Kathryn.Colton, Author at Sorenson Impact Foundation
Sorenson Impact Foundation Announces Five New Program Related Investments Added to Its Portfolio in Q4 2023

Sorenson Impact Foundation Announces Five New Program Related Investments Added to Its Portfolio in Q4 2023

Photo: Redemption Bank founders, Dr. Bernice A. King and Ashley Bell

All Five Enterprises Are Innovators in the Impact Ecosystem with Strong Tailwinds to Drive Environmental and Societal Impact and Systems Change

Salt Lake City, UT — January 29, 2024Sorenson Impact Foundation (Foundation), a leading and 100% mission-aligned institution dedicated to investing in innovative social entrepreneurs to solve the world’s most pressing issues, announced today that it has added five new enterprises to its Program Related Investment (PRI) portfolio in the fourth quarter of 2023. Through its PRI portfolio, the Foundation invests in early-stage companies and funds that have developed scalable, innovative, and potentially disruptive solutions to the world’s greatest challenges, including access to quality healthcare and education, financial inclusion, workforce development, sanitation, water, and clean energy.

Established in 2012, the Foundation has developed a 100% mission-related investment strategy generating both scalable impact and financial returns to show the greater financial services market that the two are not mutually exclusive. A key part of the overall strategy is the Foundation’s substantial commitment to program related investments in early-stage impact-focused companies or other high-risk impact-focused investments that traditional commercial investors would not make. Including these five investments, the Foundation made seven program related investments in 2023 totaling $2.75M. The Foundation has 61 active investments in companies headquartered in 14 countries and across five continents.

All Foundation program related investments deploy catalytic capital to create and improve systems that reduce inequality and increase access to opportunity for historically marginalized communities worldwide. Through 2023, the Foundation’s PRI portfolio companies have positively impacted the lives of over 775 million people around the world by increasing access to necessities needed to survive and thrive, including healthcare, education, clean water, jobs, and safety. Without affecting the overall investment portfolio’s continuing production of market and above market-rate returns, the programrelated investment portfolio has helped create over 174,000 jobs, support an additional 285,000 jobs, reach 490 million low-income students, preserve over 216,000 affordable housing units, and unlock over five billion in capital for underserved founders and fund managers.

Sorenson Impact Foundation’s Fourth Quarter 2023 Portfolio Updates:

All five of the investments announced today are companies and funds led by innovators in the impact ecosystem with strong tailwinds to advance environmental and societal impact and drive systems change:

  • Participant Assistive Products is a seed stage social enterprise that makes affordable assistive products like Cub, a world-class wheelchair for children with Cerebral Palsy. As the first medical device B-Corp, Participant offers a market-based answer to the World Health Organization’s call for affordable solutions, and their mission to increase the social and economic participation of people with disabilities by offering high-quality and affordable assistive products is close to the hearts of those within the Sorenson Impact ecosystem which has a longstanding commitment to improving the lives of people with disabilities. Sorenson Impact Foundation has committed $250K into Participant’s pre-seed round to support Participant Assistive Products to research and develop new products and power accessories, as well as penetrate the market with their existing Cub product.
  • Kiip is an impact-driven company dedicated to revolutionizing the social services industry. Vital social benefits are available at the federal, state, and local levels for unhoused, low-income, and disadvantaged individuals. Unfortunately, the administrative burden imposed on individuals trying to obtain these benefits creates a substantial barrier to access and continuity of coverage, stripping individuals of their ability to stabilize and advance their lives. Sorenson Impact Foundation has committed a $250K investment into Kiip’s bridge financing round and is supporting Kiip as they work to increase uptake in social services as well as efficiency of the provision of services and wellbeing of beneficiaries.
  • Totem is a pioneering Native-led fintech startup dedicated to transforming banking infrastructure for Indigenous communities. The company collaborates closely with Tribal governments and enterprises, offering a neo-banking platform that streamlines benefit disbursements and payroll management. Moreover, Totem extends essential banking services to individual users, ensuring secure and accessible financial solutions to boost economic empowerment within Native communities. Sorenson Impact Foundation has committed $250K into Totem’s pre-seed round, and this partnership marks a step forward in the Foundation’s ongoing commitment to empower underserved communities, particularly Indigenous populations, by addressing financial disparities and fostering economic opportunity and access to banking services.
  • Redemption Bank is an impact bank that has made history as the first Black acquisition of a previously white-owned bank in the United States. With a brick-and-mortar location in Holladay, UT, Redemption Bank plans to offer in-house lending services to small businesses, startups, and micro businesses within Utah. Redemption recognizes the historical challenges Black-owned banks have faced, often deeply intertwined with the economic health of the communities they serve. It is the brainchild of the visionary daughter of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, Dr. Bernice A. King, and seasoned fintech founder Ashley Bell. Sorenson Impact Foundation has committed $1M to support Redemption Bank’s mission to address the stark racial wealth gap, ensuring that capitalism benefits everyone, especially those historically excluded from financial services.
  • NESsT Lirio Fund is a groundbreaking debt fund targeting the “missing middle” in the Andes-Amazon region of Latin America. NESsT Lirio Fund provides working capital to entities that are often considered “too small” for traditional financing vehicles and yet too large for microfinance. This innovative fund provides vital loans to empower largely agricultural enterprises, enabling them to scale their operations sustainably. Sorenson Impact Foundation has committed $500K to the fund. This partnership represents Sorenson Impact Foundation’s commitment to fostering further impact investing field-building in emerging markets, particularly in Latin America, by supporting access to capital for enterprises that have often been overlooked and investing in communities, livelihoods, and environmental stewardship throughout the region.

