How to find impact investing deals (or develop the deals you’ve already got)

BinocularsThe impact and sustainable investing market is crowded these days with big business, social entrepreneurs, private investors and governments all getting into the act. Yet recent research indicates that serious investors are still finding deal-sourcing a challenge. At the same time, intermediaries and entrepreneurs are still struggling to develop deals and find the right partners and collaborators to bring them to scale.

As Maximpact founder Tom Holland says in recent blog, “Despite the growth in the sector, many parts of it are still working in separate silos. Activity is up, more capital is invested, but the sector is still very fragmented. Many impact organizations don’t connect with the wider impact community or take advantage of the many possibilities it offers.”

As Holland points out, the disconnect between investors and investees; and the one that exists between those developing deals and the expert support and collaborative partners they need to succeed; is a persistent problem in the sector that may only be fully resolved with more market maturity. However, some infrastructure groups, like Holland’s own Maximpact, have been trying to tackle the problem head-on.

Maximpact Deals, for example, is an online community that aims to create a more sustainable future by fostering the growth of impact investing through sharing, collaborating and co-investing. Maximpact hosts this online listing platform, which allows entrepreneurs and intermediaries to showcase projects and ventures, giving them the opportunity to connect directly with partners and funders in the impact and sustainability industry.

The technology behind Maximpact Deals allows investors, CSR programs, intermediaries and philanthropists to engage directly with sustainable investment opportunities all over the world. A sophisticated search function allows users to pinpoint exactly the right investments and opportunities on the site and make immediate connections. Members can also use the platform to network and share resources with other members. And, because all registrants are approved and vetted by the Maximpact team, users can feel confident that they will interact with organizations whose values align with theirs. The site boasts 17 areas of focus, reflecting a wide range of causes and mission interests. Registration is completely free, and there are no commission fees.

Since its launch in September 2012, Maximpact Deals has grown and evolved to facilitate high-impact collaborations with its open-collaboration model. Today it plays host to more than 500 individual deals of all sizes, offering over 1500 business opportunities. More than 350 financial institutions, including World Vision, LGT and Triodos Bank and many more, are active members.

As the sector continues to evolve, Maximpact is committed to evolving with it: in the fall of 2014, the group will be launching a new project development area that will make starting, organizing and developing new sustainability and impact projects easier than ever. Not only will users have access to collaborators all across the globe, but they will also be in touch with a diverse pool of experts that can provide the tools they need to effectively launch and develop new projects, organize virtual teams, attract finance, receive advice on any issue and connect with like-minded groups and individuals. At the same time Maximpact will also be offering marketing and media, finance and consulting services to those who seek support, assistance and advice in these areas.

Through Maximpact Deals and, soon, through a raft of new project development capabilities, Maximpact continues its work with an aim to foster a more sustainable future by accelerating the rate of impact and sustainable investing, expanding the industry’s impact overall and, through its media outreach, raising the profile and popularity of impact investing. With more of this kind of sector-building activity, it hopes to contribute to the growth of the whole social investing sector; and to facilitate the flow of more capital into businesses bringing needed solutions to planetary problems.

Learn more about Maximpact.

Copyright: andreyuu / 123RF Stock Photo

Transforming Poverty into Sustainable Prosperity through Agri-business and Agro-processing

Guest port by Dave Wreford, Hermanus Rainbow Trust

This blog post is part of a series of posts, introducing latest deals within Maximpact’s portfolio, written by our members. To register and promote your own sustainable profit or non-profit initiatives and projects looking for investment, grants or other types of collaboration, please register with Maximpact.


“An innovative solution to a complex problem”.


Like in many regions around the world, Poverty is the scourge that’s destroying our disadvantaged communities in the Overstrand region of the Western Cape – South Africa. It is important that we utilize every available resource to eliminate Poverty, which is the cause of broken families, malnutrition, hunger, child mortality, crime and the lack of “early childhood development” and education for our children.


The Challenges of Living in an Impoverished Community.


Imagine living in a community where about 80,000 people live under terrible conditions, with 50,000 living in small shacks with no fresh water, electricity or sewerage available in the shacks. The unemployment levels are very high (71%) and the literacy levels low, with 59% earning less than R1,200 per month ($110) and 4% not having any form of income at all. It is estimated that 45% are “infected” with HIV, but the reality is that virtually every family is “affected” by HIV in one way or another. Tragically this is further aggravated by widespread crime, gangs, drugs, violence, rape, teenage pregnancies, spread of HIV, neglect and the abuse of women and children.

These devastating conditions have resulted in the breakdown of society and family structures causing single parent families and “child-headed” households with hundreds of orphans, vulnerable children and disadvantaged families. Many of the people have been forced to join gangs and resort to crime to survive the ravages of poverty and inequality.

“Community and Social Development”


The Hermanus Rainbow Trust was founded as a non-profit organisation in 1999. Since then the Trust has been providing community and social development; services and support to hundreds of orphans vulnerable children and disadvantaged families affected by HIV and poverty. These services have been funded through “grant funding” from government, business and private individuals. Unfortunately over the last few years the recession has resulted in a significant reduction in “grant funding”.

“Wake up Call”

This seriously impacted the delivery of services and support and prompted the Board of Trustees to develop an innovative “sustainability strategy”. The strategy is based on the establishment of a “Social Enterprise”with commercial business activities, whose surplus revenue (profits) will fund and grow the existing “social purpose programmes”.

