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Amazon's Housing Equity Fund Is An Investment In The Future – Forbes

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“I want to say Amazon got into housing accidentally, but it was because the company started to have enough of a presence in the community that called for being a good neighbor and helping solve some of the issues that the families in the community were facing,” says Alice Shobe, Amazon’s first Director of Amazon in the Community.  The company first got into housing when Amazon’s real estate VP John Schoettler acquired some new property in Seattle to build the new headquarters. Shuttler offered nonprofit organization Mary’s Place the use of two motels on the new property parcels as homeless shelters for a year while waiting to be demolished and replaced with a high-rise.  When the new headquarters took shape, Amazon ended up including a state-of-the-art and the state’s largest homeless shelter right in one of the buildings. Since March 2020, the homeless shelter welcomes 200 families a night. 

As Amazon began contemplating expanding the effort and reach, the company approached community impact like any other business initiative, which is rooted in leveraging the company’s unique assets. “Cash is always something that we can provide, it’s not very unique, though, frankly. It is a piece of the puzzle and an important piece, but we want to think of our logistics assets, our relationships with local organizations and our employee base,” says Shobe.

On January 6, 2021, Amazon announced the Amazon’s Housing Equity Fund, a $2 billion commitment to preserve and create over 20,000 affordable housing units in Washington State’s Puget Sound region, Arlington, Virginia and Nashville, Tennessee. These are areas where the company is expecting to have at least 5,000 employees in the coming years. Amazon is targeting households making between 30% to 80% of the area’s median income (AMI) and providing below-market loans, grants and lines of credit. The Fund will provide an additional 125 Million in Grants to Minority-Led Organizations and Public Agencies to help address a housing crisis that disproportionally impacts communities of Color. To maximize impact, the Fund will also give grants to government partners not traditionally involved in affordable housing issues, such as transit agencies and school districts, to provide them with resources to advance and create equitable and affordable housing initiatives. 

There is no question that affordable housing availability profoundly affects communities impacting employment opportunities in the private and public sectors. Looking at some numbers in the State of the Nation’s Housing 2020 report authored by Harvard University, it is clear that housing unaffordability is a persistent issue in America and it disproportionally impacts People of Color. In 2019, the gap between households of Color and white households passed 30%, the largest it’s been since 1983. While white household homeownership increased slightly to 73.3% in 2019, the Black household homeownership rate remained virtually flat at 42.8%. The homeownership rate for Hispanic households was 46.3% and for Asian households, 57.3%. 

Covid-19 only accelerated this divide. According to data highlighted from the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey in late September, 36% of all homeowners lost employment income between March and the end of September. Income loss was most common for homeowners earning less than $25,000 (44%), Hispanic homeowners (49%) and Black homeowners (41%). As of late September, 18% of Hispanic homeowners, 17% of Black homeowners and 12% of Asian homeowners were behind on mortgage payments, compared to 7% of white homeowners. Similarly, 23% of Black, 20% of Hispanic and 19% of Asian renters were late on their rents compared to 10% of white renters as of late September.

In my conversation with Alice Shobe, I was interested in gaining a broader understanding of the unique approach Amazon adopted for the Housing Fund to drive a deeper and long-standing impact.

Shobe arrived at Amazon after an extensive career in the nonprofit world, where she focused on homelessness and equitable community development. “I was hired four years ago to launch Amazon’s global corporate community engagement program. The company had a lot of community work that was happening but wanted to take it to the next level by building community impact programs that had more of a global narrative and where Amazon could really leverage its strengths and make a difference.” Amazon identified three areas that would make the most impact and were also connected when thinking about the opportunity they could create for future generations. The three areas are computer science education with the Amazon Future Engineer initiative, hunger and housing-related issues and lastly, disaster relief.

When it comes to the Housing Fund, there are three areas that Shobe highlights as unique in approach. 

First is the speed at which Amazon moves once a decision has been made to get involved in something. Moving fast to enable the nonprofit partners to bid on a property and go in and compete against the private bidders who would be purchasing a building and likely raise rents is critical. With Amazon’s flexible capital, the Washington Housing Conservancy was able to execute the purchase of Crystal House in under two months, an expedited timeline for commercial real estate transactions.

