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The Brief: Stronger case for sustainable investing, waste management in Singapore, backstopping gig workers, collective bonds, Japan’s Hiro exits



Greetings, Agents of Impacts!

Featured: ImpactAlpha Original

Generation Q&A: How the pandemic strengthens the case for sustainable investing. Health and well-being. Remote work and collaboration. Resilient food systems. Long-term sustainable investment theses once relegated to the fringes of the capital markets are suddenly fundamental to the global economy. “People being forced to stay in place is revealing a lot of the futility of a lot of our activities” says Colin le Duc, a co-founder and partner of Generation Investment Management, the $25 billion asset manager also co-founded by Al Gore and David Blood. “A silver lining may just be the fact that people realize that having a more humble approach to life may actually be beneficial to everyone.”

Generation has been waving the sustainability flag since 2004. The COVID-19 outbreak has revealed the fragility of our system as it is currently organized and is making a strong case for the principles of sustainable investment, said le Duc in a conversation with ImpactAlpha. “Fundamentally, sustainable businesses are better long-term businesses, and as a consequence should be better long-term investments.” Based in San Francisco, le Duc oversees Generation’s multi-billion-dollar private equity portfolio. One sustainability trend accelerated by the pandemic: Remote collaboration. Generation’s portfolio includes electronic-agreements company DocuSign, project management software Asana, and Remitly, which enables digital remittances. The current crisis may be strengthening the case for sustainable investing, but “the ball was already rolling pretty quickly, thanks to cultural changes and citizen activism, in particular around climate,” he says. “This is just an accelerant for a short period of time on a trajectory that is inevitable. Sustainability is imperative.”

Keeping reading, “How the pandemic strengthens the case for sustainable investing,” by Dennis Price on ImpactAlpha.

Dealflow: Follow the Money

Blue Planet raises $25 million for waste management in Singapore. As Asia’s consumer class grows, so does its waste. Blue Planet Environmental Solutions is buying technologies and companies that handle collection, sorting and processing in order to recycle and upcycle discarded material and eliminate landfill waste. Blue Planet acquired Malaysian industrial waste management company Globecycle Holding in August and bought India-based organic waste processing company Xeon Waste Managers in September. It raised $25 million from investment bank Nomura. Prior investors include the Neev Fund, a partnership between the State Bank of India and the U.K.’s DFID.

  • Asia’s circular economy. Corporate-backed Circulate Capital is tackling ocean plastic and other waste issues in Asia (see, “Catalyzing capital to prevent plastic waste). Impact investor Aavishkaar has backed India-based recycling venture Nepra in multiple funding rounds. KKR’s $1.3 billion Global Impact Fund invested in India-based waste management firm Ramky Enviro Engineers as one of its first deals.
  • More.

Omidyar Network India launches $1 million fund to support gig workers through pandemic. The fund will back tech startups with solutions geared towards the bottom 60% of Indian earners whose livelihoods have been affected by the coronavirus.

CollectiveCrunch secures €500,000 to pilot forest management software. The European Space Agency backed the Finnish-German startup, which uses mapping and artificial intelligence to help timber and forestry companies adopt sustainable planning and management.

Signals: Revaluing Resilience

Strengthening collective bonds across the social distance. A crisis can bring out the worst or the best in us. Across the globe, millions of people are choosing “best,” picking up groceries for vulnerable neighbors, buying gift cards to keep local businesses afloat, and sending takeout orders to frontline health workers. This grassroots response is moving quickly to bridge gaps as Congress haggles over a relief package that could take weeks to reach families and businesses. Mutual aid networks that match people in need with neighbors who can help have remade the lowly spreadsheet as impact tech. The neighborhood aid networks have spread around the globe nearly as fast as the coronavirus itself. “Ecosystems with the most supportive, interdependent, inter-species relationships have the highest survival rates,” writes Sandra Kwak of solar finance startup 10Power. The coronavirus crisis “is a test of how we take care of each other and an opportunity to set up and fortify social infrastructure that supports coordinated action from the local to global level.”