The Dawn of a New Era

The “Social Enterprise” has established a number of small revenue generating pilot projects over the last year while researching and developing an innovative long term sustainable solution to the complex problem of “Poverty”.

The Agri-business Solution

Agri-business and Agro-processing solution focuses on 5 integrated initiatives that provide training, skills development and mentoring, the creation of business opportunities and jobs, and the production of unique functional foods and nutraceuticals. These initiatives will go a long way to eliminate poverty in our communities.

  • - The Agri-business Training College, Training Farm andNursery
  • – The “Business Development Services” and “Supply Chain Management” Incubator
  • – The Agri-business Co-operative and Production Farm
  • – The Agro-processing Centre with 4 commercial “FunctionalFoods” and “Nutraceutical” production lines
  • – The “Rainbow of Hope” Shop and Tourist Centre.

Social Impact Benefits

The mission is to rebuild the family structures, enabling children to develop fully and become future leaders, while enabling the family members to participate in the various poverty alleviation business activities.

The current programmes that incorporate over 1,000 people, include:

  • – Parenting Worx; providing comprehensive parenting, life’s kills and “early childhood development”.
  • – Children’s Circle of Support; provides psycho-social support to orphans, vulnerable children and child headed households
  • – Sponsor a Child; provides support and enables disadvantaged children access to education
  • – Special Support Groups; Support and counseling for adults and children with terminal and chronic diseases (mainly HIV/AIDS)
  • – Grade R Edu-care Centers; providing formal Grade Reduction as a foundation to primary school education.

Financial Requirements

The total financial requirements for the 3 year roll out of the “Social Enterprise” commercial Agri-business projects, including all of the infrastructure, facilities, equipment, vehicles, systems and operational costs through to break even, is $4.3 million (£2.6 m, € 3.12 m, R47.0 m), for the 5 integrated businesses. The “Social Enterprise” is looking to establish a balanced funding portfolio. This will consider a combination of sub-market debt and equity from Social Impact Investors, Corporate Social Investment, Corporate Enterprise Development, Foundation grants, Venture philanthropists, and Social VC funder.

About Dave Wreford: Dave Wreford is the General Manager / Administrator of the Trust. Dave is a social entrepreneur, visionary and strategist, with over 15 years; experience in community and social development programmes and Agri-business and Agro-processing projects. Dave has expertise in natural medicine, health and wellness, “Functional Foods” and”Nutraceuticals”, with over 10 years; experience with Moringa growing and production. Worked for IBM, both locally and internationally for 27 years, the last 10 years in senior management positions.

Photo credit: All pictures have been taken by staff members of the Trust and belong to the Trust.

Spotlight Deal: Maximpact forestry deals achieving positive results

Maximpact spotlight deals shine a light on the forestry sector. Currently Maximpact Eco has over thirty forestry deals listed and many of these are seeing a high degree of interest from impact and sustainability investors.

The number of responsible investments in the forestry sectors of the emerging countries may still be limited due to uncertain market environments and a low level of investment experience. However, there are attractive deals in the marketplace now; and those listed with Maximpact Eco are proving attractive to investors looking to place capital in sustainable businesses.

Twenty of these deals have been chosen and show cased to a select group of the Maximpact Eco investor community. As a result six of them were short listed and three of them are now in advanced discussion.

These are very promising results for a sector where, in large investment portfolios (USD 1 billion), forests and forestry usually represent only around one percent of the total portfolio. Yet it isn’t enough: From an impact point of view, more investment is needed worldwide in order to effectively combat forest exploitation combat carbon related issues and build bridges between sustainable forestry and investors.

The fact that forestry deals are getting substantial traction is a step in the right direction, demonstrating that, when it comes to sustainable forestry and impact investors, the attraction is mutual.

Interested in forestry deals? Login or Register now.

Weekly Deals: Empowering Women

Empowering women250

This week’s spotlight deals focus on Women’s empowerment.
A recent report explored the problems of under-investment in women-led small and growing businesses and found that there is a gap in financing available. The finance that does exist is especially difficult for women to access. On the other hand, impact investors have an opportunity to support women-led businesses, but they often lack information and access to quality deals.

Three of the latest deals from our Women’s Empowerment sector show that opportunities do exist, if you know where to look for them:


Indigenous women may have experience in entrepreneurial activities such as handicrafts, but they have historically been excluded from bank credit. This often limits their possibilities of growth due to lack of working and investment capital. This project links indigenous women to working capital credit and markets in the Guatemala region in order to promote production and commercialization of handicrafts and other economic activities. The project uses a validated credit methodology used for more than 10 years in the local Credit Union, to establish a revolving credit fund to provide the women with credit at market rates.

This project is currently seeking strategic partnerships and an investment of $ 150,000.


This company manufactures exotic sauces and vinaigrettes utilizing only locally sourced, native Colombian ingredients. The business sources all of its ingredients from a local network of approximately 100 smallholder farmers. The company employs primarily women, currently having a direct impact on 15 local families. They are now looking to expand their operations with the goal of further increasing their impact on the local community.

The company is currently seeking investment of $ 500.000 to $ 650.000.