“Coming out of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we were deliberate in shifting our PRI strategy towards investment into frontier and emerging markets that experienced unprecedented capital flight,” said Savannah Johnson, Investment Director at the Foundation who oversees Sorenson Impact Foundation’s PRI portfolio. “These five exceptional enterprises represent our commitment to empowering last mile communities with the medical devices, utilities, banking services, and access to financing needed to survive and thrive. They are stewards of our mission on the ground, and we are delighted to partner with them to continue growing and scaling their reach and impact.”

About Sorenson Impact Foundation
Established in 2012, Sorenson Impact Foundation invests in innovative social entrepreneurs solving the world’s most pressing issues. We are proud to be one of the country’s few foundations that have 100% mission-aligned investment portfolios, and we seek to be a model for other institutions on how to use the tools of the capital markets to construct overall investment portfolios that achieve exceptional impact outcomes as well as compelling financial returns. Through our program related investment portfolio, we invest in companies that have developed scalable, innovative, and potentially disruptive solutions to the world’s greatest challenges, including access to quality healthcare and education, financial inclusion, workforce development, sanitation, water, clean energy, and more. We deploy catalytic capital through investments to ensure early-stage impact companies are best positioned to scale their reach and impact. With more than 61 active portfolio companies in 14 countries and across five continents, the Foundation is committed to investing in long-lasting systemic change around the globe. For more information, please visit https://sorensonimpactfoundation.org/

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Sorenson Impact Foundation Announces Program-Related Investment into Totem Technologies to Empower Indigenous Communities

Sorenson Impact Foundation Announces Program-Related Investment into Totem Technologies to Empower Indigenous Communities

Sorenson Impact Foundation is thrilled to announce its program-related investment into Totem Technologies, a pioneering Native-led fintech startup dedicated to transforming banking infrastructure for Indigenous communities. This partnership marks a step forward in the Foundation’s ongoing commitment to empower underserved communities, particularly Indigenous populations, by addressing financial disparities and fostering economic opportunity and access to banking services.

Totem Technologies provides holistic banking infrastructure tailored specifically for Indigenous communities. The company collaborates closely with Tribal governments and enterprises, offering a neo-banking platform that streamlines benefit disbursements and payroll management. Moreover, Totem extends essential banking services to individual users, ensuring secure and accessible financial solutions aimed at boosting economic empowerment within Native communities.

Our excitement about Totem stems from its potential to revolutionize the economic landscape for Indigenous communities. By providing a comprehensive banking solution, Totem enables greater retention of capital and resources within these communities. The neo-banking platform is thoughtfully and intentionally designed to meet individuals’ specific needs for a modern banking solution, making access to financial services more convenient and cost-effective, thereby enabling new opportunities for financial growth.

Throughout 2023, Sorenson Impact Foundation actively engaged in seeking solutions to address challenges disproportionately affecting Native communities. Welcoming Totem into our portfolio represents a stride towards expanding banking services to those who have historically faced barriers to access.

By supporting Totem Technologies, we’re not just investing in a fintech startup; we’re investing in the economic empowerment and financial inclusion of Indigenous communities. The Foundation recognizes the importance of creating avenues for financial growth that are tailored to the unique needs and cultural context of these communities, and we look forward to supporting Totem’s continued growth and scale. Together with Totem, we’re dedicated to bridging the gap in financial services, fostering economic resilience, and empowering Indigenous communities to thrive.