  • Peer-to-peer. Cooperatives and other forms of mutual aid can flourish when systems break down. In Minneapolis, Star Finance, a Somali-led cooperative that evolved from immigrant-led savings circles, “could work when the market economy shuts down,” writes SOCAP co-founder Kevin Jones.
  • Open source. Makers, entrepreneurs and tinkerers are sharing open-source plans for everything from masks to ventilators even as government and industry struggle to meet demand for critical supplies needed by hospitals and healthcare workers. Open Source Ventilator, created by a trio of engineers in Ireland, has hundreds of contributors worldwide. Chilean startup Copper3D is refining an open-source design for 3D-printed antiviral masks.
  • Crowdsourced lending. Crowdfunding has helped thousands of small businesses raise capital from their communities since 2016. Now businesses can tap crowdfunded emergency loans. WeFunder’s Coronavirus Crisis Loan program offers loans of up to $1 million; revenue-based repayments are deferred until 2021. “Small businesses need access to cash, and customers and community members desperately want to help,” says WeFunder’s Jonny Price. Estonia-based Wisefund offers crowdfunded loans for European businesses.
  • Local funds. Cities are stepping up to provide relief to small businesses and organizations affected by COVID-19. Birmingham, PhiladelphiaErie and Atlanta have launched funds to provide grants and low- or zero-interest loans.
  • Pay it forward. Online lender Kabbage will help small businesses sell gift cards online. Pre-pay app Credibles lets customers pay in advance for products and services from their favorite businesses.
  • Get mutual.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Hiro Mizuno exits his role as executive managing director and chief investment officer of the $1.6 trillion Japan Government Pension Investment Fund (his term was set to end this month). The world’s largest largest retirement plan has not yet announced a successor (see, “Hiro’s Journey)… April Underwood, ex- of Slack, joins Obvious Ventures as a venture partner… Cornerstone Capital brings on Glen Macdonald and Shahnawaz Malik as managing directors and senior investment advisors… Big Path Capital is hiring an analyst or associate… Minneapolis-based Finnovation Lab will begin accepting applications for its fellowship program on April 1… Slow Money Northern California is hosting an online discussion about supporting restaurants, farmers and other food providers today at noon PT.

Thank you for reading.

–Mar. 25, 2020

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GiG Expands in Buenos Aires with Grupo Slots Alliance




Gaming Innovation Group (GiG) is set for expansion in Argentina after recently signing a head of terms agreement with local gambling company Grupo Slots.

Under the terms of the newly announced agreement, GiG will provide its new partner with a full online gambling turnkey solution that will support its entry in the regulated iGaming market of the City of Buenos Aires.

GiG will supply Grupo Slots with its technical iGaming platform, its sportsbook solution, front-end development, the GiG data platform and GiG Logic. The deal has an initial contract period of four years with an automatic extension for another year.

GiG and Grupo Slots are set to sign a final agreement before the end of this year’s third quarter. The deal is based on a revenue share model and set up fees. Details about the portion of revenue GiG will get from Grupo Slots have not been disclosed.

Grupo Slots is one of Argentina’s leading gaming and entertainment groups. The company boasts more than three decades of experience in the gambling industry. It is headquartered in San Luis and operates more than 20 casino locations, gambling, and bingo halls around its homeland. It also conducts lottery activities and manages the gaming website. In addition, the company operates hotels, dining outlets, and convention centers.

LatAm Expansion

Grupo Slots is among the companies to have expressed interest in obtaining a license to conduct online gambling activities in Buenos Aires as part of the reorganization of the city’s iGaming market. The company will be looking to leverage its popularity and leading position in Argentina’s land-based gambling market as it expands online.

Commenting on their partnership with the operator, GiG CEO Richard Brown said that they “see great potential in the regulated markets within Argentina”, and that they consider it a great opportunity to partner one of the largest land-based operators there and to be thus able to showcase their product in the LatAm region “while delivering the platform for online gambling transformation for Grupo Slots.”

Grupo Slots General Manager Juan Ignacio Torres said that they are extremely pleased to have teamed up with GiG and that this agreement complements them and provides them “a tool of quality and excellence to continue growing in this market with so much future potential.”