This organization facilitates awareness, assistance and entrepreneurship in a manner that will not only provide support to women but ensures a sustained and self-aided livelihood in cash or kind. The organization has created a livestock exchange model. Women first pay an annual membership fee of Rs. 1500, based on which every woman is given a goat and a lamb, totaling to a worth of Rs. 15,000. The woman also agrees to give back half the number of young produced by her animals every year for three years. These kids and lambs are collected at the goat farm, where they are bred for further loaning or sale in the market, continuing the cycle.

For every goat or lamb owned by a member of the group, the equivalent value of money can be loaned at any given moment in exchange for the livestock. This means that the goats function as a ready cash exchange for the women. The project has the opportunity for further scalability through an online platform. Online, individuals can raise money, adopt a goat or lamb and see the progress and social development of the women and their families. In return, the amount raised is returned with interest.

This project is currently seeking investment of $ 55.000.

To explore other Women’s Empowerment deals, log in to Maximpact. Not a member? Register now.

Interested in the latest Women’s empowerment sector resources? Access them through the Newsstand.

[Image credit:123rf]

Weekly Deals: Natural Resources

weekly deals natural resources

There are compelling reasons for investing in natural capital -­ our ecosystems, biodiversity and natural resources;­ and the choices for investors in these areas are increasing.

Three of the latest deals listing with Maximpact this week show how attractive deals with Mother Earth can be.

Deal: D000470

By focusing on climate change, this fund demonstrates that financial performance can be fully aligned with sound environmental stewardship and social development. It places special emphasis on sustainable land-use, biodiversity and ecosystem services, while seeking to leverage investment by raising $ 150 million to catalyze a range of positive impacts including reduced greenhouse gas emissions, sustained or enhanced biodiversity and ecosystem function and conservation of endangered species.

The Fund is now gathering further commitments for rounds to be completed in Autumn 2013 and Spring 2014. They are seeking investments from $5 million to $25 million.

Deal: D000477

This opportunity consists of three different projects that will collectively protect nearly 250,000 acres in the Amazon rainforest from slash-and-burn forest clearing and prevent millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions. About 20% of global warming is attributed to deforestation, which reduces the Earth’s capacity to absorb carbon dioxide. These projects will mitigate deforestation, preserve biodiversity, and provide alternative economic opportunities to local communities.

The deals are seeking investment in the range of $1 million to $5 million.

Deal: D000471

This organization employs resource accounting tools to measure human impact and uses the insights to help communities make more informed choices. The project focuses on Spain and Greece, two EU countries, both heavily hit by the economic downturn. It helps local authority partners to understand their dependence on natural resources and to integrate this knowledge into their plans for sustainable economic recovery. The project is to be implemented in three phases over three years with partners such as: WWF, Greece, Eco-Union, FEMISE, University of Lyon and ACR+.

To ensure its completion, this deal is seeking investment of 1.5 million EUR in grants.

For a full view of available opportunities in any of our sectors,log into Maximpact and navigate to the deal platform. Not a Maximpact member?Register now.

Further recommended reading: The Little Biodiversity Finance Book: A guide to proactive investment in natural capital. Look for it in the Newsstand.

[Image credit: CIAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture. Flickr]

Weekly Deals: Investing in Communities

What do a youth start-up acceleration program, a book distributor serving children at the base of the economic pyramid and a rural village educational program focusing on sanitation have in common?

One: their initiatives provide alternatives to national and global corporate and government programs. Two: all three deals are listing on Maximpact today.

Deal D000474

This entrepreneur is organizing support for young entrepreneurs in Belgium. Their three month acceleration program helps start-ups in launching their company while their second initiative focuses on helping kids of 10 to 15 to launch and develop a mobile app, a website or a product that they can build on their own or with the help of adults. This is one of the only accelerators around the world that doesn’t take equity in the start-ups that it supports.To further develop their initiatives this entrepreneur is seeking investment in the range of 25.000 to 250.000 $, depending on their upcoming growth.

Deal D000468

This entrepreneur has distributed over 100 million books to educators serving children at the base of the economic pyramid in the US and Canada. They are now launching the digital phase of their program. Their goal is to make the model accessible globally by adding digital content and devices to the products offered and distributed. This scaling initiative would take them to a self-sustaining level where they could efficiently serve the ecosystem of NGOs and others who aim to create educational equity worldwide.To make their vision come true, they are currently seeking investment of 9 million $ in 2-3 tranches.

Deal D000472

In the village of Turasha, Kenya waste is a serious problem. Much of the waste in and around the community is washed into the river: death and diseases such as diarrhea, dysentery, worms, cholera, and typhoid are the result. The project’s goal is to educate the community about improving hygienic behavior such as keeping the compound clean of fecal material, providing or restoring toilets and establishing convenient washing facilities and improving the quality of drinking water by protecting and cleaning the river Turasha.This project is seeking investment of 35,000 $ which would include the cost of project activities.
These three latest investing opportunities provide only a snapshot of what can be found within the Maximpact platform. The more we can bring together the entrepreneurial energy and ideas with the capital required to bring them to life, the better for all, so stay tuned for more deals coming up in the future.

For more information on any of the deals mentioned here, log into Maximpact and navigate to the deal platform. Not a Maximpact member? Register now.

