Standing Together, We Can Magnify Our Impact
For nearly a decade, we at the Sorenson Impact Foundation along with our peers in the impact investing space overall have worked to fuel the development of creative solutions to the world’s most pressing issues.
Now, in the face of a global pandemic and concurrent economic shock, the problems that we have been working to solve are being magnified and experienced by more people and in more places than we’ve ever seen before.
But there is good news, and infinite hope: though we may not have been focused on preparing for this pandemic or sudden economic shock, for years many of us have been working to develop solutions that can help in challenging times like this. SIF and our peers have funded companies and organizations that know how to coordinate emergency response in areas without strong healthcare infrastructure, provide education to people who cannot go to a school, deliver healthy food to areas that lack access, and even train and mentor healthcare workers remotely. As we have sought to find solutions for certain regions and environments, we have supported innovative companies and organizations that now, with our collective support, can rise to the challenges of helping save lives and try to stymie the long term impact of this public health and economic crisis.
Below we have laid out some of the preliminary steps we are taking and hope that you will join us in collaborating to get through this together.
What We’re Doing Right Now
Keeping Capital Moving Towards High Impact Investments
Our expertise has always been providing catalytic capital to support social entrepreneurs who are developing sustainable solutions solving issues for people and communities in need. So, we are leveraging our strengths and networks to continue that work with a new focus area: alleviating the global impact of this pandemic and economic shock.
Impact Investments: We are supporting our current portfolio companies who have stepped up to lead in direct response to the pandemic, and we are also actively evaluating new investments in companies that are responding to the global health crisis as well as the tangential but also critical issues of exacerbated hunger, poverty, lack of education and lack of work that is and will continue to be experienced as a result of this crisis. We are hoping to collaborate with other investors to share risk and help keep good companies running during this time period.
Grants: We are also redirecting our grant funding to focus on supporting organizations that are developing sustainable measures to alleviate the impact of the current pandemic and economic shock as well as those working to understand and apply the learnings from this pandemic to our industries, processes and infrastructure in order to be better prepared as a society in the future.
Collaboration is Critical
We Want to Team Up with Other Impact Investors
Collaboration amongst impact investors is more important than ever, so we are looking to coordinate and collaborate on due diligence, share our pipelines, and coordinate resources so that we can accelerate and enhance the investment process. Here are the ways we are looking to work together:
Team Based Co-Investing: We are seeking referrals from existing investors of fundraising companies and will consider matching investments up to 1:1 in order to share risk and support companies through this challenging time. We invest in early stage companies around the world who have developed innovative, scalable solutions to serve communities in need. Please reach out to Meredith Shields and Carl Adams, if you would like to send us a referral. Likewise, in the coming weeks we will start sharing our active pipeline with an offer to provide access to our team and due diligence to anyone who would like to join us in evaluating a new investment. With this team-based approach, our goal is to accelerate the fundraising process and enhance efficiency across the field.
COVID-19 Aggregated Deal Pipeline: Through Village Capital’s Abaca platform, we are creating a pipeline for impact investors that compiles a list of companies who are actively responding to COVID-19 and looking for investment. We will be sending out steps for how impact investors can access this pipeline in the coming days. If you know companies who should be on the pipeline, please send them this link to be listed.
Sharing Our Portfolio Companies Who Are Responding to COVID: Below we have highlighted our portfolio companies who are quickly working to respond to the COVID-19 needs in communities around the world. Many are currently fundraising in order to expand their work and we are happy to share our due diligence if you are interested in co-investing with us to support their work.
Our Portfolio Companies In Action
Our Companies are Stepping Up – We Hope You’ll Join Us In Supporting Their Efforts!
Below is a snapshot of what some of our portfolio companies are doing to step-up and actively support relief efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. These are examples of companies we are working with in the response phase of the pandemic; and many of our other companies are involved in planning recovery and resiliency efforts as well. Please note that several of the direct response companies noted below are actively fundraising to support their efforts. Please email Meredith Shields if you want more information.
