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Happy New Year!

The start of the year prompts much crystal ball gazing, and that's certainly true in the world of impact investing, sustainability and ESG. Impact Alpha has a good roundup of some of those predictions from top thinkers like Microsoft’s Samira Kahn, who thinks money will flow into disruptive climate and impact startups this year. There’s also MSCI’s ESG and Climate Trends to Watch for 2023, in which MSCI researchers round up 32 trends they’re keeping an eye on — from supply chain innovations to work-life issues.

Entrepreneurship also appears to be strong heading into 2023. A recent LinkedIn analysis found business formation surged over the past two years, partly driven by a need for workers to adapt to job losses during the downturn as well as to fill new economic needs. As everyone from the Fed to CEOs to soon-to-be-college graduates has their eye on the labor market, it will be interesting to watch whether these new business starts continue — particularly since evidence shows that young startups are both drivers of economic growth and job creators. We will also be keen to watch the data on hiring, retention, job creation and startups for women and people of color as past economic downturns have often exacerbated opportunity gaps. 

Below, we’ve rounded up a collection of articles that we hope will inspire and motivate you as you think about your own goals for the year ahead.


Sara Blakely’s inspiration for Spanx came when she was getting dressed for a party and couldn’t find the right shapewear to go under her pants. She improvised with a pair of scissors and her pantyhose, and then — with no experience in fashion design or manufacturing — set out to fill a gap in women’s wardrobes with just $5,000 in savings from her job selling fax machines. In the more than two decades since that fateful moment, Blakely became one of the youngest female self-made billionaires and a leading philanthropist for female entrepreneurs.

In Be Fearless, Blakely shares her valuable advice for others: “Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.”

She has additional words of wisdom for entrepreneurs in an interview published by Blackstone — which took a majority stake in Spanx in 2021. She speaks about the importance of the right mindset, focusing on purpose, building trust with customers, valuing your team, and trusting your gut.

Last fall, Blakely stepped down from her role as CEO of Spanx, naming long-time Spanx executive Kim Jones as her successor. She’ll continue to serve as chair of the company’s board, and we expect her fearless attitude will continue to inspire others for years to come.

Breeding Grounds for Next-Gen Impact Investors
The Yale School of Management is taking its education experience to a new level, launching a new student-run impact investment fund. Students will gain hands-on experience in making investments in companies with a social purpose. Yale isn’t the only B-school on a mission to groom tomorrow’s leaders in sustainability and social impact. The New York Times recently highlighted how Columbia Business School’s new campus reflects the school’s aspirations that its graduates will “do good as they make money.”
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Banner Year for Impact Funds

The year 2022 may have been a record year for impact funds, according to a new PitchBook report. More than 1,700 impact funds have been raised since 2007, worth over $380 billion (and that includes drawdown private fund structures only). The report also highlights investor preferences and geographic differences in the impact market. For example, North American funds are the largest backers of efforts focused on air and pollution, while land preservation and sustainability are bigger focuses in funds outside of North America and Europe.
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The Role of Immigrants in American Innovation

new study finds that immigrants produced about a quarter of all patents in America between 1990 and 2016. The economists leading the study also found evidence that immigrant investors help native-born inventors to be more productive, estimating that they are responsible for about 36% of innovation in the US. Business Insider profiles a new breed of venture-capital firms that are making it easier for immigrants to launch American startups.
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Cutting the Funding Gap for Underserved Entrepreneurs
On average, Black entrepreneurs have $35,000 of capital to start a business, compared to $100,000 for white entrepreneurs. The US Department of Commerce is hoping to close gaps like that with a new program from its Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). The MBDA Capital Readiness Program is currently accepting applications for a $93.5 million grant competition that will fund incubators and accelerators targeting underserved entrepreneurs, including individuals with disabilities, people of color, and those living in rural communities.
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Climate Quitters

As more eyes open to the realities of climate change, more people are searching for jobs with environmentally responsible companies. The Bloomberg Zero podcast profiles a selection of individuals who quit their jobs to tackle climate change. From a former oil company geophysicist to a war-crimes lawyer, this new group of “climate quitters” is helping fill demand for a growing number of green jobs.
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