In April, 20 companies with a positive social or environmental impact started raising online. Among them, four companies are working to reduce social and wealth inequalities.
Today, the richest 1% of the global population owns nearly 46% of the world’s wealth. And during the pandemic, that inequality increased. While labor classes lost $3.7 trillion combined, billionaires gained $3.9 trillion in wealth. Economic inequality is a problem for societies. It can decrease the strength of democracy by concentrating power into a few hands, increase the rates of crimes, and decrease access to health care. The lack of wealth and resource redistribution can also limit opportunities for national economic growth. Therefore, lowering poverty benefits the entire society. But poverty is often chronic and happens alongside discrimination, which makes it difficult for lower-income households to improve their economic conditions.
In April, a few startups offered solutions to give better living conditions to lower-income communities and decrease wealth inequality. In the United States, a third of the population struggles to pay energy bills. One of the solutions to lower the cost of energy is to use renewable sources, including solar panels. Unfortunately, solar panels come with high upfront costs that many lower-income families cannot afford. To make cheaper, renewable energy accessible to lower-income neighborhoods, Deal to Watch Neighborhood Sun provides shared solar electricity in communities. Its service decreases the energy bills of lower-income households.
Upfront costs are also a barrier to owning houses and other properties that can build generational wealth. Due to the high cost of houses, most Americans need to be granted a mortgage to buy a house. But data shows that potential Black, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ individuals frequently face discrimination when applying for loans. Top Deal Champion Lender offers a solution to reduce home ownership barriers for minorities. By helping minorities access home ownership, the company helps bridge the wealth gap that minorities often face.
Wealth inequality affects populations not only within the United States but also around the globe. As a land of opportunity, the US attracts many immigrants coming to build a better life and help their families abroad. To help immigrants’ efforts, Deal to Watch Coco Pago helps Venezualan immigrants send cryptocurrencies to family and friends still in Venezuela. The company helps to save on transfer fees and allows unbanked citizens to easily receive money transfers.
Startup investing can power innovations and tackle the long-lasting issues of an unequal society. Businesses operating to fix these problems seem promising. Champion Lender was profitable the year prior to its raise, and although Coco Pago is too new for much performance assessment, its sister company, Coco Mercado, has also been profitable. It’s an opportunity for investors to generate returns while helping to improve the living conditions of lower-income families.
Happy impact investing!
Champion Lender – Top Deal (Inequality & Discrimination)
Home ownership helps families secure stable housing and build generational wealth. Unfortunately, minorities are disproportionately denied the mortgages necessary to buy property. Champion Lender designed an all-in-one platform to ease first-time home buyers through the entire process. The platform aims to remove barriers to home ownership for minority communities, offering educational content and tools to help users apply for and receive loans. Through its business-to-business software-as-a-service platform, Champion Lender offers lenders software to efficiently provide underrepresented buyers with financing. The company was profitable for both 2020 and 2021.
Renewable energy, including solar, is becoming cheaper than electricity from the grid. But accessing solar electricity can require installing expensive solar panels, preventing many lower-income families from participating. To solve that issue, various community solar projects have started across the country, allowing residents to share solar installations in their neighborhoods. Neighborhood Sun is an energy-as-a-service company operating in that new market. It has developed Sun Engine, a customizable platform used to help community solar firms manage their energy programs. Neighborhood Sun has a proven record of success, with 550% growth in kilowatts under management in 2021.
Coco Pago – Deal to Watch (Inequality & Discrimination)
Millions of immigrants come to the United States to find a better life, and many seek to help their families abroad by sending remittances. Unfortunately, they often face difficulties transferring cash due to high fees and lack of banking access. Coco Pago has developed a platform that makes sending money convenient and fast. The Pago platform allows Venezualan migrants to send money back home in seconds via stablecoin. Families in Venezuela can download the app, quickly send and receive money with phone numbers, and buy goods and services. Coco Pago is supported by Celo, and its transactions are growing 120% week-over-week.
