The following is my column from the latest issue of Fortune. Find it online here.
In recent months I’ve seen Facebook posts spark workplace arguments and inaccurate tweets go viral, distorting my understanding of what’s real and what’s fiction. My cortisol levels have taken more than one roller-coaster ride when a devastating piece of information reverses itself on social media an hour later.
Whatever your political persuasion, President Trump’s short time in office has produced an exhausting amount of anxiety. More than half of people surveyed in January by the American Psychological Association reported substantial stress about the political climate. Meanwhile 29% of people said they have been less productive at work since the election, according to a survey by software startup BetterWorks.
Allow me to offer a bit of hopeful counterprogramming. Technology startups often profess a desire to make the world a better place, and it can be fun to mock the idealism and self-importance of such posturing. (Me? Never.) But amid today’s daily deluge of leaks, fights, scandals, and tweets, it’s worth reminding ourselves that some of them really are achieving positive progress in the world.
Take Andela. The three-year-old startup trains software developers in Kenya and Nigeria and places them in remote jobs for international companies like IBM and Microsoft. The company has trained about 200 engineers; its ultimate goal is to foster a generation of great tech founders in Africa. Last year the company raised $24 million in funding from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the venture arm of Alphabet, Google’s parent company.
Or Tala, a microlending startup based in Santa Monica. The company uses mobile device data to make microloans to people in Southeast Asia and East Africa who would otherwise have no access to credit, using location and transaction information from their smartphones to assess risk. With more than 80 employees, the company now delivers around 10.5 million loans per month. In February the two-year-old company raised $30 million in funding.
Both companies are examples of legitimate businesses intended to turn a profit for their investors and generate social impact. This style of investing—often called “impact investing” or “social good”—is increasingly popular with investors. (And magazines: Look for our Change the World issue in September.) ImpactBase, an online database, counts 417 funds with more than $31 billion in assets under management. Even private equity is getting in on the trend: The growth investment arm of TPG is raising a $2 billion impact fund called Rise.
And if you’re feeling inspired to trade social media for social good, consider Catchafire.org. The website allows professionals to donate something beyond money or physical labor—e.g., sales savvy, coding competence, or PR prowess—to causes ranging from cancer research to Meals on Wheels. Do it to make a difference in the world; do it to make a difference in your stress levels. I won’t judge.
Not on the list: Theranos is giving new shares to investors if they agree not to sue the company, the Wall Street Journal reports. These are the personal shares of CEO Elizabeth Holmes, and giving them up will mean she no longer holds a controlling stake in the company. Separately the company bought back Rupert Murdoch’s $125 million stake in her company for as little as $1. Naturally, Partners Fund, which suing Theranos, isn’t part of the share plan.
THE LATEST FROM FORTUNE...
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• Why DARPA funded a farm tech startup.
• Smartphones can… improve male fertility?
• The Winklevoss Bitcoin ETF may not be dead yet.
SoundCloud takes out $70 million in debt. The Wall Street informant who double-crossed the FBI. A new CEO at ClassPass. The Senate votes to gut Internet privacy. The gig economy celebrates working yourself to death. Banks and tech companies battle over your data. The story of those giant disembodied heads at college basketball games. Conversation pits make a comeback.
• Zenreach, a San Francisco-based provider of email marketing services, raised $30 million in funding. Investors include Maverick Ventures, Founders Fund, 8vc, Bain Capital Ventures, First Round Capital, and SV Angel.
• Mashape, a San Francisco API marketplace for cloud-based services, raised $18 million in Series B funding. Andreessen-Horowitz led the round, and was joined by CRV and Index Ventures.
• Clarity Money, a New York personal finance app, raised $11 million in Series B funding. RRE Ventures and Citi Ventures led the round.
• Paradata, a San Jose, Calif. SaaS startup, raised $10 million in funding. Richmond Global and PivotNorth led the round, with participation from SAP.iO.
• Digital Alloys, a Burlington, Mass. 3D printer manufacturer, raised $5 million in Series A funding. Khosla Ventures led the round.
• Quantexa, a London big data analytics provider, raised $3.3 million in funding. Albion Ventures and HSBC were the lead investors.
• Glofox, a Dublin based gym management software company, raised €2 million ($2.2 million). Investors include Notion Capital, Partech, Tribal.vc, and Enterprise Ireland.
HEALTH + LIFE SCIENCES DEALS
• 410 Medical, a Durham, N.C. medical device company, raised $3.3 million in Series A funding. Bios Partners led the round.
PRIVATE EQUITY DEALS
• Vista Equity Partners is reportedly looking to sell Vivid Seats, a Chicago-based secondary ticket marketplace, for around $1.5 billion, according to TechCrunch. The private equity firm bought the company last year for about $850 million. Read more.
• Superior Industries International (NYSE:SUP) agreed to acquire Uniwheels AG (WSE:UNW) for $715 million, according to the Wall Street Journal.The company will use $660 million in debt and cash from a preferred share sale to TPG Growth to finance the deal.
• Pamplona Capital Management acquired a majority stake in Legacy.com, an Evanston, Ill.-based website for memorials and online obituaries. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Digital West Networks, a San Luis Obispo, Calif.-based provider of fiber optic services, acquired Norcast Telecom Networks, a local data and telecom provider. As part of the transaction, Farragut Capital Partners acquired a minority stake in Digital West.
• Blackford Capital invested in Snowhite Textile and Furnishings, a Addison, Ill. provider of design and project management services for construction and renovation projects.
• Orion, which is backed by Potomac Equity Partners, acquired Vernalis, a New York City provider of custom software for the financial services and professional sports industries. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Assala Energy, which is backed by The Carlyle Group (Nasdaq:CG) acquired Shell’s (ENXTAM:RDSA) onshore assets in Gabon, Africa, for $587 million.
• Accenture (NYSE: ACN) agreed to acquire First Annapolis Consulting, a Linthicum, Md. payments consulting and advisory firm. Terms weren’t disclosed.
• Bridgepoint hired Solebury Capital to advise on its planned New York stock market listing of Pret a Manger, according to Reuters. Bridgepoint acquired the London-based fast food chain in 2008 for €500 million ($540 million). Read more.
• Alteryx, an Irvine, Calif. data analytics software company, raised $126 million by offering 9 million shares at $14 per share, the high end of its range. The company, whose shareholders include Insight Venture Partners, Sapphire Ventures, and Toba Capital, plans to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “AYX.”
• WideOpenWest, an Englewood, Colo.-based cable operator, filed for an IPO. It plans to list under the symbol WOW but has not selected an exchange. UBS Investment Bank and Credit Suisse are the joint bookrunners on the deal.
• Gestamp, a Madrid-based car parts manufacturer, has set its price range IPO at between €5.6 to €6.7 per share, according to Reuters, which values the company at around €3.5 billion ($3.8 billion). Read more.
• Apple (Nasdaq:AAPL) acquired Workflow, a tool for automating tasks by linking apps, according to TechCrunch. The company raised an undisclosed amount in seed funding from Lowercase, Eniac, and General Catalyst. Read more.
• Zhonghong Zhuoye Group agreed to acquire Blackstone Group’s (NYSE:BX) 21% stake in SeaWorld Entertainment (NYSE:SEAS) for $429 million, according to Reuters. At $23 per share, Zhonghong is paying a premium of around 33% on the stock’s Thursday close. Read more