Second is the scale that Amazon is able and willing to operate at. Because of the investment size, Amazon can reach under 3% loan rates compared to a market average that could go up to 15%. Amazon is also choosing to invest larger amounts in fewer projects to minimize the complexity of multiple-funding sources for their nonprofit partners. 

Third is the support Amazon can provide to the organizations they are working with. These organizations really understand what the community needs and have great ideas on making an impact, but they might require legal or accountant experts aside from financial backing. Supporting those partners rather than moving in and working alone, set the project up for success. 

Shobe is very passionate about driving equity. In the early years of her career, she posed as a renter to test discrimination in the Boston area. For the past thirty years, she has been focused on making a difference by being more creative in addressing these issues. This includes working with the government slightly differently by collaborating with school districts and other agencies that are not necessarily in the housing domain but could create further opportunities that will ultimately benefit housing affordability and the attractiveness and quality of life of the occupants. “Who is at the table always matters, whether you are evaluating the needs of the community or brainstorming the possible solutions,” Shobe tells me. 

Having global responsibility for Amazon in the Community seems like a daunting task, given how different the needs can be. Yet, Shobe explains that while there are geographical differences, Amazon’s focus remains consistent: the investment in the future generation no matter where they are. “Amazon’s customer obsession comes into play here as it does in everything else we do. My customer is the underdog young person who has been facing harder barriers to overcome, either due to personal or social circumstances. My job is to see the promise and provide an opportunity for them.”

Disclosure: The Heart of Tech is a research and consultancy firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this column. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this column

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Collaborative Fund Why this could be the right climate for investment – CMC Markets

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In part one of this two part series, Lily Bernicker at Collaborative Fund explores the climate investment landscape, looking at where it’s come from and where it’s going.

Climate technology has not been an obvious fit for venture capital. These businesses have rarely found a way to grow large enough, quickly enough.

That said, climate clearly satisfies the venture requirement for massive markets. And as the climate crisis is caused by and affects every part of our global economy, decarbonisation is the biggest investment opportunity for impact and value creation over the next decade.

Given this potential, the question of whether or not venture dollars can be responsibly invested into climate businesses is not if, but when?

2006 seemed like the right moment. An Inconvenient Truth just came out, oil crossed $75 per barrel, and VCs doubled their investments in clean energy in just a year. Investors then went on to put more than $25bn in the sector from 2006-2011 giving rise to the infamous clean tech boom.

But the rush was short lived, and mainstream interest in the sector quickly contracted after the financial crisis and a few high-profile shutdowns, driving early-stage investing down to just 35 deals in 2013.

PWC Analysis of Early-Stage Climate Tech Investments (2013-2019)

At Collaborative Fund, we’ve gradually ramped up deployment from our first major climate investment in Beyond Meat [BYND] in 2015. At the time, plant-based meat alternatives weren’t a radical innovation. They’d been around and geared towards vegans for years.

However, we recognised that demand for healthier substitutes and affinity for brands that align with how consumers see themselves couldn’t be satisfied with existing products, and would only grow. Beyond Meat was the first to make mass market consumers feel good about a healthy and more sustainable choice that doesn’t ask them to compromise on taste, nutrition, or value. This vision convinced us that they could become one of the biggest food companies in the United States.

Since then, we’ve been compelled to do more in the category, encouraged by trends like: increased spend on sustainable products, newly cost-competitive low-carbon technologies, and a wave of experienced founders entering the field.

These shifts have created new opportunities to invest in businesses where mitigating or adapting to climate change is a driver of performance rather than a limitation.

We’ve also been active through some of the industry’s big setbacks. Our first clean energy investment was Dandelion Energy’s seed round in 2017: the same month that the US announced its intent to leave the Paris Agreement and shortly after Solar City dodged a shutdown through their merger with Tesla [TSLA].

While the path to decarbonisation will never be a straight line, there have been irreversible advancements in technology and market pressures that make this generation of climate tech fundamentally different from the last.

As we’ve expanded our climate practice over the last five years, it’s helped us to consistently track how and to what extent the market has changed. Luckily there has been some great research on the first cleantech boom. And there is increasing consensus on why it failed to deliver the returns VCs require, namely: cheap competition, technical challenges, and lack of capital availability.