Inequality & Discrimination
There are more than 580,000 homeless in the United States, and 40% of them are employed. Part of the issue is the lack of affordable housing in large cities. Trying to solve a long-standing issue, EquityCoin is using blockchain technology to increase access to affordable housing. At the same time, investors can earn dividend payouts from rental income. EquityCoin has earned recognition as the first digital token backed by affordable housing, and it has been named one of 2021’s most fundable companies.
Health & Medicine
POPS! – Neutral Deal
Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects 11.3% of the US population. POPS! (or just “Pops”) has developed an AI-driven diabetes self-care platform for patients. The platform is centered around a virtual health assistant, Mina, who encourages users to adopt healthy behaviors. The Pops Rebel Meter, POPS!’s glucose meter, connects with the Pops app and enables users to view trends anytime and anywhere. Pops’ diabetes care system is FDA-cleared, TGA-cleared, and CE-marked, and the company reported 986% revenue growth from 2020 to 2021.
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders are conditions causing pain around the jaw joints, muscles, and ligaments. TMJ Relax has created a device for treating TMJ disorder using computer-aided design and 3D manufacturing. TMJ Relax’s orthopedic device is FDA cleared and helps to prevent and treat migraines, muscle tension, and bruxism caused by TMJ disorders. The company’s approach makes the treatment of temporomandibular joint disorders cheaper, more effective, and user-friendly.
Desalination processes are costly and energy intensive. However, they give hope to areas concerned by droughts. Hydro Wind Energy has developed two highly innovative technologies for inexpensive and clean desalination: SubSea RO Wind and QuenchSea. The company’s other technology, OceanHydro Omni, harnesses offshore wind and subsea oceanic pressure to provide reliable, clean, and low-cost energy and energy storage. While Hydro Wind Energy’s projects are still in development, the company could solve essential problems for coastal communities.
The earth receives enough solar energy in an hour to supply the globe with electricity for a whole year. Unfortunately, solar panels are not efficient enough yet to completely capture the energy coming from the sun. Renewable Energy Products Manufacturing (REPM) is working on revolutionizing solar energy with its solar panel enhancements, which increase the longevity and productivity of solar panels. REPM’s patented technologies are designed to make solar panels more affordable, easier to install, more efficient, and more heat resistant. The company is led by an experienced team and has 40 megawatts of projects in development.
Geothermal energy is an often overlooked source of renewable energy and only accounts for 0.4% of the electricity produced in the United States. It requires drilling into the ground to find a reservoir of hot water and using the steam to generate electricity. HyperSciences’ Hypercore engine and drill make digging holes for geothermal energy faster and cheaper. HyperSciences’ technology aims to revolutionize a variety of industries, including resource extraction, geothermal energy, and aerospace.
Fast fashion is a clothing manufacturing trend where brands use low-quality materials and quick fabrication processes to bring cheap clothes on the market. It pushes customers to buy more clothes and wear items for short periods of time before throwing them away. This trend increases water and energy consumption, pollution, textile waste, and greenhouse gas emissions. Turning away from fast fashion, SLO is surfing on the slow-fashion revolution with functional jeans tailored to its customers. The business makes and sells sustainable and long-lasting jeans that are made to fit all bodies, irrespective of age, size, or gender. SLO has more than 10 billion views on Tik-Tok and 45,000 people on its waitlist.
Just about every product has an impact on the environment. Surfboards, for example, require extracting oil from the ground; manufacturing the product through chemical, thermal and mechanical operations; and need to be transported. They also contribute to pollution once they are disposed of, as they are based on petroleum materials. To extend the lifespan of outdoor gear and reduce its impact on the environment, Sea N’ Soul has a social marketplace app for the resale and repurchase of outdoor gear and apparel, including surfboards, skateboards, backpacks, and more. Sea N’ Soul aims to offer an alternative to overconsumption and give back to earth. The business earns revenue by charging a 10% commission fee, while shipping is paid by the buyers.
