Since 2017 the Canopus Foundation has been building a portfolio of “mission-related investments” in partner enterprises.
- bettervest GmbH
Since the end of 2016 the Canopus Foundation in Freiburg and crowd-investing company bettervest GmbH in Frankfurt/M. have been testing a partnership which aims to combine the expertise gained over the course of 20 years of established foundation work with the financial potential of crowd-investing. bettervest collects subordinated loans from its clients – the “crowd” – in the amount of € 50 – € 10,000 and then invests this in consolidated form in individual energy-saving projects. bettervest performs a technical and commercial audit (due diligence) on the projects submitted to them, negotiates the conditions for the subordinated loans, and, if negotiations are successful, conducts a crowd-investing “campaign” with the executing agency in order to acquire capital via its website and by providing information directly to its existing client group. The interest on these loans is 5 – 9 % annually in view of the risk of total losses (involvement with entrepreneurial risk) and the term of the loans is 3 – 10 years. They are granted as annuity loans with constant payment amounts. From new LED lighting for a gym to a combined heat and power unit to supply a school with energy: every project is funded via its own campaign, every “micro-investor“ knows who receives his/her capital and what is done with it. The funding portfolios developed by bettervest, Kiva, and other crowd-investing platforms make it possible to invest in the building of a solar rooftop on a hospital in Ghana with only € 50, and do so with a risk and return profile which is competitive compared to high-interest financial market products available from banks and private equity firms.
In 2015, motivated by clients and the organization’s own wish to also work outside the German market in developing countries, bettervest funded its first project in Africa. The planning at that time envisioned a growing commitment abroad, which meant considerable additional effort in view of regulatory framework conditions. The Canopus Foundation therefore granted bettervest an earmarked loan for the construction of a project pipeline in Africa and Asia, which evolved into collaboration on a regular basis. By 2016 bettervest was the second largest crowd-investing platform worldwide which facilitated loans for “energy access” projects in Africa. By the end of 2018, in a period of just under three years, the “crowd” from bettervest had invested a total of € 5.78 million in Africa. In 2017, € 310,000 were invested in two projects in India and Colombia, including the € 200,000 cash prize for Mera Gao Power, one of the two winners of the Foundation’s 2nd “Solar for All” contest.
- Social Bee gGmbH
Many companies want to give work to refugees as motivated employees. However, they often fail to do so because they cannot find candidates with the appropriate language and professional skills, because they come up against bureaucratic hurdles, or because integration and support measures are lacking. This is where Social Bee comes in: the young company possesses widespread expertise in the area of labour market integration and offers enterprises a convenient all-in-one approach which enables them to employ refugees in the long term with ease. Social Bee uses a broad network of refugee support groups, social institutions and public agencies to obtain a good selection of applicants. Suitable candidates are found for corporate clients using a multi-stage selection process. By way of outstaffing, Social Bee as the intermediary employer takes care of all regulatory questions vis-à-vis the authorities, provides support to refugees and companies with their integration programme, and offers optional training to prepare existing staff for the new co-workers. At the same time, Social Bee continuously invests in the development of the refugees with further language courses and partial qualifications. Social integration of the refugees is also provided by means of regular socio-pedagogical support as well as a leisure and culture programme. Social Bee sees itself as a builder of bridges which removes obstacles companies face and at the same time introduces refugees to the employment market and society with qualified support. The goal is to have the prequalified talents placed in an apprenticeship or employment after about 1 – 1.5 years.
- Bonergie GmbH and Bonergie SARL, Senegal
Bonergie, headquartered in Dakar, Senegal, provides people in western Africa with access to clean energy and thus fulfils an essential prerequisite for their economic development. The availability of light and power makes it possible for people to assume personal responsibility for shaping their own lives and in doing so overcome poverty. The lack of access to energy is a major factor hindering the self-determined development of the population in many African countries. According to a study by “Lighting Africa”, a programme of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the World Bank, some 600 million people and more than 10 million small businesses in Africa have no access to energy. Bonergie has set itself the task of solving this problem. The company offers its customers light and electricity – an essential prerequisite for enabling them to independently determine the path their lives will take. This allows them to perform value-adding activities and generate income they can use to feed themselves and their families. In addition to the operation of end devices, the availability of electricity provides them with access to information, e.g. via the internet. This means that rural populations also have the opportunity to participate in global life, beyond their village borders and across national frontiers.
The solar-powered products from Bonergie offer a decentralized power supply, independent of centralized energy producers. The company excels with the high quality of all its products and components as well as with a network of technicians who ensure faultless system operations. The offering targets households in rural areas and small and mid-size enterprises, in particular agricultural companies and cooperatives, as well as communal facilities.
- Persistent Energy Capital LLC, New York – Zürich – Lagos
Persistent Energy Capital (PEC) was founded in 2012. The company builds impact ventures in underserved markets that generate high financial, social and environmental returns. It is an internationally recognised pioneer investor in distributed off-grid energy services enterprises in Africa. So far PEC has invested in the first funding rounds of 14 distribution businesses and 3 technology enablers in 16 countries.
- Chancen International eG Berlin-Kigali, Ruanda
Chancen eG, Berlin has developed the model of a "Reverse Inter-Generation Compact", which enables fair and equitable financing of studies for everyone - regardless of the personal and financial background. “With the reverse inter-generation compact, students can initially concentrate fully on their studies, while CHANCEN International pays their tuition fees. In return, the students undertake to enable later generations to do the same: if they are working and earn more than a certain minimum income, they will pay back a percentage of their income to finance further study places. The repayment adapts at any time to individual opportunities and needs. In contrast to a loan, there is no risk due to rigid repayment obligations and a fixed debt burden. The model gives the students the freedom to shape their professional lives independently”.
In 2019, the cooperative took a step abroad and founded Chancen International gGmbH as its first subsidiary. In cooperation with the Akilah College and Kepler College in Kigali, Rwanda, Chancen International, which has built up its own team in Kigali, offers the students a payment scheme for their tuition fees, thereby testing the model in Africa for the first time.
- Solarsanctuary Ltd.: The Bunloit Project
The Bunloit project is a new venture of Jeremy Leggett, a British social entrepreneur, writer and climate campaigner. In 2020 Leggett and a small group of fellow investors have acquired a 511-hectare habitat estate in Scotland. The project‘s mission is to create an inhabited nature reserve that is a holistic and biodiverse carbon sink, and an exemplar of local solutions leadership that will inspire others to copy it. Success in this endeavor will be defined by four goals, over the ten years to 2030: First, there must be a meaningful and measurable increase in the sequestration of carbon across the estate. Second, there must be a measurable increase in biodiversity. Third, there must be as high a level of local employment in land management as possible. Fourth, the project must be economically sustainable and fully capitalise ongoing operations.
- Unconventional Capital GmbH
98% of early-stage entrepreneurs in sub-Sahara Africa don’t have access to funding. This limits their chances to contribute to economic development, to exploit their growth and innovation potential and to create job opportunities. Uncap’s mission is to make seed funding accessible to every good entrepreneur in sub-Sahara Africa, independent of their educational background, location or gender. Through the use of an automated, data-driven and scalable investment process, Uncap can provide funding to thousands of entrepreneurs. The due diligence process uses an algorithm to measure entrepreneurial potential. Investment contracts are highly standardized and adapted to the local context, and portfolio management focuses on behavioral science and data analytics.