At Collaborative Fund, we use these challenges as a model to explore how the market has shifted over time.

In the short term, even climate businesses built on mature technology will continue to face financing risk. But as commercialisation timelines get shorter and venture-backed climate businesses start to break out across every industry (not just energy), we anticipate a wave of traditional funding will enter the field.

Businesses that scale by preventing or mitigating the impact of the climate crisis fit squarely within the Collaborative Fund thesis. Markets value companies that are the best at satisfying demand at scale. Markets don’t care (yet) how urgent the climate crisis is or how little time we have to deploy solutions to keep warming below 1.5°C.

Therefore, we don’t either. We’re technology and business model agnostic. We invest in deep tech, software, and everything in between. But we don’t invest in companies that require users to compromise on performance or cost in exchange for climate impact.

This article was originally published by Collaborative fund on 16 December 2020. In Part II, they share the framework that they use to evaluate climate opportunities and what they’re most excited for going forward.

Disclaimer Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results.

CMC Markets is an execution-only service provider. The material (whether or not it states any opinions) is for general information purposes only, and does not take into account your personal circumstances or objectives. Nothing in this material is (or should be considered to be) financial, investment or other advice on which reliance should be placed. No opinion given in the material constitutes a recommendation by CMC Markets or the author that any particular investment, security, transaction or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person.

The material has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research. Although we are not specifically prevented from dealing before providing this material, we do not seek to take advantage of the material prior to its dissemination.

CMC Markets does not endorse or offer opinion on the trading strategies used by the author. Their trading strategies do not guarantee any return and CMC Markets shall not be held responsible for any loss that you may incur, either directly or indirectly, arising from any investment based on any information contained herein.

*Tax treatment depends on individual circumstances and can change or may differ in a jurisdiction other than the UK.

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Is Twilio Still A Good Investment After Smashing Earnings? – CMC Markets

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Twilio (NYSE: TWLO) is an American cloud-based platform-as-a-service business that enables software developers to use digital communication such as calls, texts, and emails to enhance the user experience. After reporting blowout Q4 2020 earnings, and the stock sitting close to all-time highs, is it still a good investment?

This article was originally written by MyWallSt. Read more market-beating insights from the MyWallSt team here.

 

Bull Case

Twilo has been one of the beneficiaries of the “shift to digital”, where companies would adapt to the internet and mobile in ways that could often take years in the past. Since COVID-19 hit, this timeline has been compressed to weeks and months and has acted as a secular tailwind for the company. This is demonstrated in a report published by Twilio last year surveying over 2,500 companies which found that 97% of companies found that the pandemic sped up this acceleration. Furthermore, companies’ digital acceleration strategy was accelerated by an average of six years. This acceleration has benefitted Twilio to date but looks set to continue in the coming years. 

Twilio reported $548.1 million in revenue, an increase of 65% year-over-year, and full-year revenue growth of 55% to $1.76 billion in Q4 2020. It has a diversified revenue base with 27% of sales generated outside of North America and spread across different business types and sizes. 

Whether you are aware of it or not, you have likely come across Twilio’s software in everyday life, whether to verify your number via Whatsapp or getting messages from Lyft or Airbnb.  Along with several high-profile customers, Twilio reported 221,000 active customer accounts as of December 2020, compared to 179,000 a year prior. Twilio has suffered from losing the business of large customers, such as Uber, which accounted for roughly 12% of revenue. However, despite a short-term fall in the stock price, Twilio continued to grow revenue and decrease its customer concentration levels. Today, its top 10 customers account for 13% of revenue, a 1% decrease YoY. The stickiness of its business and increasing spend by customers is demonstrated in its dollar-based net expansion of 139% in Q4. 

A passionate founding CEO is also a positive indicator. Twilio head, Jeff Lawson, has an impressive 95% approval rating on Glassdoor and still owns a large stake in the company. Twilio also has one of the most diverse leadership teams of any publicly-traded company, with women making up 6 out of 13 of its upper management.