Food and Agriculture
Consuming locally produced food helps build economically strong communities and reduce the environmental impact of food transportation. But for grocers, localizing and coordinating dozens of diverse local merchants can be a challenge. Big Wheelbarrow has developed supply chain software that enables grocers to buy from local farms. The company automates manual business processes and facilitates direct store delivery for producers, wholesalers, and retailers. Big Wheelbarrow has already conducted local food transactions worth $6.7 million and has a strong pipeline for 2022.
Off-road vehicles are a significant source of air pollution. While some of these vehicles are needed for some professionals, such as farmers and builders, many off-road vehicles are simply used as a hobby. To help drivers reduce pollution, RINDEV is making sturdy and luxurious electric off-road vehicles. RINDEV’s off-road vehicles have high torque and high horsepower. The company is led by a highly experienced team and has partnered with major brands.
There are about 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States. To have an impact, they must to recruit volunteers and collect donations. The process can be long and costly for some of these organizations. Propeller has developed a social marketing platform with 1 million members to bring awareness on causes, gather donations, and trigger social impact. The platform taps into the culture to drive action and advocates for causes that people are fired up about. The digital marketing platform of Propeller is community funded and helps build movements for change. Propeller has generated $3.1 million in revenue to date, with a 400% increase in revenue from 2021 to 2022.
Environment-related jobs are expected to grow quickly in the next decade. To help match qualified workers with employers, Terra.do is developing a platform that will function like LinkedIn for the climate industry. Terra.do started as a cohort-based learning experience, created a massive community for professional development and networking, and is now working toward attracting more professionals through job fairs. Terra.do launched 12 climate programs and already ran several job fairs.
Climate Change Research
Understanding climate change is key to fighting it. Marine science enables scientists to understand the role of oceans in climate change and plan accordingly. Greenwater Marine Sciences Offshore provides adaptable and affordable oceanographic research vessels to the science community. The company’s vessels are priced in order to meet the needs of scientists with small budgets, giving them more opportunities to conduct research. The company is led by an experienced team and aims to facilitate climate studies and ocean sciences.
In the United States, transportation causes 27% of greenhouse gas emissions and contributes significantly to global warming. To solve this problem, greener means of transportations are needed. Voyager Global aims to use Lighter-Than-Air (LTA) technology to outperform current transportation modes in time and fuel economy. LTA technology is capable of delivering anything from anywhere to any destination and is cost-effective, green, and fuel-efficient. The US Government has invested more than $1.2 billion in LTA technology to make it a cheaper transportation alternative.
Kari Gran makes clean and sustainable skincare products, especially for middle-aged women suffering from dry skin due to menopause. The business makes products with 100% naturally nourishing ingredients and no added water. Kari Gran has maintained robust financial performance and reported $8.5 million in sales to date. Additionally, the company supports several nonprofits targeting recycling issues.
The Black Bread Company manufactures and sells gourmet sliced bread and bread products. The Black Bread Company’s products are flavorful, fresh, free of additives, and sold nationwide. The business has 45,000 social media followers and generated more than $260,000 in sales within the last year. The company’s non-profit, Black Bread Foundation, works on community initiatives, including donations.
Bloomcatch is an all-in-one platform for plant owners that provides them with e-commerce, plant care, and plant identification. The app connects local plant sellers to buyers, helps in plant identification using artificial intelligence, and shares plant care tips from plant experts. Bloomcatch donated to Washington Youth Garden and City Blossoms, two charities focused on educating younger generations on gardening.
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About: Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau
Léa is passionate about impact investing and sustainability. Prior to KingsCrowd, she worked for Stanford’s accelerator, StartX, helping to select the most promising entrepreneurs. She also led the first award-winning study on the Malawian startup ecosystem. In her free-time, she volunteers to help entrepreneurs in Cameroon, Brazil and Colombia. Léa holds a degree in Anthropology from France and is currently enrolled in the UC Davis MBA program.