One of the most inspiring things about the impact investing community is the variety of pathways that so many of the sector’s luminaries take on their journey to impact. Despite the different starting points, the through line they all seem to share is that their journey has led them to game-changing ideas that influence the sector — and the rest of society.
Erin’s path is no exception. Erin always knew she wanted to have an impactful career helping others. Her journey to impact began in a scientific laboratory, where she conducted brain tumor research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. But she came to realize that, while impactful, her passion for helping those in need lay elsewhere. Inspired by the concept of microfinance, which applied a sustainable business solution to a world problem, Erin decided to pivot and pursue the dual MBA/MA International Development program at American University.
Armed with a strong belief that social ventures can play a critical role in addressing global issues like poverty and lack of access to clean energy, Erin took a job with FINCA International. There, Erin focused on laying the groundwork for FINCA’s first impact investing initiative and supporting their solar energy distribution business in Uganda, which would set the stage for the rest of her career.
While at FINCA, Erin was exposed to the staggering impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities and decided to focus her energy on this existential challenge. In response, she co-founded Social Investment Managers and Advisors (SIMA), where she helped launch three different funds totaling approximately $200 million to provide working capital loans to energy and financial access businesses operating across Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Along the way, Erin discovered a pattern — a disconnect between the intention to support impact entrepreneurs and the realities of how that support is executed in the current financial system. Most traditional lending institutions hesitate to support early-stage impact entrepreneurs due to a lack of track record. Even if they do support them, the intense and onerous diligence process can take upwards of a year. As a result, many innovators are unable to continue their work.
According to industry estimates, over a million US climate entrepreneurs need more than $700 billion of corporate debt a year to fight the climate crisis, a staggering amount of capital necessary to address climate change. Accessing that capital can be a serious hurdle. Existing funding options for early-stage climate entrepreneurs are often dilutive, extractive, and cumbersome, posing significant challenges for innovators seeking to make a difference in a time-sensitive manner. For Erin, something had to be done to change this narrative.
Enter Enduring Planet.
The Game-Changing Idea
Considering the next phase of her career, Erin co-founded Enduring Planet with the impact visionary Dimitry Gershenson. Enduring Planet’s mission is crystal clear: to create an ecosystem for all climate entrepreneurs where they can access the capital they need to be successful.
Enduring Planet works with pre- and post-revenue companies. Today, their focus is on pre-funding government-backed projects, enabling entrepreneurs to execute their R&D and commercialization efforts faster and generate more impactful outcomes. The flexibility of their Grant Advance allows them to work with a wide range of entrepreneurs. Soon, they’ll offer additional products that address the working capital needs of climate entrepreneurs, as well as complimentary services that support other fundraising challenges.
Why the grant advance? Unfortunately, many government grant recipients often face a catch-22 that prohibits them from moving forward with their important work. To unlock contracted grant funding, they often need to make substantial upfront expenditures, like buying electric vehicles and solar panels or spending team resources on developing new technologies. With a Climate Grant Advance, Enduring Planet steps in to pre-fund these expenses, using the anticipated grant flows as security, thereby enabling their clients to execute their projects faster and stay ahead of schedule.
To expedite and simplify the funding process, Enduring Planet utilizes automated data integration technology to conduct real-time financial analysis, which provides a holistic view of the prospective company’s financial health within minutes, a process that traditionally could take months with other lenders.
What’s more, a large majority of the company’s portfolio meets strong DEI criteria, including having a BIPOC or female CEO, a diverse leadership team or operating in an underserved community.
The impact of Enduring Planet’s Climate Grant Advance product has enormous potential for both the climate entrepreneurs and the climate initiatives these companies are pioneering. Enduring Planet measures success with a variety of key aspects, including revenue growth, follow-on funding, and loan repayment rates of the organizations they support. Many of their clients have utilized multiple loans, an indication of a successful partnership.
For example, Enduring Planet provided funding to a New York-based company that successfully built a prototype for a heat pump system that uses solid-state material to transfer thermal energy, thereby requiring no moving parts, making the system maintenance-free and reducing the cost of operation. The setup is fully modular, which means it can be more responsive to the differing temperature needs of individuals in a space. It also eliminates the need for refrigerants completely. The Climate Advance Grant was instrumental in making progress on the project and the company was able to raise a seed round shortly after.
Now that’s big impact.
Why Her Work Matters
Erin’s work at Enduring Planet is a testament to her dedication to addressing the climate crisis through innovative financing. Her team’s unique approach is revolutionizing how climate entrepreneurs secure funding, bridging the financial gap and accelerating the development of critical climate solutions.
Looking forward, Erin and her team have set the ambitious goal of deploying more than a Billion dollars over the next five years to fund climate entrepreneurs. As Enduring Planet continues to grow and expand its reach, it holds the promise of supporting countless climate entrepreneurs and making a meaningful impact on the fight against climate change.