Impact Finance Bulletin: Skoll Foundation quadruples grants for 2020

Our regular impact finance bulletin brings you the latest funds, deals and programmes in the world of investing for good. Read on for some of the past month's headlines, and scroll down for more detail.

Impact Finance Bulletin


Global: Skoll Foundation quadruples grantmaking with $100m cheque from Jeff Skoll 

The Skoll Foundation last week announced a new $100m gift from founder and chairman Jeff Skoll, which will see it quadrupling its grantmaking from $51.8m last year to $200m in 2020. Nearly all new grants will address the public health, economic, and social effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

CEO Don Gips said: “Jeff is giving us the fuel, vision, and inspiration to run both a marathon and a sprint as we do our best to make a difference where we can. It is a responsibility we feel deeply humbled to carry out.”

The $100m will be used in two priority areas: epidemiological tools including Covid-19 testing and contact tracing; and respiratory devices and other equipment in low- and middle-income countries.

Former eBay president Jeff Skoll, who also founded the Skoll Global Threats Fund, Participant Media, and the Capricorn Investment Group, has said his total commitments to Covid-19-related work may reach $500m this year.

(Header image: the opening ceremony at the Skoll World Forum in 2019; credit Skoll Foundation.)

PLUS: Eight more Covid-19 announcements you may have missed:

Check our full list of Covid-19 funding we’ve seen so far.


Global: Acumen backs pay-as-you-go software venture 

Patient capital specialist Acumen has invested an undisclosed amount in Solaris Offgrid, a social enterprise offering pay-as-you-go software to energy companies.

The investment – the eighth deal in Acumen’s Pioneer Energy Investment Initiative – will allow the company to serve more customers, and at even lower income levels. Mauritius-based VC fund Compass also invested.

Solaris Offgrid was founded in 2014 and has been used in 20 countries.

Leslie Labruto, Acumen’s head of global energy, said the company was “drastically improving the off-grid sector’s pay-as-you-go value chain with its agile, customer-centric software. We are excited to partner with the company’s exceptional leaders in taking the off-grid energy sector to the next level.”

Acumen’s energy initiative aims to invest $250,000 to $1m in early-stage companies showing initial market traction across three areas: solar home system companies in new markets; innovations across the energy ecosystem; and solar hybrid mini-grid and mini-grid enabling companies.


Global: ABN AMRO Investment Solutions launches first of ‘a range’ of impact funds

ABN AMRO Investment Solutions has created a new impact fund focused on emerging markets.

It is the first of several impact funds that the Dutch bank’s investment arm, based in Paris, aims to launch this and next year. 

ABN AMRO Investment Solutions is working with Symbiotics, which specialises in impact investing in emerging and frontier markets. 

It will invest mainly debt in three areas: financial inclusion (typically by investing in microfinance institutions, local commercial banks serving and micro or SMEs, and fintech companies); small business finance; and project and enterprise development. 


Asia: ADB Ventures impact tech fund raises first $50m

The Asian Development Bank’s impact venture arm, launched in February, has raised $50m from multilateral and bilateral development partners, exceeding its first fund close target. 

ADB Ventures, a 17-year fund that aims to de-risk Asia’s early-stage impact tech ventures, has backing from Finland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Clean Technology Fund, the Nordic Development Fund, and the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Economy and Finance. It will focus on climate change and women.

ADB director-general for private sector operations, Mike Barrow, said: “These commitments by some of the world’s most forward-thinking development donors will be catalytic in achieving ADB’s vision to convene one of the region’s largest impact venture platforms. As the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic, we believe that our patient-capital venture fund will be a timely shot in the arm for early-stage impact investment in Asia and the Pacific.”


Europe: Crowdlending platform Oneplanetcrowd gets €1m to support sustainable businesses

The European Investment Fund has approved growth finance of €1m for Dutch crowdlending platform Oneplanetcrowd.

Established 2012, the platform combines attractive returns with sustainable impact; all companies using it contribute to one or more Sustainable Development Goals. In 2019, the largest campaign raised via Oneplanetcrowd hit €7.5m.

The EIF funding, a favourable loan with an 8-year term, is through the EU's Employment and Social Innovation (or EASI) programme. Oneplanetcrowd will use the capital to invest in IT systems, expand sales and marketing capacity, offer new products, and meet regulatory requirements.

