joins Amundi US as head of ESG… Allison Binns, ex- of Morgan Stanley, joins Angelo Gordon as head of ESG… Mirabelle Moreaux of Injaro Investments joins the board of directors of Ghana’s National Advisory Board for Impact Investing.

Alice Rhee of the American Journalism Project joins Nathan Cummings Foundation as an independent board trustee… Christina Orsi, ex- of the University at Buffalo, is named president of the John R. Oishei Foundation… Kimberly Osagie, ex- of Promise54, joins Echoing Green as vice president of programs… Rob Tashima steps down as chief growth officer at Village Capital to join Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation as a senior director of pipeline and partnerships. 

The Week’s Jobs

Village Capital is recruiting a chief growth officer and a senior manager of investments… Blue Forest is hiring an investment associate… Serena Ventures is looking for an associate in San Francisco… Kresge Foundation seeks a portfolio manager for its social investing team… The Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office seeks an investment officer in Washington, D.C… Environmental consultancy CEA Consulting is hiring a senior associate.

Venture for ClimateTech seeks a program manager… PayPal is looking for a head of impact investing and ESG in New York… Generali is hiring a senior ESG integration specialist in Milan… ImpactAssets is recruiting an investment strategist and investments officer or director Lumina Impact Ventures is hiring an impact investing officer… Media Development Investment Fund is looking for an impact assistant. 

Green Century Capital Management seeks a content creator in Boston… JPMorgan Chase is looking for a Force for Good program lead in Bangalore… EY is recruiting a senior sustainable finance consultant in Lisbon… Social Finance seeks an assistant general counsel of impact investments in Boston… Advantage Capital is looking for an impact intern in St. Louis.

That’s a wrap. Have a wonderful weekend. 

– Dec. 10, 2021