The Buenos Aires legislature passed last year legislation that authorized the reorganization of the city’s gambling market to permit online sports betting and casino activities. The move aimed to create a well-regulated environment and curb the proliferation of unregulated offshore gambling.

The Buenos Aires gambling regulator, Loteria de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires (LOTBA), launched this past February a license application process for operators interested to conduct online gaming and betting activities within city limits. LOTBA said back then that it anticipated first licenses to be issued by the end of the fourth quarter of the year with regulated website launches following shortly.

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GiG Receives Permanent CSIE License from New Jersey




Exactly 2 years after applying for a permanent casino service industry enterprise license (CSIE) in New Jersey, a tech firm and cloud-based online gaming platform, GiG, has finally got the right to operate within the state’s borders.

The group has backed Hard Rock International for the last 2 years under a temporary transactional permission, supervised and controlled by the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE).

The licece is now officially given to GiG’s subsidiary, iGaming Cloud Inc. for 5 years, enabling the company to unveil its real-money online gaming platform solution in New Jersey.

As remarked by the group’s CEO, Richard Brown, the process of acquiring permanent casino license within the most advanced area in terms of gaming regulations bas been “long and comprehensive.”

Gaming Innovation Group was established to open up iGaming and make it ‘fair and fun for all’ via an ecosystem of products and services. The operator is constantly reaching out to new potential partners, more suppliers and end-users, hence creating a distinct experience on the planet.

Recently, this firm even joined forces with LeGrand Casino in North Macedonia, helping it unveil a whole suite of digital products across the country’s regulated market.

GiG’s CEO said:

“We are delighted to receive the CSIE license after a long and comprehensive process. This is a great achievement for GiG and gives us a solid confirmation that our platform, procedures and operations are meeting the highest standards out there.”

The Malta-based group is listed on Oslo Stock Exchange and Nasdaq Stockhom. iGaming Cloud was founded in 2015 and provides a complete range of services for electronic gaming operators including customer relationship management, marketing suite, business intelligence, banking and wallets.

Unstoppable Gaming Force

Apart from acquiring a permanent license to operate in New Jersey for five years, Gaming Innovation Group has additionally been active elsewhere, such as the expansion of its reach in the international market.

In the last few months, this business has attained landmark deals with prosperous companies in the industry, including the likes of 1X2 Network, GS Technologies and Betsson.

By beginning a cooperation with Alpha Affiliate Program, developed by GS Technologies, GiG will unveil its full casino offering for a minimum period of 3 years with the operator. This deal should also make a remarkable contribution to the firm’s position and revenues, beginning 2021.

Another significant content distribution deal is with 1×2 Network, an iGaming developer and content supplier. In May, the Group extended its existing virtual sports integration deal with an option to include the latest line up of slots and other top casino games.

As a reminder, Betsson Group officially confirmed in February this year that their acquisition of Gaming Innovation Group will be complete by mid-April. This business acquired GiG’s B2C assets, including popular gaming brands Rizk, Kaboo, Thrills and Kaboo. The deal is worth $35.9m.


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Deep Dive: Gig Payments Get COVID-Era Upgrade




Some accounts say Roman soldiers were periodically paid for their labors in salt, and while compensation methods have evolved considerably since then, the concept of lump periodic payments has endured.

Numerous economic, social and technological trends are rendering this system more outdated, however. Consumers have come to expect on-demand service when they watch movies, make online purchases or hail rides, for example, but this practice contrasts with how most employees are paid. Workers typically wait two weeks or longer to receive their wages, which can be especially stressful for the nearly 60 percent of Americans living paycheck to paycheck.

Various compensation alternatives have recently emerged that are more aligned with workers’ on-demand expectations. Digital tools like pay cards and apps allow workers to receive earned wages the same day they request them. Interest in more flexible compensation methods was growing before the pandemic, and related economic shifts are likely to accelerate this trend as businesses seek to motivate employees as well as attract new talent.