European Commission executive vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis said Europe needed innovative forms of financing such as this to meet “the considerable liquidity needs of its startups and SMEs”.


Finland/Rwanda: Finnfund backs East African health and hygiene ecommerce firm

Finnish development finance institution Finnfund has invested €1m in Kasha, an e-commerce platform that provides mostly low-income women with access to health and hygiene products.

Kasha was founded in 2016 in Rwanda and has since expanded to Kenya. It has served over 55,000 clients, of which 75% are low-income.

Negotiations began in February, but Finnfund investment manager Johanna Raehalme said  Kasha’s role “has become more relevant than ever”, with the company helping deliver products such as hand sanitizers, antibacterial soaps, masks and gloves.

Finnfund plans to invest €105m in companies advancing gender equality by next year.


UK: New energy innovation grants of up to £500k for underrepresented entrepreneurs

Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, has created a grant scheme for entrepreneurs wanting to tackle climate change, lower energy bills, and deliver real impact to people and communities.

Energy for Tomorrow is particularly looking to support entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups, who have concepts and innovations to tackle climate change, lower energy bills, and deliver real impact to people and communities.

Six to ten selected organisations will get a grant of £100,000-£500,000, provided over a period of up to three years. Priority will be given to smaller organisations with turnover of less than £1m and to projects focused on the UK. Charities, CICs and not-for-profit and for-profit companies and enterprises with a clear social mission can all apply.


UK: £5.5m dormant assets boost to help social lender grow ten-fold – saving consumers £58m

Social lender Fair for You – which provides a nonprofit alternative to high-cost credit – is set to grow ten-fold thanks to an injection from Fair4All Finance.

The funds will allow Fair for You to help hundreds of thousands more families to buy essential household items at an affordable cost.

Fair for You has been awarded a £5m equity investment, to be drawn down over two years, plus a £500,000 grant as part of the Affordable Credit Providers Pilot Capacity Building and Scale-up programme, run by Fair4All Finance. The latter was set up last year and is funded by dormant assets.

The equity investment gives Fair for You a stronger balance sheet, allowing it to make 250,000 loans per year in five years’ time. This is expected to deliver at least £58m in cost savings to customers each year by avoiding high-cost, short-term credit. The grant will go towards product development and impact reporting, which is hoped to attract further social investment.

Angela Clements, founder and CEO of Fair for You, said: “With more than 11m people in the UK having less than £100 in savings, there are huge numbers of families who are just one unexpected bill or bit of bad luck away from a crisis… There is an urgent need for affordable credit – something exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis which is threatening the finances of vulnerable families across the country. We’re delighted that the government has recognised this by putting money into Fair4All, and that Fair4All has acknowledged our success to date, and our future potential, with this investment.”


UK: Doctor-on-demand service secures £2m investment

SME investor IW Capital has completed a £2 million series A investment in GPDQ, a ‘doctor-on-demand’ service founded in 2015 that connects NHS doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other specialists with patients across the UK.

London-based impact investment bank ClearlySo provided investor introductions to GPDQ, including to IW Capital.

ClearlySo was also involved in the raise of $10m (from Nesta Impact Investments, Guinness Asset Management and clients of Stonehage Fleming and ClearlySo) for BibliU, a digital learning platform for US and UK students; and in an £800,000 raise for Zaigo, an energy tech platform.

Kenya: Food delivery company Twiga gets $5m from US to improve food security

Twiga Foods in Kenya has received the first disbursement of a $5m loan from the US International Development Finance Corporation.

Twiga buys fresh produce from 17,000 farmers and processed food from manufacturers and then delivers it to 8,000 vendors. The DFC loan will help it to secure additional trucks and delivery vans as well as cold-storage equipment to move more food to market.

The investment comes as the UN's World Food Programme has warned of a potentially devastating effect in east Africa of the Covid-19 pandemic. Food insecurity could more than double in just three months, according to reports. Kenya and other countries in the region are also facing a damaging desert locust invasion.  

Twiga previously raised $24m to digitise food distribution, in a Series B equity round led by Goldman Sachs, with an additional $6m in debt from OPIC and Alpha Mundi.


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