Spotlight Deal: Composting Adds Value for Mali Farmers

In the rural areas of some developing countries, bio-waste is a problem and so is the degradation of arable land through soil erosion and moisture loss. A new deal on the Maximpact platform offers a solution to both of these challenges for farm communities in rural Mali.

Working with the Malian government, Transcarbon, a consulting firm that advises on sustainable development, has come up with a plan that will allow farmers to add value and increase production by transforming bio-waste into fertilizer.

It consists of a program to construct small-scale, efficient, low-cost composting stations to treat waste that is normally left to decompose without control or recovery. The compost can be used to restore soil fertility, increase crop yields and reduce consumption of chemical fertilizers while at the same time improving sanitation in the villages.

The economic benefits to Malian rural communities include job creation – an average of five jobs will be created in each village; and increased incomes through selling the compost. There’s also potential to earn carbon credits from methane reduction.

For private sector investors, the outlook is also positive. The per-feasibility analysis carried out by Transcarbon shows that the project carries a low technical risk, has both strong commercial viability and value proposition, and has solid potential for replication and scalability. Desk and field due diligence are complete and the detailed project proposal has been finalized.

For more information, log in to and use the Deal Search function to find deal D000461. Not a Maximpact member? Register today.

[Image credit: michelealfieri / 123RF Stock Photo]

New Biomimicry Deals Seeking Investment

Biomimicry, a design discipline that seeks sustainable solutions by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies, is an emerging field that is increasingly catching interest from impact investors and social businesses.

According to The Global Biomimicry Efforts: An Economic Game Changer report, biomimicry-based goods and services could account for approximately $300 billion of U.S. GDP by 2025. The sector could also provide another $50 billion in terms of mitigating the depletion of various natural resources and reducing CO2 pollution.

Many established and emerging biomimicry companies are now looking for organizations that could fund, invest in, and support their operations. At Maximpact, we are excited about this trend because we believe biomimicry is here to stay and will represent an important part of future social business innovation.

Below we list three new biomimicry impact deals currently seeking investment on Maximpact platform. A complete list and contact details can be viewed when you register:

Water treatment technology inspired by aquatic plant systems

This company is a leader in natural, cost-effective, and sustainable water treatment technologies. It designs, builds and operates an all-natural, sustainable technology by harnessing nature’s power to restore polluted lakes, streams, and estuaries.

Its products have already been demonstrated on pilot and commercial scales. Clients in the pipeline include a well-known mining company and an environmentally responsible mixed-use real estate development company.

Wastewater and water pollution treatment inspired by biological processes that operate in nature

The company has over 30 years experience with natural wastewater treatment design, general aquatic management, and project supervision. Its design harnesses the biological processes that operate in nature taking the form of an engineered treatment system to successfully meet discharge standards and permitting requirements.

The company is a pioneer in the use of natural systems for the removal of chemicals, petroleum hydrocarbons, endocrine disruptors, and other detrimental water pollutants. They envision the remediation of impaired natural water bodies and soils as a major part of their future work.

Fans inspired by the whale’s fins

This company produces fans and turbines and makes extensive use of digital technology which extends from design specification, through CNC machining and fabrication. Their one of a kind fans use a new kind of airfoil which is more energy efficient and much quieter.

The performance of the fan’s blades is ideal for a product that can save operational energy consumption while reducing heating and cooling costs significantly by de-stratifying and mixing the different layers of air in rooms. The company is now ready to take the product to the next level, instead of just designing fans and turbine elements they also want to move into manufacturing and sales.

For further resources on Biomimicry we highly recommend reading the book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature by Jamine M.Benyus, seeing her TED talk or visiting Maximpact’s newsstand which holds additional industry resources.

[Image credit:123RF Stock Photo]


Sanitation may not be the most glamorous part of the social benefit sector but it’s potentially big business: Current estimates value the market for products and services at $80 billion over ten years. With this incentive, businesses are starting to take up the sanitation challenge. Several of the most promising innovators are listed on Maximpact today.


Azadi manufactures biodegradable sanitary pads that are accessible and affordable to women in rural India. An estimated 300 million women in India are resorting to ineffective and unhygienic alternatives such as rags and newspaper to manage their menstruation. This poses health risks and constrains their access to work and education. Azadi’s pads are 100% biodegradable and 43% cheaper than the average retail price point in India. The company’s strategy has an enterprise element, too: They train local female entrepreneurs to sell the pads to consumers while educating them on the use and benefits.


Who Gives a Crap is an environmentally friendly toilet paper company whose social business strategy works on two levels. First, they sell recycled toilet paper to customers in the USA and Australia, then they donate 50% of the profits to WaterAid to improve sanitation in the developing world. Their campaigns are humorous: One of their founders once sat on the “throne” until they’d reached a key sales target and their pun-filled communications include lines such as “Together we can save the world from the bottom up.” Yet their quirky approach has raised awareness of sanitation issues as well as money for sanitation development.


A product of trend-setting Equilibrium Capital, this fund delivers project-level capital across a diversified portfolio of leading waste-to-energy biogas developers in promising and underserved markets. Proprietary projects include U.S. biogas developers in livestock and agriculture, food processing, municipal solid waste and wastewater. In other words, it’s a portfolio of companies that convert human, animal and vegetable waste into saleable energy. The Bioenergy Capital Pilot Fund offers insight into the changing face of waste and demonstrates a sophisticated approach to turning sanitation challenges into investment opportunities.

