The Brief | March 7, 2019

Women-led impact, student debt relief, small-ticket business loans in India, Nordic fund for the global goals

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Greetings, Agents of Impact!

Featured: ImpactAlpha Original

Women are leading the way – in about 30% of the deals in ImpactAlpha. Let’s give an International Women’s Day shout-out to the women who, pardon the expression, get shit done. Announcements for the increasing number of women-focused and women-led impact investing and venture funds invariably include the fact that only 2% of U.S. venture capital funding goes to female founders. That represents some kind of market failure, given that startups founded by women generate more revenues than those founded by men and that VC returns improve as the ratio of investments in women-led firms rises. So, in time for tomorrow’s celebration of women’s progress, we looked back through ImpactAlpha’s own deal coverage to see whether impact investors themselves have gotten the message.

“I could recall only a couple dozen or so funded ventures from our reporting that have female founders or are deliberately women-focused,” writes ImpactAlpha’s dealflow editor Jessica Pothering. But after going through the 350 funded ventures ImpactAlpha reported on over the past year, Pothering found – drumroll, please – that nearly 30% have at least one female founder, CEO or managing director. (Globally, about 14% of all venture deals involve at least one female founder.) Most of the women-led ventures had not called out the gender makeup of their leadership teams. Think Nubank in Brazil, the digital banking pioneer co-founded by Cristina Junqueira that last year raised $180 million from Chinese internet giant Tencent and was valued at more than $4 billion. Or African workforce development company Andela, founded by Christina Sass. Such women would probably describe themselves as “entrepreneurs” or “founders,” not “women entrepreneurs,” Pothering suggests. “They’d probably talk about their businesses, not their women-led businesses. And then they’d get back to getting shit done.”

Keep reading, “Women are leading the way – in about 30% of ImpactAlpha’s dealflow,” by Jessica Pothering on ImpactAlpha.

Dealflow: Follow the Money raises $11.2 million to help employees tackle student debt. Some 44 million people in the U.S. hold about $1.5 trillion in student debt. helps employers contribute directly to employees’ student loan payments. That helps firms attract and retain talent, boost diversity and unlock productivity from debt-strapped employees. Rethink Impact, a female-led impact investor that backs women-led companies, led FutureFuel’s $11.2 million Series A funding round. Rethink was joined by impact, traditional, and corporate venture funds including Breton Capital, First Data, G9 Ventures, The Impact Engine, Reach Capital, Salesforce Ventures, SixThirty, and Vulcan Capital. Check it out.

Summa Equity raises a $690 million fund targeting global goals and megatrends. Nordic private equity firm Summa Equity closed a €610 million ($690 million) fund focused on the Sustainable Development Goals, and opportunities driven by megatrends such as aging demographics, movement of people, resource scarcity, population growth, climate change and technology disruption. The fund was backed by a range of unnamed Nordic, North American and Europe endowments, insurance firms, pension funds and funds of funds. The SDG fund is the firm’s second; the raise pushes Summa’s managed commitments to more than €1 billion ($1.1 billion). Its portfolio includes 11 companies, including building energy-optimization company Egain Group and Swedish edtech company Lin Education. Dig in.

Quona Capital leads $12.8 million round for India small-business lender SMEcorner. The Mumbai-based lender makes small-ticket loans to more than 3,000 kirana stores, electrical shops, garment sellers, pharmacies and other retailers in nine cities in three states in India. With its proprietary underwriting model, SMEcorner has reduced the loan approval process to three days, from an average of two weeks at traditional banks. The global fintech investor Quona Capital led the financing with 35 crore ($5 million) from its Accion Frontier Inclusion Fund. Existing investors, including Accion Venture Lab, invested the balance. SMEcorner, which also raised an undisclosed amount of debt from financial institutions, aims to expand to 40 cities. More here.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Michelle Dervan becomes a partner at Rethink Education. Ebony Pope, ex- of Village Capital, joins the edtech venture firm as a principal… Impact investor network Toniic is hiring a relationship manager on the U.S. west coast, a director of programming on the east coast and a member support associate in Europe… Capital Impact Partners seeks a real estate program specialist in Detroit… Sustainable investing startup Ethic is looking for an investment operations lead in New York.

March 7, 2019.