Finally, Twilio has acquired SendGrid and Segment over the past 3 years, and while a strategy of growth by acquisition can be risky, it has demonstrated its ability to do so successfully.

 

Bear Case

Twilio’s valuation may be a cause for concern for investors as it is currently trading at roughly 37x price-to-sales ratio. This high multiple will mean that management will need to continue to execute on its forecasts. Twilio is also not the only player in the space, with Microsoft’s Azure Communication Services providing stiff competition. 

Twilio is also still unprofitable despite a great year of revenue growth, reporting a net loss of $490.9 million in fiscal 2020 compared to $307 million a year prior. On an adjusted basis, this loss is lessened due to excluding items such as stock-based compensation. Nevertheless, it is clear that Twilio has some way to go.

Twilio’s gross margins are not as high as other SaaS companies either, coming in at 56% for Q4, a slight decrease YoY. Although management expects 60-65% margins over the long term, this is yet to materialize, and investors should keep an eye on it. 

 

So, Should I Buy Twilio Stock?

Twilio is well-positioned to benefit from a shift to digital during COVID-19 and in a post-pandemic world and the visionary Jeff Lawson at the helm. Twilio has the numbers to back it up and could be a great addition to a portfolio. The stock is likely to be volatile due to the run-up in recent times, but investors should take advantage of any weakness in the stock as it is likely to continue to keep performing.

MyWallSt gives you access to over 100 market-beating stock picks and the research to back them up. Our analyst team posts daily insights, subscriber-only podcasts, and the headlines that move the market. Start your free trial now!

Disclaimer Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results.

CMC Markets is an execution-only service provider. The material (whether or not it states any opinions) is for general information purposes only, and does not take into account your personal circumstances or objectives. Nothing in this material is (or should be considered to be) financial, investment or other advice on which reliance should be placed. No opinion given in the material constitutes a recommendation by CMC Markets or the author that any particular investment, security, transaction or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person.

The material has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research. Although we are not specifically prevented from dealing before providing this material, we do not seek to take advantage of the material prior to its dissemination.

CMC Markets does not endorse or offer opinion on the trading strategies used by the author. Their trading strategies do not guarantee any return and CMC Markets shall not be held responsible for any loss that you may incur, either directly or indirectly, arising from any investment based on any information contained herein.

*Tax treatment depends on individual circumstances and can change or may differ in a jurisdiction other than the UK.

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Investment Firm for the Ultra-Rich Opens Office in Hong Kong – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — Investment firm Cambridge Associates is opening a Hong Kong office, ramping up its focus on Asia amid a surge in wealth in the region.

The Boston-based company that serves clients such as endowments, family offices and pension funds already has offices in Singapore and Beijing. It hired Edwina Ho in February as senior director of business development for Asia and relocated its head of the global private client practice, Mary Pang, to Singapore from San Francisco, according to a statement Monday.

“Asia has long been a key market for Cambridge Associates and we are very excited to be expanding in Hong Kong as the next stage in our mission to provide strong investment performance and excellent service to clients across the region,” said Aaron Costello, the firm’s regional head of Asia, in the statement.

Wealth growth has surged in the region in recent years and the number of people with more than $30 million is forecast to outpace the rest of the world through 2025, according to a Knight Frank report last month. The richest Asia Pacific billionaires are worth a combined $2.5 trillion, almost triple the amount at the end of 2016, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Cambridge Associates, which has more than $38 billion under management, serves over 230 wealthy individuals and families globally. The company’s owners include the Hall family behind Hallmark greeting cards, the Rothschilds and the Boels of Belgian investment firm Sofina SA.

The rapid wealth growth in Asia has pushed financial firms to turn their focus to the region. HSBC Holdings Plc said it would shift billions of dollars of capital from its investment bank in Europe and the U.S. to fund the expansion of its Asian businesses. Singapore’s DBS Group Holdings Ltd. has seen a rise in accounts for family offices.

The world’s ultra-rich have also flocked to the region to establish their wealth-management shops. Google co-founder Sergey Brin set up a branch of his family office in Singapore, while Bridgewater Associates’ Ray Dalio said in November it would open one there. Vacuum-cleaner mogul James Dyson is another who has his firm in the city-state.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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