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An investment bank to help the US prosper – Financial Times



The writer is a professor at Sussex University

US president-elect Joe Biden wants to massively increase investment in everything from clean energy to healthcare and housing. But his efforts will be hampered because the US lacks vital tools that its major competitors and allies rely on.

To address the challenges America is facing — Covid-19, recession, inequality and climate change — Mr Biden should create a public investment bank. Without one, the US is trying to respond with one arm tied behind its back.

Well-capitalised, vigorous public financial institutions can work with the private sector to soften the blows during downturns and extend prosperity in upturns. They support infrastructure investment and small and medium enterprises, especially in innovative sectors or serving vulnerable communities.

It is a paradox that while the US government, in an act of idealism after the second world war, provided funds via the Marshall Plan to create and capitalise the very successful German public bank KfW, it has not created a similar institution at home.

Today, KfW has turned the initial investment into more than $500bn in assets, the second-largest German bank, and is a critical source of domestic capital for small business, clean energy, exports, innovation and start-ups. It was a driving force for reconstruction after the war, for integrating East Germany after reunification and for recovery from the 2008 financial crisis. During Covid-19, KfW and local public banks are providing finance to individuals and businesses, helping save companies and jobs more quickly than the inefficient US system.

The US government should create such an institution now.

A National Climate Bank, based on green banks in countries such as Australia as well as in the states of New York and Michigan, passed the House of Representatives as part of the Moving Forward Act. The proposal for a national infrastructure authority with a broader mission could expand, complement or even absorb that climate bank.

Such an American Investment Bank would be a lead investor in critical projects serving the public good, which many private institutions may not at first find attractive. Electricity grids suited to renewable energy, rural broadband and coastal high-speed railways are all candidates. Such investment creates key preconditions for private investment.

We propose that an AIB should be independent, non-partisan and subject to rigorous regulation and government audit. It should be capitalised initially with up to $100bn to assure sufficient resources for its activities and aim at a high investment grade credit rating to access private capital markets at low cost.

It would be financially self-sustaining and profitmaking, but not profit- driven, aiming to maximise its contribution to create a more dynamic, sustainable and fairer economy. Because specific opportunities and challenges differ across the country, it should have regional branches and work with municipal bond issuers and local financial institutions, such as state green banks and commercial banks.

During a crisis, the bank would increase provision of low-cost, long-term credit to support essential services — like hospitals, the manufacturing of critical equipment and transport companies. It would also channel general working capital and payroll support to eligible companies and local governments, acting counter-cyclically to support recovery.

At all times, it would allow grant resources and technical assistance to reach vulnerable communities. Those with significant populations of black, brown, indigenous people and others, are often marginalised and face a lack of access to credit, and disinvestment because of loss of industry or transition to clean energy, for example.

The AIB would also accelerate the pace at which new low carbon technologies become bankable by investing in very innovative technologies. Working alongside commercial banks and institutional investors, it would share knowledge as a public not a proprietary good, so critical risk and performance data make it to market quickly. It would make loans, take equity stakes and mitigate risk via guarantees.

There is no time to lose and no reason to wait. Both for helping the recovery from Covid-19-induced recession and building back better, by providing finance for investment in the most dynamic, innovative, competitive and inclusive sectors and companies, an American Investment Bank is essential for the US economy to prosper in the 21st century.

Doug Sims, a senior adviser at the Natural Resources Defense Council, contributed to this article

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Billionaire Bezos Backs Start-Up in Maiden Africa Investment – BNN



(Bloomberg) — Jeff Bezos agreed to back Africa-focused financial technology company, Chipper Cash, making it his first start-up investment on the continent.

The world’s richest man’s personal venture capital fund, Bezos Expeditions, supported the Series B funding led by Ribbit Capital, which raised $30 million for the San Fransisco-based company.

“Jeff Bezo’s backing of Chipper Cash will widen the company’s product suite through inclusion of more business payment solutions, crypto-currency trading options, and investment services,” the company said in an emailed statement.

Chipper Cash enables instant cross-border mobile money transfers in Africa and abroad and will use the funds for expansion into countries it will announce in 2021. The company has 3 million users on its platform across Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Nigeria and South Africa, and processes an average of 80,000 transactions daily, according to the statement.

“We are responding to the demand from customers on our P2P platform who also have business enterprises,” Chipper Cash Chief Executive Officer Ham Serunjogi said in the statement.

