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ImpactAssets 50: A Global Landscape of Impact Investment Fund Managers
The ImpactAssets 50 (IA 50) is the first open-source, publicly published database of experienced private debt and equity impact investment fund managers.
https://www.impactassets.org/impactassets-50

ImpactAssets 50

An Annual Showcase of Impact Investment Fund Managers

IA 50 2021 PROFILE

SunFunder Inc.

Total Assets Under Management: $100 – 499M
Asset Class: Private Debt - Absolute Return / Notes
Primary UN Sustainable Development Goal: 7 – Affordable & Clean Energy
Clean Technology, Alternative Energy & Climate Change
Small/Medium Business Development
Global Health

Firm Overview

Category: Private Debt - Other

SunFunder is a specialist debt provider based in Nairobi and London, financing companies in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, where there is often limited access to reliable and affordable electricity.  As one of the few debt providers in solar financing, SunFunder has unlocked USD 150 million in debt financing through public and private investors and has financed over 50 solar companies and projects. Through blended debt funds – blending catalytic capital with private capital – SunFunder is working towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 – Clean and Affordable Energy, with an interest in increasing commercial investment in solar lighting, home systems, mini-grids, agri-solar, and commercial solar projects.

Firm Headquarters: Africa
Years of Operation: 5 – 9 years
Total Assets Under Management:
$100 – 499M
Total Number of Investors: More than 25
% of Capital from Top 3 Investors: Less than 25%
Investment Thesis:

SunFunder is the leading fund manager and intermediary for solar energy investments in Sub-Saharan Africa: we’re more than a finance company, we’re forward-thinking industry leaders dedicated to making a global impact by providing innovative financial solutions for distributed solar + storage to solve energy poverty and climate change.

Investment Overview:

Our Vision : An equitable, low carbon world powered by solar Our Mission : Pioneer and scale financing for distributed solar + storage  As the global climate emergency continues to worsen, a major reallocation of public and private capital is driving unprecedented resources towards low carbon solutions. These trends point towards a distributed solar + storage transformation that will fundamentally alter the global energy system, creating a long-term and growing finance opportunity in emerging markets and underserved communities worldwide. SunFunder can invest in companies and projects using solar in a broad range of applications. These include manufacturers, distributors, developers and EPCs in segments ranging from solar home systems to commercial-scale projects, and broader solar-enabled business models such as agricultural productivity or telecom ESCO projects.

Company Differentiator:

SunFunder has an extensive 8 year track record, with sector-focused local expertise, structuring capabilities, speed, flexibility and local currency options. >60% of our lending and credit teams are located in East Africa, allowing us to be close to our customers and better manage relationships and risks. SunFunder is a leading lender in asset/project financing and other structures and we retain more flexibility and speed than our competitors. We strive to be the most responsive to our customers’ needs. We maintain strong relationships with peer lenders and borrowers while we continue to be one of the only commercial lenders that make <$1m loans to regional solar companies. We are aggregating smaller loans with various risk mitigating tools and approaches like first-loss capital and guarantees to present private investors with transactions that meet their scale requirements for their ticket size and return, while offering them local expertise they lack in-house.

Investment Example

SunFunder’s debt products played a pivotal role for SolarNow to scale both their business model and product offering. SunFunder’s initial small working capital loan in 2013 gave SolarNow a cost-effective way to build track record. As the relationship grew and solidified, the loan sizes increased. This type of scalable debt finance was not available from other sources besides SunFunder. Furthermore, SunFunder’s structured asset finance instrument (SAFI) in effect graduated SolarNow from the simple working capital loans to a bankruptcy-remote receivables financing product in 2016. SunFunder’s working capital and SAFI loans were a solution to the limitations and issues that arise when financing capabilities through grants and equity are reached. Without access to SunFunder’s debt products, the company’s innovation, growth, and outreach to end-users of solar products would have been at risk of delay. Since 2013, we have delivered a total of $19m to SolarNow through both direct lending and syndications.