Sorenson Impact Foundation Announces Program-Related Investment into NESsT Lirio Fund to Support Impact Financing in the Andes and Amazon

Sorenson Impact Foundation Announces Program-Related Investment into NESsT Lirio Fund to Support Impact Financing in the Andes and Amazon

Sorenson Impact Foundation is thrilled to announce its Program-Related Investment into NESsT Lirio Fund, a groundbreaking debt fund targeting the “missing middle” in the Andes-Amazon region of Latin America. This partnership represents our commitments to fostering impact investment field-building in emerging markets and bolstering access to capital for enterprises that have often been overlooked by traditional financing institutions and structures.

NESsT Lirio Fund provides working capital to entities that can be considered “too small” for traditional financing vehicles and yet too large for microfinance. This innovative fund provides vital loans to empower largely agricultural enterprises, enabling them to scale their operations sustainably. Their focus on the underserved segment serves to create a ripple effect, bolstering local economies, fortifying community resilience, and nurturing environmental stewardship.

At the core of NESsT Lirio Fund’s ethos lies a commitment to driving sustainable business growth while effecting tangible social impact. Through financing, the fund not only empowers the expansion of social enterprises but also champions the creation of employment opportunities with a deliberate emphasis on empowering women, indigenous-led ventures, and marginalized communities. To date NESsT Lirio Fund and their portfolio companies have created 5,171 jobs within the Andes-Amazon region of South America.

In addition to financing, NESsT Lirio Fund portfolio companies benefit from the robust on-the-ground support of their team which works with them to deliver on their scale strategies and impact models. NESsT Chief Investment Officer Chad Sachs has over two decades of experience in renewable energy investment and capital raising. Prior to NESsT, he founded two successful companies focused on developing and operating solar power plants and raised over $1.1 billion. Since Joining NESsT, he has capitalized and supported portfolio companies throughout Peru and Colombia, and we look forward to supporting NESst Lirio Fund as it looks towards more LATAM geographies.

Recognizing the region’s burgeoning impact investment ecosystem, the Foundation was actively engaged in Latin America throughout 2023. The collaboration with NESsT furthers our commitment to field building cross-globally and employing innovative self-liquidating deal structures to dovetail impact and financial return.

We are delighted to embark on this partnership. By combining NESsT’s remarkable legacy in advancing social and economic progress with the Foundation’s dedication to closing capital gaps to address the world’s biggest challenges, we’re not just investing in enterprises; we’re investing in communities, livelihoods, and environmental stewardship. This partnership exemplifies our joint dedication to a more inclusive, resilient, and prosperous Latin America.

Sorenson Impact Foundation Invests in Kiip to Empower Transformative Change in Social Services

Sorenson Impact Foundation Invests in Kiip to Empower Transformative Change in Social Services

Sorenson Impact Foundation is excited to announce its Program-Related Investment into Kiip, an impact-driven company dedicated to revolutionizing the social services industry.

Vital social benefits are available at the federal, state, and local level for the unhoused, low-income, and disadvantaged. Unfortunately though, the administrative burden imposed on individuals trying to obtain these benefits creates a substantial barrier to access and continuity of support coverage, stripping individuals of their ability to stabilize and advance their lives. 51% of eligible social services candidates do not apply for assistance due to this burden. Applications for assistance are lengthy, complex and duplicative. A typical SNAP food benefits application is 21 pages and requires the upload of 8 vital/personal documents–requirements mirrored by all other benefits programs. In-person document submission and interviews require navigating missed work days, transportation hurdles, and childcare–often impossible barriers. Those with limited literacy, access to technology or transportation, or a place to store their vital documents lose hope of access to these programs–they simply give up.

There are 21 million individuals in the U.S. who are currently eligible to receive social services benefits, but many are unable to apply due to these arduous and sometimes impossible processes, and many who do obtain benefits churn–not to due eligibility but to burden of maintaining enrollment. 80-90% of enrollee churn is due to missed interim reports required every 6 to 12 months during enrollment.

Enter Kiip.