Read more: Visa Partners With Payments Startup Chipper in African Expansion

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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Dot Investing Launches Digital Platform Allowing Individuals to Access Investment Opportunities Usually Reserved for Institutions – Business Wire



LONDON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Dot Investing, a fintech startup, has launched an online investment platform that allows individual investors to invest in top private and alternative asset funds, including private equity, VC and hedge funds. Users are able to invest from £100,000 into opportunities that historically had far greater minimum investment requirements. The team behind the FCA-regulated startup want to democratise access to investments that until now have only been easily accessed by institutions.

Falling interest rates and volatile markets are driving demand from individual investors for access to top-tier private assets and alternative funds. Dot Investing is one of a small number of next generation investment platforms that provide the access and tools required to meet this demand. On the other side of the equation, the fintech startup opens the door for fund managers to a pool of capital worth trillions of pounds.

Each investment opportunity listed on the platform has passed Dot Investing’s proprietary due diligence process, combining technology and in-house expertise. Users must meet with qualifying investor criteria and make their own decisions on where to invest funds, however they do so with the knowledge that each opportunity presented has been vetted by experts. The majority of investment opportunities will come from top-tier private equity and alternative asset funds, users of Dot Investing will also enjoy regular access to ESG and impact investing funds.

Dot Investing was founded in London by a team with broad experience from a range of financial institutions including Blackrock, Barclays and JP Morgan.

Kinson Lo, founder and CEO of Dot Investing said, “We believe our technology can empower investors to build more diverse, resilient and better performing investment portfolios. Our digital platform opens access to investments that for too long have been the preserve of institutions. The combination of expertise and technology we provide arms investors with the insights to invest like a sophisticated institution.”

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Startup Founders: How To Leverage Boards When Seeking Investment – Corporate/Commercial Law – Canada – Mondaq News Alerts



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What are some of the best practices to help founders effectively
leverage their boards, particularly when seeking investment?

Jessica He of Torys’ Emerging Companies and Venture
Capital group sat down with Hamzah Nassif, partner at Real
Ventures, to discuss key considerations for founders of startups
when working with their boards. Prior to joining Real
Ventures’ Toronto office, Hamzah worked in a venture builder
in the Middle East, where he invested in companies and helped
founders build their early stage startups.

You can watch Jessica and Hamzah’s conversation by
clicking on the video below, or keep scrolling to read through
their written FAQ that covers these issues.

Video: How to leverage boards when seeking investment.


FAQ: Maximizing the relationship with your board

Q: What are some of the considerations you look at when
deciding whether you want to take a seat on the board of a startup?
What is the average size of an initial board?

Real Ventures is primarily a seed stage investor, so we are
usually the lead investor in what is typically a startup’s
first institutional round. As a result, we generally ask for a
board seat. We have a playbook for building successful ventures and
taking them from seed to Series A and beyond, so we try to be very
engaged with our founders – not just on the board level, but on a
monthly or even weekly basis. This is driven by a thesis around
adding value to companies at that early stage, which I believe
really underscores why lead investors will usually ask for board

Usually at this early stage, there are 3-5 board members which
consists of the CEO/Founder and a lead investor partner, plus
potentially another cofounder or co-investor.

Q: How should founders approach replacing board members as the
company continues to raise more money?

Usually this is dictated by the terms of subsequent rounds. If
the company is raising a Series A or Series B, the lead investor of
those rounds will often include a paragraph specifying what the
board makeup should be in order to close the investment. From the
founder’s perspective, having those terms makes the
discussion a little bit easier. This is also a well-known part of
the natural evolution of a company, so board members will expect

Q: How are observer seats usually filled?

With observer seats, there isn’t a magic formula for how
many observers can or should be on the board. When it comes to the
group dynamics of the board, you as a founder want to keep board
member and observer numbers under control. Two common ways observer
seats arise are when:

1: you have an early investor who stayed on the board after the
Series A or B and now the company is going in to a Series B or C
with new investors coming in. If the existing board member is
pretty engaged with the company they may be asked to remain
involved to act as a sounding board for the group. Having a
non-founder shareholder who knows the history and context of the
company, and who understands things from an investor standpoint, is
very valuable to board members.

2: observer seats may also be explicitly asked for from
strategic investors. For example, an enterprise software startup
may receive a term sheet from a large enterprise—this could
be a typical client that also wants to invest in the company with a
thesis around potentially acquiring it in the future. That
strategic investor will likely want to be privy to board
discussions, particularly around any potential M&A that can
impact the value of their strategic investment. However, as there
may be a conflict of interest, they may ask to observe board
meetings rather than have an official board seat.

Q: What should founders consider when they are building out
their board?

