SJF Ventures Closes $75 Million Cleantech Fund

SJF Ventures, one of the pioneering venture capital firms that first invested in cleantech, has closed its third fund, totaling $75 million.

The lead investor in SJF Ventures III is Citi Community Capital, the bank’s community investment arm. Other investors include Deutsche Bank, Calvert Equity Portfolio, Armonia, Abacus Sustainable Fund, Trillium Asset Management,  The CAPROCK Group, OpenBox, ImpactAssets and multiple family and individual investors. 

SJF invests in companies with solutions for efficiency & infrastructure, reuse & recycling, sustainable agriculture & food safety, and technology enhanced services.

It usually invests in companies that are already generating revenues of $1 million to $20 million and looking for $1 million to $7 million to expand. SJF invests in companies across the US and has offices in Durham, North Carolina, New York, and San Francisco. 

The Small Business Administration (SBA) selected SJF Ventures III as the first national partner for its new Impact investment program – its goal is to raise investments in clean energy and education start-ups.

The Impact Investment SBIC program began in 2011 as part of the Start-Up America Initiative, an Obama administration effort to boost job creation through small business growth. SBA will spend $1 billion on the program.

The SBA partners with venture funds that invest in small businesses that are either located in economically disadvantaged areas, or are in clean energy or education. Sometimes the SBA provides matching funds, but in this case they will take only a licensing and oversight role.

That makes SJF more attractive to banks. Banks can also get credits toward required investments in communities under the Community Reinvestment Act.

SBA’s partnership attracted Citibank as a lead investor, the hardest hurdle in getting a fund off the ground. "The rigor of the SBIC licensing process gives not only bank investors comfort, but other investors as well," SJF co-founder Dave Kirkpatrick told the Washington Post.

SJF’s mission has always been to invest in companies that combine cleantech with employment in low income communities, making it a great candidate for SBA’s program.

Among its 34 portfolio companies are renewable energy developer Community Energy; Living Earth, an organic waste recycler and compost manufacturer; and groSolar, a national solar installer.

"We are specifically interested in funds that are focused on investing not only in financial return but also in social return,"  Sean Greene, SBA’s associate administrator for investment told the Washington Post.

SJF says, "If you know of exciting companies that are scaling rapidly and delivering strong social and environmental impacts, please get in touch with us!"

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