Gender Smart | October 21, 2017

Women Rising in India, Techstars’ impact accelerator, venture capital womans up, ready for change

The team at


Greetings, ImpactAlpha readers!

#Special Report: Women Rising in India

Women are rising to India’s challenges. The rising social and economic power of women in the next 20 years is a global megatrend bigger than the rise of India and China in the last 20. Powering that trend is the rise of women in those countries themselves, and in India in particular. India’s 650 million women are key to gains in education, health, livelihoods and all of the global goals for 2030, especially Sustainable Development Goal № 5: “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.”

To scout for #signals of progress, ImpactAlpha’s Esha Chhabra returned to the land of her birth to meet farmers in Uttarakhand, tea pickers in Darjeeling, entrepreneurs in Bangalore, artisans in Manipur and urbanites in Mumbai and Delhi. In eight episodes, ImpactAlpha’sWomen Rising in India” series explores how the lives of women are changing — and how women are changing life in India. Have a look at ImpactAlpha’s Women Rising special section, featuring episodes one, two and three of Women Rising in India.

– David Bank, Editor

Episode One: Meeting women who are leading India from what’s wrong to what’s working. Esha Chhabra’s journey through rural and urban India found women are overcoming barriers to build a more resilient and equitable India. Stories of sexual violence, child marriages, human trafficking, crowded maternity wards, and poor sanitation are real. So are higher rates of school enrollment and literacy among girls and women. Esha looked for what’s working and why. Read more:

Meeting women who are leading India from what’s wrong to what’s working

Episode Two: How women artisans are reviving ancient crafts and rural livelihoods in modern India. In Manipur, a mountainous state in the far east of India, old crafts have opened new opportunities. Global connectivity and networks of entrepreneurs are helping the women of Manipur bring their distinctive black pottery to markets in India and around the world. Read more:

How women artisans are reviving ancient crafts and modern livelihoods in rural India

Episode Three: Women farmers are leading northern India from subsistence to regeneration. Women are changing the storyline in India’s remote rural regions, where in many places farming doesn’t produce even enough food for families. For decades, men and young people have left their small plots and migrated to India’s cities. The women left behind are not letting their farms and villages slide into neglect. Unlikely entrepreneurs, they are leading a rural revival. Read more:

Women farmers are leading northern India from subsistence to regeneration

#ICYMI: Brief Highlights

How 17 of the best-dressed people at SOCAP would invest $1 million for impact. Our splash of mission-driven sartorial splendor from the Social Capital Markets conference was The Brief’s all-time most clicked-on feature. Read more:

How 17 of the best-dressed people at SOCAP would invest $1 million for impact

WTF? Programming the master algorithm for the future we want. We already have a master algorithm. It’s called “the market.” In his new book, “WTF: What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us,” tech seer and entrepreneur Tim O’Reilly suggests tweaks to optimize for shared prosperity and environmental sustainability. He sat down with ImpactAlpha’s David Bank for a podcast interview. Read more:

WTF? Programming the master algorithm for the future we want (podcast)

Expanding the pool of capital for investments in low-income communities. A raft of new public bond market and other fixed-income investment options are letting institutional and even retail investors put their money to work in affordable housing, small business and other community development projects in low-income communities. Read more:

Community development lenders attract new investors to low-income neighborhoods

#Dealflow: Follow the Money

Omidyar Network leads $6.5 million funding round for SafeTraces. California-based SafeTraces makes edible, spray-on tags to track individual food products across the supply chain to let buyers know where food is sourced, processed and sold. The DNA-based tags were developed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. SafeTraces sells them for $2 a ton — 50 times cheaper than its closest competitor, AgFunderNews reports. The Series A round, led by Omidyar Network, was also backed by S2G Ventures, Maumee Ventures, UL Ventures, City Light Capital, and Tuscan Management. Omidyar has invested in other food tech startups including Propel, Twiga Foods, and Harvesting Inc.