Your VC selection will determine your investor board members so,
before accepting the term sheet, ask yourself whether you are
comfortable with that individual partner becoming a board

Additionally, whenever you’re considering adding a board
member ask yourself: what value can this board member bring to the
table? Is it their domain knowledge, their operational experience
as a senior executive, or have they previously been a successful
founder in this space or with a startup using a similar business
model? Is it their current connections in the market, or is it
something else? And then ask yourself, how does that align with
your company’s goal and how can they bring value to you and
your business based on the plan that you have?

Founders should have a deliberate approach to thinking about the
board makeup and should use that to anchor and guide discussions
with their existing and incoming board members.

Q: When should a founder let their board know that they are
considering their next institutional round?

You should establish frequent update calls with your board.
Sharing monthly updates about the business performance, financials,
and where the business is generally at, will give your board a
level of awareness and knowledge such that they can anticipate when
you’ll need to raise your next round. If you are not bringing
up the discussion about fundraising when the business needs
additional funds, they will be.

If you receive a term sheet, you should think about who the
investors are and if they are a good fit for the company and its
future growth. It is important to identify if the term sheet
parameters match what you, and your investors, are aspiring to for
the next stage of your company’s growth.

Q: How have you seen founders leverage their board in the
fundraising process?

The board can help you prepare for fundraising. They can help
you hone in on the right story and pitch and strategize around the
group of investors you want to reach out to. As a founder, you are
expected to leverage your investor board members and their networks
to get warm introductions to potential investors so don’t be
afraid to ask for that. At Real, our seed to Series A fundraising
playbook breaks it down into a clear process, highlighting the
different steps and timelines from how to create your pitch to what
is involved in scheduling those first meetings.

Having said that, ultimately a business has to sell itself, so
it’s important for startup CEOs to remember that funding the
business is not anyone’s obligation, but that the fundraising
process is ultimately their responsibility, and having a business
that is attractive to investors makes that process easier. So if
your business model is just fundamentally not working, have that
discussion with your board as soon as possible so they can help you
course correct early on.

Q: What advice can you give to founders on how to run, and
prepare for, a board meeting?

First, just to reiterate, don’t limit your interactions to
just board meetings—constantly communicate with your board.
Second, have a pre-board meeting briefing with each of your board
members in the week before. This allows you to socialize the agenda
so that no one is surprised by a topic. It also gives people an
opportunity to ask questions in advance so you are not wasting
meeting time answering questions you could have already addressed.
And then, of course, share materials at least three days before the
meeting so that everybody has time to come to the meeting

Before COVID we would recommend that our founders host an
informal pre-meeting dinner to help strengthen the group dynamic.
Hosting a virtual dinner can also be really helpful.

Q: How long should board meetings be? Is there a good time
frame that founders should aim for?

There is a common practice that is not necessarily obvious to
first time founders. Usually, we structure board meetings into two
sessions; a formal monitored session and an informal strategy

The formal session walks through all the board governance and
housekeeping items on the agenda, such as approving any stock
option grants to employees, or approving any outstanding
directors’ resolutions. This usually takes 15 – 20 minutes
max and takes place first.

The informal strategy session is like a workshop for the
business and, in addition to the board members and observers, will
usually have other attendees such as the CFO, the head of sales or
the VP of product. They will provide an update on their department
and may not stay for the full duration of the session. This session
usually is where the bulk of the time is spent and can take
anywhere between an hour and a half to four hours.

Q: Do you have any stories that you can share of instances
where a very competent founder completely mishandled their
relationship with their board and, in that case, what

It is very difficult to ruin an entire relationship,
particularly as the people around the table all have a vested
interest in your success as a founder and the success of your
business. So, it is very hard to have that relationship broken. But
it is possible to do things that play with the level of trust
between the board member and the founder.

One pitfall is setting incorrect expectations and having
surprises in the board meeting, especially if the company is
running into distress. You should disclose any material changes in
your company’s projections, operations etc. to the board in a
timely manner so it doesn’t catch them by surprise at the
board meeting.

A second pitfall is when a founder comes to a meeting and
presents a problem but does not make any clear recommendations or
present any concrete options or alternatives—then issues can
arise. You end up having many different opinions about the problem
and how to solve it, instead of having a clear, structured
discussion around how to solve the problem.

It also looks bad for the CEO if they are asking the board to
present solutions to a challenge that they themselves have not come
up with potential solutions for. That triggers concerns around
whether you can run the ship. The board is there to help guide you
but you’re the one with your hands on the wheel and the one
who’s ultimately responsible for managing the business. When
coming to the table with a challenge, always make sure you present
alternatives and ensure that you’ve done your homework and can
have discussions around recommendations and alternatives. Show that
you’ve done the thinking and have a clear ask around your

Originally Published by Torys, November 2020

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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