To learn more about sanitation deals, login to Maximpact




Tell us more – what is mavia?

mavia is a social finance and philanthropy advisory firm based in Zurich.

We strive to increase positive impact for our clients and their beneficiaries by creating transparency and bridging the gap between people wanting to engage in positive change and adequate, high quality investment and philanthropy opportunities for impact.

We offer our clients independent, personal and professional advice in strategic philanthropy by creating strong and trusted relationships with them as well as with our network partners. In this way we ensure consistent mission alignment from planning the whole way through to implementation of a personal philanthropy journey.

Who is the typical mavia client?

There is no such thing as “the typical mavia client”. Our clients are as diverse as people can be – each one with different motivations, values and needs. We deliberately chose to have a diverse advisory board, to represent that kind of individuality with different cultures, religions, interests and background. What our clients have in common though, is that they are all personalities looking for opportunities to make a real difference through philanthropy or social investments. They all have a “Passion for Impact” that drives their decisions and engagements.

Can you give an example of a mavia engagement?

One of our clients is a medium size foundation based in Switzerland. The foundation supports projects in Switzerland through traditional grant giving according to its mission and thematic focus. Together we are working out a strategy on how to include impact investing in the existing activities. This decision influences a foundation on different levels, from service offering, to internal know-how but also culture. It is very important to ensure that change is introduced gradually and in line with the foundation’s mission. The first impact investment with our client is planned in the next 12 months; a great opportunity to learn together and go new and innovative ways.

Another example is an institutional client in the financial services industry. Our client is interested in adding philanthropy to the existing service offering, for reasons of client retention, business development and corporate responsibility. We advised to base decisions regarding additional services on insights from a client survey instead of setting something up and risking to miss the target. In this case we collaborate with a partner, who is specialized in conducting surveys to measure and evaluate “soft” factors. This way the client has a meaningful data set as a basis for his decisions about additional products and services, which make sense to be set up in the future.

Last but not least we are working with a wealthy private client who is not new to charity but rather new to strategic philanthropy and wants to include the next generation in this process. As we work on the Philanthropy Canvas, an easy and straight forward working tool developed by mavia and inspired by, we talk about basic values and interests that drive many money related decisions. This is a great opportunity to understand the other one’s views and needs. The outcome here is not necessarily family philanthropy, it can be of course, but it is also possible to have separate engagements and to exchange experiences and learning within the family on a regular basis. One of our clients once said: “I don’t see the need for everybody in the family to be involved in everything. Because not everybody has the same skills and time and quite frankly you can end up making things far too complicated when you have to consider everybody’s interests, commitment and agenda.”

What makes mavia different?

We give honest and direct advice at any time. In everything we do we try to foster clarity and simplify rather than making things more complicated. We believe that this leads to more joy and fulfillment for our clients, who then again choose to engage in philanthropy for the long term and this increases positive impact.

For us it’s about transforming good intention into a meaningful journey for our clients and to be part of the success story of philanthropy. A story of positive change and growth, that leaves us with a smile on our faces.

Enjoy your impact journey and engage!

About Maximpacts Womens Empowerment Sector

about maximpacts womens empowerment sectorWomen are an immense resource for social change. It has been proven with countless statistics that women’s collaborative actions are a prerequisite for the fight against poverty and human rights. UN Women, the UN Global Compact, the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, and other agencies provide findings that demonstrate that gender diversity helps business perform better and that achieving the Millennium Development Goals requires a rapid integration of gender equality.

Our new and exciting sector of action entitled Women’s Empowerment provides a platform area for two categories in particular:

1. Women who create impact through investment

Business women around the world who appreciate the economic, political and social position they have achieved, are harnessing their experience, status and financial power to promote social responsibility and environmental preservation. Women in impact investment are becoming a powerful group which is accelerating change. Their understanding of issues such as discrimination, marginalization and exclusion often lead to an emphasis in striving for gender equality, human rights and poverty alleviation. But women’s impact investment goes beyond these areas to include a splendid array of support for green tech, clean tech, eco tourism and venture philanthropy. In the Women’s Empowerment sector, women investors can join to amplify the impact they already make as individuals or smaller groups.

2. Projects helping women

Women are half the world’s population, working two thirds of the world’s working hours, receiving 10% of the world’s income and owning less than 1% of the world’s property.

Unfortunately, in many parts of the world women do not have enough rights and resources to change their situation. In fact, the problem is so enormous that it has given rise to one of the 8 UN Millennium Goals: No.3 Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women. The Women’s Empowerment sector offers a pool of compelling projects to help women in the progress towards poverty alleviation, health care, education, child care and in general to improve their daily lives. For women poverty often does not only mean scarcity and need. It is unfortunately often coupled with denied rights, reduced opportunities, no voice or decision-making, tough physical conditions and violation of their dignity. A wealth of projects are blossoming on Maximpact ready to help alleviate these circumstances and give a new, brighter future to struggling women around the world. Sectors of Focus.

Spotlight Deal: LightUp Africa

light-up-africa 302x302Lack of electricity is a barrier to development for millions of people around the world. Without an affordable source of electric light students can’t study, craftspeople can’t produce goods and businesses are limited in when and how they can operate. The electricity shortage is particularly acute for people living in rural areas, many of whom are forced to walk hours simply to charge the mobile phones that provide vital links to networks and services.

