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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

SunFunder

Total Assets Under Management: $26 – 50MM
Asset Class: Private Debt - Absolute Return / Notes
Primary UN Sustainable Development Goal: 7 – Affordable & Clean Energy
Clean Technology
Small and Medium Business Development

Firm Overview

Category: Private Debt - Other

SunFunder is a specialist debt provider for beyond the grid solar projects and companies. Our team of 25 people, mainly based in East Africa, are experts in tailoring innovative loans to scale up the impact of solar for energy access. We provide inventory, construction, and structured asset finance loans for solar lighting, home systems, mini-grids and commercial solar projects. There are very few other debt providers serving this market, and none have completed as many transactions – 58 debt facilities to 40 solar companies. Our primary source of capital for our solar loans is private debt funds, through which we have unlocked over $60 million for beyond the grid solar. These offer investors diversified, high impact, fixed-income debt products, comprising vetted portfolios of emerging market solar investments. SunFunder is now raising its new $85 million Solar Energy Transformation ("SET") Fund to unlock capital for companies addressing energy access globally. 

Firm Headquarters: Africa
Years of Operation: 5 – 10 years
Total Assets Under Management:
$26 – 50MM
Total Number of Investors: More than 25
% of Capital from Top 3 Investors: Less than 25%
Investment Thesis:

SunFunder provides innovative loan products tailored for off-grid and beyond grid solar companies addressing global energy access and climate change while simultaneously offering investors a route into the sector through diversified, fixed-income and high-impact debt funds.

Investment Overview:

SunFunder was the first company to offer debt financing for residential solar companies, enabling them to build track record and commercialize. We have grown in lockstep with our borrowers and the sector and continue to engage in repeat transactions with both industry leaders and smaller regional borrowers as they expand their operations. We focus our lending activities on sectors and markets where we have a competitive advantage and where the market fundamentals are strong, with a continued focus on Sub-Saharan Africa. We use our experience in structured and asset finance transactions to engage with commercial and industrial (C&I) projects and income generating assets. We also offer our customers local currency loans and larger ticket sizes through arranging syndicated debt facilities. Simultaneously, SunFunder is a first mover in successfully aggregating public and private capital investors and providing one of the only routes into the energy access sector.

Company Differentiator:

SunFunder has an extensive 6 year track record as a lender and arranger in distributed emerging market solar and has established itself as a responsible lender with sector-focused local expertise, structuring capabilities, speed, flexibility and local currency options.

Our experience has proven that these are key differentiating factors. The majority 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 small (<$1m) loans to regional solar companies.

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. 

Leadership and Team

Cumulative Leadership Experience in Investing:
More than 30 years
Cumulative Impact Experience of Top Three Firm Leaders:
20 – 30 years
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 Int’l 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 Int'l 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 are Women and/or Under-Represented Groups in Firm's Geographic Focus:
25% – 50%
Percentage of Board Members who are Women and/or Under-Represented Groups in Firm's Geographic Focus:
25% – 50%

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
Increasing access to education and improving educational outcomes
Increasing access to healthcare services and improving health
Other: Income generation and increased livelihoods, financial savings; telecom services; agriculture; gender equality
Value-added Services Offered:
Access to markets
Business and legal training
Financial literacy training
Other: Access to capital, legal services

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 by 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 and ongoing quarterly monitoring, request data that promote transparency and accountability on ESG and impact metrics. Furthermore, the templates request solar companies' performance on indicators such as provisions for recycling and waste management. 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 investors and donors
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: Alana Heath
Phone: +44 07955152667
Mailing Address:

548 Market St #24582, San Francisco, CA 94104

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Impact investments are investments made into organizations and funds that generate measurable social and environmental impact as well as financial returns.