Leadership and Team

Cumulative Leadership Experience in Investing:
30 years or more
Cumulative Impact Experience of Top Three Firm Leaders:
30 years or more
Ryan Levinson – Founder and CEO More Info

Ryan founded SunFunder in 2012 when he was inspired by the prospects for a global solar energy transformation and the need for new financing solutions to make this possible. Prior to SunFunder, Ryan was VP of Environmental Finance at Wells Fargo and led $500 million of investments in more than 150 solar projects. He is a Baltimore native who started his career with the World Resources Institute working with businesses and policymakers on climate and clean energy policies. Ryan holds a Master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Bristol and a bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Audrey Desiderato – Co-Founder and COO More Info

Audrey is French-Indonesian and grew up in 9 countries. She is based in Nairobi, where she is responsible for growing the team and SunFunder’s portfolio. Prior to SunFunder, Audrey modeled clean energy projects for GI Energy, and performed market research for energy access impact investor E+Co. She was also a founding member of GOOD magazine. She is inspired on a daily-basis by our clients’ work and believes helping them scale is the best job in the world. Audrey holds a Master’s degree in International Energy Management & Policy from Columbia University's School of International Affairs, a Master's degree in Environment and Sustainable Development from Sciences Po Paris, and Bachelor’s degrees in Economics and Political Sciences from UCLA.

Ritesh Shah – CFO More Info

Ritesh joined SunFunder in 2017 and leads corporate finance, systems and investor relations. He is based in Nairobi and brings over 25 years of global experience and leadership in the financial services industry. Prior to SunFunder he was CEO of Rabobank Africa, and previously CFO of Rabobank International North America Wholesale, CFO Europe of Rabobank International, and CFO of De Lage Landen International. Ritesh has lived and worked in three continents. He was educated and trained at the London School of Economics and KPMG, with a professional Chartered Accountancy qualification.

Percentage of Investment Professionals who identify as women:
25% to less than 50%
Percentage of Investment Professionals who identify as a person of color:*
50% or more
Percentage of Senior Management Team who identify as women:
25% to less than 50%
Percentage of Senior Management Team who identify as a person of color:*
50% or more
*People of color include: Black, Latinx, Asian, Native American/Alaskan Native, Pacific Islander, Middle Easterm and multi-racial Americans

Financial Performance

Target Financial Returns Relative to Benchmark:
Market Rates
Actual Performance Relative to Target Financial Returns in the Past Three Years:
Below initial target returns
Financial Reporting Frequency to Investors or Donors
Quarterly

Impact Performance

Percentage of Total Assets Under
Management that are Impact Investments:
100%
Primary Impact Outcomes:
Addressing climate change and environmental issues
Alleviating poverty
Creating jobs
Secondary Impact Outcomes:
Increasing access to education and improving educational outcomes
Increasing access to healthcare services and improving health
Addressing Racial Inequality
Addressing Gender Inequality
Value-added Services Offered:
Access to markets
Business and legal training
Financial literacy training

Investments systematically target companies where social and/or environmental impact is integral to the product/service being created:

SunFunder’s mandate is off-grid and beyond-grid solar in developing countries. The associated impacts are far reaching. The solar systems installed by the companies we work with mean that children have light to do their homework at night and their households are no longer reliant on toxic and dangerous kerosene, improving health, safety, and air quality. We have also diversified into productive use solar such as agriculture, solar water pumping and solar powered telecom towers. Productive use solar means that rural off-grid businesses can stay open after nightfall, while SMEs installing larger-scale systems benefit from uninterrupted power supply, increasing productivity. These systems have environmental impact by offsetting CO2e when other fuels such as kerosene or diesel are replaced. We systematically source companies that fit our mandate and, therefore, incorporate impact into their products or services. Finally, we integrate impact into SunFunder’s due diligence process. 

Investments systematically include social and environmental sustainability practices in the due diligence process:

SunFunder works to ensure that solar companies receiving SunFunder’s support are both environmentally and socially sustainable and strive to implement good governance practices. SunFunder’s ESG and Impact Reporting templates, completed during due diligence, request data that promote transparency and accountability on ESG and impact metrics. Furthermore, the templates request solar companies’ policies on indicators such as provisions for recycling and waste management. Where potential investees do not have an ESG policy, we require them to adopt one before we are able to complete our investment, and help them do this. We also require undertakings on industry standards, such as the GOGLA Consumer Protection Principles for off-grid solar companies, as well as legal norms. SunFunder acknowledges that the industry needs to incorporate and standardize ESG metrics and, through our monitoring, we hope to reinforce the importance of ESG and impact data collection and guide portfolio companies to action.

Impact Tracking and Monitoring

Impact is Tracked:
Yes
Social and/or Environmental Impact is Reported to Investors and Donors:
Yes – to the public
Third Party Validations:
Participant on steering committees or leadership roles within impact industry associations
Publisher or contributor to industry white paper or other research in impact investing

Learn More

Key Contact Name: Nico Tyabji
Phone: +447873163503
Mailing Address:

Workify 11th floor Wood Avenue Plaza Wood Avenue / Argwings Kodhek Road junction Nairobi Kenya

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