New Forests expands ‘climate-smart’ timber holdings in Northern California. The acquisition of the 170,000-acre Shasta Cascade Timberlands from Roseburg Resources will boost New Forests’ climate-mitigation revenues along with its timber holdings. New Forests has been active on California carbon offset market, one of the largest sources of capital for forest conservation projects. Some of New Forests’ projects generate income for Native American tribes that enroll their forests (see, “Forests grow as a climate solution”). The latest acquisition includes several conifer stands near Mt. Shasta. New Forests manages more than two million acres of forestry, land, and conservation investments worldwide, including 450,000 acres of forest carbon projects in the U.S.

Techstars doubles down on impact with new accelerator. The global startup network has already supported companies like Texas-based Fig Loans, a lender for low-income borrowers, and ZipLine, which delivers blood by drone to remote clinics in Rwanda. Techstars will begin taking applicationsin December for a new impact accelerator in Austin, Texas that will focus on startups in financial services, healthcare, education, agriculture and energy. Zoe Schlag, founder and CEO of UnLtd USA, will join Techstars as managing director of the program, which will open its doors in June 2018.

See all of ImpactAlpha’s recent #dealflow. Send deal tips and news to [email protected].

#Signals: Ahead of the Curve

Venture capital starts to woman up. Barely one in 10 decision-makers in the venture capital world are women. The VCs “are starting to understand that that is not working for the majority of people,” Ellen Pao of Kapor Capital’s Center for Social Impact, told NPR. #Signals of the turning tide:

  • Fuel Capital has brought on Leah Busque, founder of TaskRabbit, as its new general partner, tasked with leading the four-year-old firm’s next phase of growth;
  • General Catalyst Partners has hired Holly Maloney McConnell from Guidepost Growth Equity — the first woman among its nine managing directors;
  • Khosla Ventures has recruited Kristina Simmons, who has worked for Lululemon Athletica, Juicero, and Andreessen Horowitz, as founder Vinod Khosla’s chief of staff. Kanu Gulati from Intel has joined as a principal.
  • NextView Ventures added Melody Koh, the former product head at Blue Apron, as a venture partner in its New York office.
  • The Helm, a venture firm run by women, and Chloe Capital, were started specifically to invest in women entrepreneurs.

Erin Shipley, a co-founder of The Helm, used to work for the Weinstein Company, whose founder Harvey Weinstein was fired over sexual-harassment charges. Initiatives like the Helm “can create better, stronger, safer cultures for women everywhere,” Shipley says.

#2030: Long-Termism

Which countries are ready for the next global shock? Some poor countries are surprisingly resilient, and some rich countries may be vulnerable to sudden change. KPMG’s Change Readiness Index (CRI), seeks to measure how effectively governments, private and public enterprises and civil society are likely to respond to financial shocks, social instability, and natural disasters — and how well they can take advantage of opportunities that come with these changes.

Of the 136 countries in the KPMG index, the highest ranked are, unsurprisingly, high-income countries with relatively small populations: Switzerland is №1, Sweden ranked second and the United Arab Emirates came in third. At the bottom are countries with lower incomes or that are embroiled in social and economic turmoil: Venezuela (№119), Syria (№135) and Somalia (№136). But wealth isn’t enough. Oil-rich nations tend to underperform relative to their GDP, and in fact, abundant natural resources tends to lower a country’s score, not raise it — eight of the top 10 are not natural resource-rich countries. (Take a deeper dive into the data with the 2017Change Readiness Index Tool.)

What’s more, some low-income countries such as Liberia, Uganda and Rwanda “punch above their weight,” or perform better than their GDP might suggest. Rwanda (№46) is especially remarkable given the country’s genocidal civil war in the 1990s. The report credits Rwanda for strong government action in security, fiscal and regulatory areas and for enterprise sustainability. The report makes the case that alliances — between emerging nations and impact investors, for instance — are needed to tackle the biggest problems facing humanity over the next decades.

That’s a wrap. Have a great weekend! Please send news and comments to [email protected].