Light Up Africa (LUA) is a for-profit company with a mission to bring reliable, affordable electricity to the developing world, starting with Kenya. The brainchild of founder Alan Hurt, an engineering student from Northern Illinois University, its first product is the Zoom Box, a portable device for harnessing the kinetic energy from everyday activities and storing it in a battery. This small and highly adaptable generator can capture and keep energy from the movement of cattle and livestock, bicycles, scooters, motorcycles and even fishing boats. It can create energy when attached to children walking to school or women fetching water; or even people dancing.

headshot of Alan Hurt

“When was the last time you had to go without electricity for a day? Now imagine going one day,one month or your entire life without access to electricity. That is how life is for 85% of Kenyans, over 500,000,000 Africans and 1.5 billion people around the world.” Light Up Africa founder Alan Hurt

Given the appeal of this simple, clever idea, Light Up Africa has a kinetic energy all its own. In little more than a year what began as a gleam in Hurt’s eye was developed by him and three fellow students into a proposal for the first-ever Social Venture Business Plan competition held by the NIU College of Business. They won, carrying away $10,000 and an introduction to experts for further advice. Further developments have lead to LUA’s selection as one of only 200 semifinalists of the Dell Social Innovation Challenge, a competition that attracted some 1700 submissions. caught up with Alan Hurt during a recent trip to Kenyan and spoke to him about Light Up Africa’s plans for the future:

“We’ve come a long way in less than a year,” said Hurt.” Within this time, we’ve made some significant changes to not only our business model, but also to the product itself. We decided that as a company investing in Africa, we had to stop talking and start listening more. We met with individuals, families, and entrepreneurs. And we learned that, while a stand alone product that brings access to electricity wouldn’t change the world, a platform would.

So we went back to the drawing board and designed not only a product, but also a platform that combines the mobile with the immobile and energizes consumers into entrepreneurs. We designed a way to capture and store energy from what Kenyans are already doing everyday: moving. In this way we effectively create an energy currency in a mobile market.

During this discovery process, we applied for highly selective fellowships and business accelerators like The Impact Engine, Starting Bloc, Global Engagement Summit, and Think Impact and got accepted. Most importantly, we’ve raised over $35,000 in less then a year while growing our relationships with those on the ground who understand the market and climate the most.

In the next six months we will finish product development, then manufacture and launch our second pilot program in western Kenya. We are really excited to share what we’ve learned with the world.”


Mobile phones and other forms of mobile communication technology are making their mark on the developing world. The number of mobile subscriptions has grown to 6 billion, of which 5 billion are in developing countries, according to a World Bank report. More than 30 billion apps; pieces of software that extend the capabilities of phones were downloaded in 2011. It’s likely that record will be far surpassed in 2012.

For impact investors, the rise of mobile phones provides a new platform for delivering products and services. A small sample of deals currently listed on reveals how social innovators are using mobile technology to make social impact pay dividends.


VIVUS combines the smart use of mobile phone technology with a shared rural transportation system and an inclusive business model to create an integrated supply chain of food staples feeding growing Ghanaian cities. They’ve developed a mobile-based “crowd-purchasing” system for women vendors who receive a “Deal of the Day” SMS text message, offering staples at discounted prices.


InVenture offers a standardized credit scoring system for unbanked individuals to qualify for financing, something more than 2.7 billion individuals lack. Using InSight, a simple accounting tool that works on most mobile phones, it promotes financial literacy and provides accounting and credit scoring through a text-messaging platform. InSight captures data which feeds understanding of how bottom-of-the-pyramid individuals, households, businesses manage money.

UNIT9 Lifesaver

The Lifesaver app from media company UNIT9 delivers interactive emergency training to people via their mobile phones or tablet devices. It educates about first aid and health and safety through video modules that use gaming technology to create an interactive learning interface. Lifesaver offers an engaging way to increase public competence in lifesaving techniques in a convenient, cost-effective manner.

Project Ray

Project Ray brings advanced mobile communications services together with the many capabilities offered by specially built tools in a single hand-held device that assists the visually impaired and their families. Based on an off-the-shelf smartphone that runs the company’s user interface, it supports a range of utilities and online services including telephony, photography, messaging, navigation, text-to-speech, object recognition, social networking, remote assistance and entertainment. The device serves as a platform for use in vertical markets and provides an open interface and API, allowing third parties to develop additional applications and services.

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Cleantech Cleans Up: EcoBasalt and MetalloTek

EcoBasalt and MetalloTek are two companies giving cleantech a new polish. Both young companies use high tech materials to create products that clean the planet; and both are seeking investment on

EcoBasalt Ltd develops sustainable nanomaterials from natural, inorganic basalt (volcanic) rock fibers. After years of research, the founders have come up with a unique process that produces super thin basalt fibers that are highly absorbent of oil. EcoBasalt’s premier product, SB-1, is a unique basalt fiber system engineered for use in oil spills.

SB-1 is a winning package on several levels. It absorbs oil more quickly and efficiently than competing products, saving time and money in the wake of an oil disaster.

Large amounts of oil can be removed using SB-1, then reclaimed from the fiber, avoiding both waste and post-cleanup disposal costs. SB-1 can be recycled into asphalt and concrete for road building. All this means it has applications for oil spill response teams, governments, oil and gas industry bodies, marine salvage companies and more.