Kiip is a simple and secure vital document management and communication platform that transforms the way that social benefits are accessed and delivered for disadvantaged individuals. Kiip’s secure digital platform enables low-income individuals to safely store, access and share their vital documents, while empowering social service organizations to scale their reach, drive efficiency, and improve their ability to successfully connect their clients to a broad range of benefits and services.
Kiip also provides free document management to individuals and partners with paying social services benefits providers who offer the platform to the individuals they serve. This enables organizations to streamline application and case management process, allowing for secure document reception, consolidated historical client information viewing, and direct communication with clients regarding their documentation. It also enables individuals to securely store their documents and connect with local organizations, exposing them to available support services and enabling them to engage with these resources through a single interface.

With the potential to alleviate crippling administrative hurdles and processes that impede access to benefits and services for disadvantaged individuals, Kiip’s impact model includes:

  • Empowering individuals to securely store, access, share & renew vital documents to facilitate their applications to obtain and remain covered by benefits and services, as well as apply for jobs and financial products
  • Connecting individuals to support organizations and benefits and services for which they are eligible
  • Increasing efficiency and cost savings for social service organizations, enabling them to effectively serve more clients

The U.S. Social Services and Benefits Ecosystem sees major funding with key programs like TANF ($30.3 billion), Social Security and Medicare ($1.1 trillion each), and SNAP ($100 billion), totaling an investment of around $2.3 trillion. Nearly half of Americans access some form of benefits each year. Kiip has built a repeatable, partnership-focused GTM to enable greater utilization of this funding as well as network effects for scale.

While the platform is in its early days, the SIF team is bullish on Kiip’s traction with payor entities and co-design process with end users. We are also highly impressed with Kiip’s CEO Noah Harlan and his team’s ability to navigate the social benefits space, the real impact that can be created for base of pyramid individuals, and the scale potential within the market.

The social services industry has been ripe for innovation, and we are delighted to back innovations like Kiip that have the power to increase uptake in social services, efficiency of the provision of services, and wellbeing of beneficiaries.

Sorenson Impact Foundation Announces Program-Related Investment into Participant Assistive Products

Sorenson Impact Foundation Announces Program-Related Investment into Participant Assistive Products

Sorenson Impact Foundation is thrilled to welcome Participant Assistive Products into our Program-Related Investment portfolio.

Participant Assistive Products is a seed stage social enterprise that makes affordable assistive products like Cub, a world class wheelchair for children with Cerebral Palsy. Participant’s product line includes wheelchairs for people in urban areas as well as all-terrain wheelchairs for people in rural areas that do not have access to pavement traditional wheelchairs normally require. As the first medical device B-Corp, Participant offers a market-based answer to the World Health Organization’s call for affordable solutions, and their mission to increase the social and economic participation of people with disabilities by offering high quality and affordable assistive products is close to the hearts of those within the Sorenson Impact ecosystem which has a longstanding commitment to improving the lives of people with disabilities.

Only 10% of children in low and middle income countries requiring a wheelchair have access to one due to cost barriers, quality and terrain concerns, and last mile supply chain issues. Participant increases access by reducing these friction points. Its high quality and clinically-approved wheelchairs are available at an affordable price point, and their existing distributor/NGO relationships eliminate last mile delivery barriers enabling the company to provide wheelchairs to people with disabilities at low and no cost to the user.

Our decision to invest in Participant is driven by the company’s mission and impact alignment, potential to shape the market, and the experience and vision of the leadership team. Participant has created a line of products uniquely designed to address the needs of individuals living with disabilities in low and middle income countries. Their chairs are clinically-sound, capable for use in rugged terrain, durable, feature-rich and enable users to sit in classrooms for longer and minimize pressure sores and postural damage, yet their chairs are also affordable. Furthermore, leading global NGOs have called for solutions that provide wheelchairs to individuals in resource-constrained markets. UNICEF, for instance, is dedicating substantial resources to the model that can accomplish this. To date, Participant is the only commercially-viable solution to provide affordable yet high quality products at scale.

Co-Founder and CEO Keoke King has dedicated his life to solving this critical, and he has been iterating on solutions for decades. As a product engineer, salesperson, and supply chain manager for UCP Wheels for Humanity, CLASP, and Whirlwind Wheelchairs, Keoke developed supply-chain specific solutions to wheelchair access and developed best-in-class design. His deep and comprehensive understanding of the industry in conjunction with his entrepreneurial vision and scrappiness gives the Sorenson Impact Foundation team tremendous conviction in his abilities to deliver on Participant’s impact and business model.

Our catalytic capital will support Participant Assistive Products to research and develop new products and power accessories as well as penetrate the market with their existing Cub product. We look forward to supporting Keoke King and team as they scale Participant’s reach and impact.