For the social enterprise Sevamob, which works in India and the U.S., a combination of a telehealth marketplace, AI-based triage and on-site pop-up and mobile clinics lead to accurate diagnosis and treatment for low-income and rural communities who have limited or no access to healthcare. The United Nations Development Program’s BCTA initiative has highlighted Sevamob’s model for COVID-19 response in low income communities. Sevamob’s model is used to promote awareness about how to prevent spread, provide physician consultation via tele-health and popup/mobile clinics, facilitate testing, conduct follow-ups to ensure that patients are quarantined and/or undergoing treatment, and manage patient data and analytics to track individuals and clusters. Sevamob’s mobile and pop-up clinics can be set up quickly, less than 15 minutes. Sevamob is currently raising a $3 million Series B.
BRCK provides Public WiFi in Africa. Given the need for communication and connectivity, BRCK is working with impact investors and philanthropy to rapidly raise a fund in order to quickly expand its public WiFi network in select African markets to drive awareness and digital educational content regarding COVID-19. In the long term, BRCK aims to provide access to digital work and new ways to digitize and help SMEs in this evolving market. BRCK’s goal is to bring 45 million Africans online in the next four to six months, in Kenya, South Africa, Rwanda and DRC – where they already have operations.
Copia is a mobile commerce company in Kenya that was designated an essential service by the Kenyan government because they are delivering food, household goods, cleaning products, soap, sanitizer etc to a huge and very vulnerable population, enabling them to stay home and be safe. Copia seeks to serve the 750 million middle/low income consumers in Africa who are left behind by formal retail and e-commerce. Copia works with a network of agents who are small shopkeepers in their villages and can receive orders from end customers by text message then delivers goods to a local agent shop for pick up within two days. With a world class fulfillment center, Copia is able to deliver to this previously unreachable market high service and low cost of delivery. Copia is currently raising a $20 million Series C round.
THINKMD is a global digital health technology company that builds clinical decision support and health monitoring technology for Health Ministries, international health organizations, and primary health care delivery programs. THINKMD has developed a COVID-19 screening tool that guides users through a self-assessment in the absence of widespread testing facilities. Each personal assessment determines if an individual has none, some or many of the clinical symptoms and presenting features associated with COVID-19. The screening tool provides general information about the virus as well as health-seeking, protective and preventive educational information based on WHO and CDC guidelines. In partnership with multinational mobile network operators, THINKMD will be immediately distributing the screening and educational tool free of charge to general populations in countries in Africa and Asia. We are also looking at pathways to distribute this tool in the US and are actively looking for partners. See a direct link to the tool here.
Flare provides emergency response services in Kenya and is in the process of expanding to other countries who lack coordinated emergency response. Since the outbreak, their services have shifted almost entirely to the outbreak as they are trying to respond to emergencies and support the government’s strategic response. They are actively raising $1.2 million to support expansion opportunities in order to be able to adequately respond to this crisis while also developing infrastructure to support the communities even after the pandemic.
As a global marketplace for medical equipment targeting under-served communities, VIA Global Health has found itself supporting those on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic – sourcing affordable and medically critical devices, diagnostics and supplies; navigating the changing logistics landscape; and getting the word out to customers and beneficiaries that we can get what they need. We are actively developing and deploying strategies to ensure rapid equitable access, and working with partners to better support global public health and healthcare providers on the frontline.
Kasha is an ecommerce platform for women’s health and self-care in Rwanda and Kenya with 75% of customers being low income and rural. Kasha delivers menstrual care, pharmaceuticals, other body care products regularly, but during this time of COVID Kasha is also acting as a trusted platform for order and delivery of COVID-protection products such as hand sanitizers, masks, soap, etc. Kasha employs women in low income communities as Kasha Agents, who deliver orders to the last mile and are the face of Kasha in their communities. Kasha is raising its Series A round of $3mm and already has 2/3rds of the round committed. They have opened up a convertible note to bridge the runway gap until official first close of Series A (earliest is end of Q2). They are looking for convertible note investors as well as any investor interested in participating in the second close of Kasha’s Series A round at a minimum of $500k and up to $1mm, with official second close timing of end of Q2. Support at this time would be extremely catalytic for the company.