Metallo Tek is a startup company with a similar cleansing mission. It was formed to commercialise a patented soil remediation technology developed by the University of Queensland in Australia. Its flexible, cost-effective approach uses metal binding particles in conjunction with metal tolerant native plants (metallophytes) to remediate polluted sites resulting from mining or other industrial activities.

Metallo Tek has already attracted kudos for its environmentally friendly in situ soil treatment technology. It won the 2011 Australian Mining Prospect Awards in the category Excellence in Environmental Management and was a finalist in the Australian Innovation Challenge for environmental innovations in 2011. Now it wants to make its technology widely available, giving more mining countries access to an affordable, effective means of remediation and providing mining companies and governments a better way to clean up the mess their activities leave behind.

Both MetalloTek and EcoBasalt are listing on Maximpact today. For more information register or login.

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Equitable Origin: An Eco-label for Fossil Fuels



Imagine a Fair Trade-style eco-label for fossil fuels. A glance at the logo tells customers buying this fuel – or products made from it – that it’s produced using the highest environmental standards and in a way that helps rather than harms local communities. This is the idea behind Equitable Origin, the first and only independent certification and certification trading system for oil and gas production. It’s now seeking impact investment on the Maximpact deal site.”

The buzz in cleantech circles may be about renewable energy, but fossil fuels are set to be the world’s main energy source for decades to come. Demand is projected to rise 7% by 2020 and 28% by 2035 due to industrialization of countries such as China and India. And not only will the environment suffer from this increased push for production, so will many indigenous communities. Some 60% of the world’s proven oil reserves are located in emerging economies; countries that lack national standards for responsible production or the incentives to enforce them­.

David Poritz, Equitable Origin founder and co-President saw the impact of these problems first-hand. He spent a decade working with indigenous peoples in Ecuador, a nation rich in fossil fuels where local communities struggle to protect themselves and their lands from the negative consequences of extraction. Through this experience, he began to see an urgent need for a market-based mechanism to incentivize oil and gas companies to operate with the highest levels of social and environmental performance.

Equitable Origin Logo

Poritz developed the Equitable Origin system through extensive consultation with the oil and gas industry, NGOs, indigenous communities and governmental agencies. The result is the EO100 Standard, a comprehensive standard for oil and gas exploration and production as well as a certificate trading system and ecolable program.

The EO100 Standard provides metrics and performance targets that address the social and environmental impacts of oil and gas production. It rates a company on six principles: corporate governance and accountability, human rights and social impact, fair labor, indigenous rights, climate change and environment, and project life-cycle management. Companies that score above a certain minimum level of performance and in these areas are granted certification.

Certification can then be converted into tradeable certificates that can be bought by consumer-facing brands wanting to green their supply chain and offer a choice to support responsible production. The Equitable Origin logo can be attached to products made from certified fuels, rewarding oil and gas industry for applying the highest standards of environmental and cultural care to their work while allowing customers to support better production practices with their choices.

Equitable Origin has built an impressive cross-sector team around this idea including experienced petroleum industry professionals and environmental, sustainability and stakeholder involvement experts. It is now seeking investment to scale its operations into more markets in oil-producing countries including Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela and Mexico.

Pyrum Innovations: Transforming Waste into Value

Thermolysis. You may not have heard of this process yet, but if the team at Pyrum Innovations have their way, you may soon find yourself using the valuable raw materials or the oil, gas and electricity it produces. Pyrum Innovations has perfected an industrial process that uses thermolysis; the thermal dismantling of substances under oxygen shortage; to turn recycled polymer waste into a variety of commercially useful substances including oil and gas. With a prestigious green innovation award and two rounds of financing already under its belt, the German company is now moving into a third round of financing; and it’s listing its latest deal on

Pyrum Innovations started with the ambition to find breakthrough solutions to recycling polymer waste, the waste from used tires, bituminous roof insulation, weather stripping, various kinds of packaging and many other common items. Currently 50% of this waste is burned while the rest is buried in landfill. Both disposal methods carry an ecological cost; and they represent a missed opportunity to recapture the valuable polymers locked in the disused products.

Pyrum’s solution is a revolutionary recycling unit that uses pyrolysis, a type of thermolysis, to process polymer waste. These modular self-contained units are able to handle up to 5000 tons of waste per annum. With no moving parts, the units are transportable and easily installed on industrial premises. They can be scaled up, used in series, or downsized to meet a range of capacity needs. Best of all, they are energy self-sufficient, and can be engineered to generate a range of products including rubber flour, soot, coke, activated charcoal, oil, gas, electricity and heat.


  • – Pilot plant for tires – 300 tons/annum
  • – Industrial plant – 5000 tons/annum
  • – Partners can make 2 units of 5000 tons/annum per month
  • – Plans to extend capacity to 8-10 units per month

Pyrum’s exciting work on polymer recycling hasn’t gone unappreciated: in 2012, it won best innovation of the year in Germany and was named “green champion”. Its two early financing rounds attracted funds from angel investors and the European Union as well as garnering matching funds from industrial partners.