On-Demand Pay And The Gig Economy 

On-demand payment options are most prevalent among gig economy platforms known for offering on-demand services, including ridesharing and meal and grocery delivery. Ridesharing services Uber and Lyft were early pioneers in allowing drivers to instantly request their earnings, and such offerings have proven popular with workers on these platforms. This is especially true of Lyft, as more than half of its drivers reportedly use its daily payout option.

The pandemic-related economic fallout has hit the gig economy hard, but technology-oriented platforms have also demonstrated that they can adapt to rapid economic shifts. Instacart offers a compelling case study, as it has come to dominate the third-party grocery delivery market over the course of the pandemic partly because it brought online ordering to brick-and-mortar supermarkets that previously had limited capabilities. Instacart hired an estimated 500,000 “shoppers” amid the mass furloughs and layoffs many companies faced this spring, and it has offered on-demand payment options since 2019 to meet its gig workers’ demands.

On-demand pay appeals to gig workers for numerous reasons. Many have tight finances and often pay for their own supplies and equipment, including vehicles. PYMNTS research shows that those who are interested in receiving immediate or advanced payments most commonly cite two main benefits: reducing financial stress and being able to pay their bills. These options are so compelling that 85 percent of gig workers would work more often if they were paid faster, and 51.8 percent would be interested in switching to gig platforms that enabled them to receive pay advances. Such benefits would likely extend to employers, too, as those who receive on-demand payment options report being more motivated and less stressed.

The Flexible Pay Imperative And On-Staff Workers

On-demand payment options are less prevalent among companies with more traditional workforces than gig platforms. One reason could be that tax withholding rules and other regulations can make early payouts more difficult to manage for hourly or salaried workers — those classified in the U.S. as W-2 employees.

These types of services are making inroads among employers with more conventional employment models, however. McDonald’s and Outback Steakhouse began offering day-of payouts to employees two years ago, for example, and Walmart — the largest private employer in the U.S. — introduced a service that allows employees receive early payments through a specialized app twice per quarter, or more frequently if they pay small fees.

On-demand payment options could be gaining traction beyond the gig economy because companies are recognizing that they must compete for effective and motivated workers, regardless of their tax classifications. A growing number of workers have come to expect payment options that keep pace with their needs and lifestyles. More than 400,000 Walmart employees use its early payment service — a significant number that is still less than half of its 1.5 million workers. This underscores that rather than serving as a call to discard traditional payroll practices, offering on-demand payment options can help employers provide flexible and agile systems that accommodate various employees’ expectations and circumstances.

This flexibility could also extend to off-cycle payments, such as those resulting from errors in previous payments, dismissals and compensation for special expenses. Issuing checks in these circumstances proved challenging before the pandemic, but the economy’s current realities can pose numerous additional complications that affect everything from cash flows to account reconciliations. A former worker may fail to provide a current mailing address, for example, and those with limited banking access could also find it more difficult to cash checks. Many companies’ shifting reopening plans might require them to rapidly scale up operations and hire temporary contractors, and the pandemic’s changing nature could also necessitate layoffs and furloughs.

A multitude of firms recognize the need to ditch paper-based legacy payroll processes and adopt more flexible digital systems, and their employees have expressed interest in these options. More than 90 percent of workers expect to be paid with pay cards, digital platforms or mobile wallets within 10 years, according to a recent ADP report.

A growing share of commerce is migrating to digital channels, giving firms an opportunity to adjust their compensation methods to better align with consumers’ expectations. The current business climate also poses risks, however. Employers facing the new economic reality may discover too late that legacy payment methods are ill-suited to attracting and retaining talent.


New PYMNTS Study: Subscription Commerce Conversion Index – July 2020 

Staying home 24/7 has consumers turning to subscription services for both entertainment and their day-to-day needs. While that’s a great opportunity for providers, it also presents a challenge — 27.4 million consumers are looking to cancel their subscriptions because of friction and cost concerns. In the latest Subscription Commerce Conversion Index, PYMNTS reveals the five key features that can help companies keep subscribers loyal despite today’s challenging economic times.

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