Commentary:

Jun
2
2014

Technology and Microfinance

Microfinance has experienced the highs and lows of public perception over the last twenty years. From Mohammad Yunus' Nobel Peace Prize to the controversy of overly-indebted borrowers, it has been both celebrated as the key to poverty alleviation and condemned as a tool to enforce a global economic hierarchy that keeps poor countries poor. As with most issues, the truth is more nuanced than the headlines would imply....
May
15
2014

Values-Alignment: a provocation. Part II

Just a few days ago, I blogged about values the impact quotient in values-aligning portfolios. The next day, Stanford announced that its endowment would henceforth eliminate coal exposure from all of its investments. And this morning, a somewhat confrontational New York Times Op-Ed by Professor Ivo Welch (Why Divestment Fails) argued that screening one's portfolio has basically zero effect on corporate behavior.

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May
7
2014

Values-Alignment: a provocation

Organizations like First Affirmative Financial Network define themselves by marketing values aligned mutual funds. Bulge-bracket banks like Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley have constructed elaborate marketing campaigns on the notion of “values based investing”. Enterprises ranging from Confluence Philanthropy to the numerous purveyors of public market SRI/ESG data (think of MSCI KLD, Sustainalytics, HIP or the FTSE4Good) see values-alignment as central to their business models. Even asset managers like Trillium and Walden, both bright stars in the SRI firmament, rely on the concept of values-alignment to compete for market share and inspire their clients.

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Nov
14
2013

The IPCC Summary Report on Climate Change: what does it mean for impact investors?

Think of this moment like that classic scene in “Casablanca” where Humphrey Bogart is forcing Lauren Bacall onto the plane fleeing Morocco, and he says: “If you don’t get on that plane, you’re gonna regret it. Maybe not today. And maybe not tomorrow. But soon… and for the rest of your life.”

For the past several years, I’ve used a simple decision tree to help deconstruct the complicated political and emotional matrix surrounding climate change and what we might/could/should do about it. Here it is for anyone who is a visual learner:

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Oct
15
2013

Early morning thoughts on Democratized risk capitalů

"...what caught my eye this morning on a WSJ blog post is the emergence of online angel groups, known as angel syndicates. Syndicates have of course been around for a long time, but goalposts have been moved. A lot. The subject under discussion is the extent to which these angel groups are changing the rules and process of conventional angel investing."

Like most investors, I am aware of the recent easing in the government’s long-standing restrictions on fundraising. Entrepreneurs are celebrating, pointing to a bright new future when anyone with $25 can support a start-up company. Venture funds are voicing concern, highlighting the very real probability that a lot of money will be lost (conveniently ignoring the fact that “professional” venture investors are perfectly capable of losing staggering amounts of capital, thank you very much). And investors are cheering the emergence of angel markets. 

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