Along the way, Pyrum has established relationships with a range of industries, many of whom have a direct interest in the success of the technology. The young company has collaborated with variety of potential clients in the development stages, including tire manufacturers, bitumen producers, aluminum producers and EPDM (a type of synthetic rubber) producers. Pyrum has also forged supportive relationships in other sectors, for example drawing talent and expertise from universities and engineering companies. This widespread interest is one indication of the potential value of their product in a range of sectors and applications.

There’s a buzz around Pyrum. Yet the question remains: Is there market potential in its innovative approach to polymer recycling? With demand for sustainable and green manufacturing processes continuing to grow globally, the answer is yes.

Take used tires as just one example: currently Europe alone generates 3 million tons of used tires; worldwide that figure increases to 13.5 million tons per annum. Pyrum’s pyrolytic recycling units offer a practical alterative to burning or burying this mountain of waste; a proposition that will be attractive to both industry and government. By capturing just 10% of this market, the company could achieve a cumulated turnover of around 4 billion euros. At the same time it could reduce pollution and CO2 emissions, generate useful raw materials and create a beneficial impact for the planet and its inhabitants.

In the fairy tale, Rumpelstiltskin turned straw into gold. Now Pyrum Innovations possesses the technology that turns polymer waste into gold of a different sort. For more information, see their deal on

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Maximpact: Bringing the Impact Sector Together

At Maximpact,we pride ourselves on our inclusive approach to impact investing. An important part of our mission is to strengthen the sector by providing a place where a wide range of impact players can come together and make impact deals. To make this happen more effectively, we’ve adopted a very broad definition of impact investing, creating a “big tent” that invites a diverse range of players under the same roof. The chart above shows how different types of impact actors are able to come together on Maximpact.

Our strategy seems to be working. Today, Maximpact welcomes funders, intermediaries and entrepreneurs from every part of the world and every corner of the impact sector. Some are veteran funders and intermediaries who have supported the idea of impact since the beginning. Others are new to impact and just discovering its potential. The chart also shows some of the new types of players that are entering the field, notably from the corporate social responsibility (CSR), eco and green technology, and the philanthropy sectors.

For Maximpact, this is good news. We believe that a greater variety of players in the impact arena will lead to better deal flow and a faster pace of innovation. In the meantime, we do our best to maintain the “big tent”, making sure all our users are discovering a world of new impact possibilities on our ever-expanding global platform.

The Maximpact Collaborative Approach – How it works

At the time of registration, users will be asked to identify them selves with a sector group (impact, philanthropy, CSR or eco; green) then select a user group(entrepreneur, intermediary or fund). Different types of users have different rights and levels of access to the Maximpact platform.


  • Entrepreneurs:Entrepreneurs and companies
  • Intermediaries: Angel investors, social enterprise accelerators,incubators, venture capital groups, social venture networks and others
  • Funds: Investment funds, family offices,foundations,organizations, NGOs, companies, asset managers and others

Every registrant is vetted by Maximpact and best efforts are made to certify and qualify each applicant before access is permitted.Password access enables registered users to list and search for deals and ventures according to their access rights.When a deal or venture is listed, the listing party has an opportunity to identify the kind of funders they wish to attract (impact, philanthropy, CSR and/or eco & green). This allows users to filter and find like-minded funding matches more easily. However, it does not exclude deals from being searched by other types of funders that were not selected.

The hope of Maximpact is that all users will at some point reach out beyond their group and seek collaborative opportunities with others to create the biggest impact for us all.

Spotlight Deal: Wello WaterWheel

spotlight deal wello waterwheel

The case of the Wello WaterWheel, now listed on Maximpact’s Intermediary Portal, shows how fast a good idea can catch on, attracting enthusiastic users, collaborators and investors from an early stage.

WaterWheel is an innovative water delivery system that provides a way for people to transport large amounts of drinking water with much less effort. Rather than lugging heavy containers by hand, users push the WaterWheel’s 50 liter barrel in front of them using a convenient handle. The device was designed through an immersive, human-centered design process involving target users and experts in the field. The result is a robust, adaptable system that makes it easier for people, especially women and children, to convey needed water cleanly and efficiently, even over rough terrain.

The WaterWheel is designed to deliver more than water. By giving people easier access to potable water the device frees up valuable time, removes barriers that prevent children from going to school and empowers women to engage in more productive activities. The WaterWheel is also a potential income-generating tool for its target users, giving them a way to help lift their families out of poverty.

After nine months of extensive research and field testing,the latest model of the WaterWheel is now in production. Wasting no time in its efforts to get this technology into the hands of the people who need it, Wello is currently busy raising funding to deliver its technology on a broader scale. Investors have been quick to recognize the WaterWheel’s impact potential, both in social and financial terms: Wello is now just short of meeting its fundraising goals; yet it is still looking for funding to unlock a secured matching grant.

Wello is also using its Maximpact listing to reach out to collaborators. “We’re in the process of building Wello’s board right now,” says founder and CEO Cynthia Koenig. “We’d love to hear from people with expertise in the following fields: legal, finance and accounting, advertising and marketing, mechanical and industrial engineering, fundraising, and working with large international NGOs and other institutions. I’m also looking for business mentor who can provide high-level advice and guidance as we expand.”

For more information about Wello and the WaterWheel, please login to and visit the deal section. You must be registered with Maximpact to view this information. Go to site.

For more information about WELLO, please login to and visit the deal section.

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