Q&A with Amy Regas and Peter Rabley, PlaceFund’s co-founders.
What is PlaceFund?
- PlaceFund is an independent nonprofit organization focused on solving the inter-related problems of insecure property rights, unsustainable land use and climate change.
Why did you start PlaceFund?
- PlaceFund originates from a decade of experience as Omidyar Network’s property rights initiative. It is one of several initiatives that has spun out of Omidyar Network to allow for more nimble and flexible decision making, higher risk tolerance and ultimately greater impact. The evolution from Omidyar Network to become PlaceFund provides us with the ability to deepen our commitment to property rights and to expand our focus into the inter-related areas of climate change and sustainable land use.
What will PlaceFund do?
- Built upon a proven track record as the Property Rights initiative at Omidyar Network, PlaceFund will identify NGOs with bold ideas focused on solving the inter-related problems of insecure property rights, unsustainable land use and climate change. We will assist them in sharpening their technical solutions and further developing the business acumen needed to scale those solutions. In the spirit of venture style mentoring, PlaceFund will support organizations by providing access to funding, strategy, networking, operational support, technology mentoring, market insights, strategic communications, impact measurement, and more.
- Global trends are placing greater pressure than ever before on the Earth and its resources. These trends include explosive urban population growth, large-scale land acquisition, altering of land from agricultural to urban use, conversion from forest to agricultural use, and the many adverse effects of climate change. It is a critical time to develop innovative solutions and to support organizations tackling these complex challenges.
How was the decision to create an independent entity made?
- The decision was made jointly by the leadership of PlaceFund and Omidyar Network, in close collaboration with the Omidyar Network Board. Omidyar Network has a long legacy of innovation and evolution and has spun out several of its former initiatives to become independent entities. Spero Ventures, Luminate, Democracy Fund, Flourish and Omidyar Network India are recent examples.
- By spinning out and creating an independent venture fund, PlaceFund has the potential to increase its impact and operate entrepreneurially in its chosen sector.
What is the size of the fund?
- PlaceFund begins with over US$30MM under active management. Omidyar Network has generously provided additional seed funding for PlaceFund, and we are actively raising additional capital which will be used to support promising NGOs with bold ideas.
How does independence support PlaceFund’s long term business goals and strategy, and better serve the Property Rights and Land Use fields?
- With independence, we will be more entrepreneurial as we continue to impact the property rights and land use sector. We now have the ability to support organizations working in inter-related fields that are critical to success in the sector but are not within Omidyar Network’s current set of priorities, such as climate change. As we strike out on our own, we intend to establish new partnerships that will spark new methods of funding and support for local organizations.
How does this change affect the current Omidyar Network property rights portfolio?
- The impact on Omidyar Network’s existing property rights investments is negligible. PlaceFund will manage the property rights portfolio on behalf of Omidyar Network. For grantees, Omidyar Network will remain the legal grantor and the terms of your grant agreements will remain in place. All disbursements will be funded by Omidyar Network in accordance with the existing grant schedules and agreed upon disbursement triggers after review by PlaceFund. For other investments (debt, equity, loan guarantees), the legal investor or guarantor will also remain Omidyar Network. In all cases existing board roles will be performed by Peter and Amy and they will fulfill the requirements of that role on behalf of and under contract to Omidyar Network.
How does this change affect the current Omidyar Network India property rights portfolio?
- There will be no impact on Omidyar Network India’s Property Rights portfolio. PlaceFund will continue to collaborate with the team in India on matters of shared interest.
Where will PlaceFund invest?
- PlaceFund takes a local approach to our engagements by supporting organizations on the ground working directly in the areas they serve. We believe that local groups have the know-how, trust, and respect that are needed to address the issues in their communities, but often lack resources, networks, and expertise that can accelerate their impact and scale their solutions. This is where PlaceFund helps.
- Our current geographic focus is primarily on emerging markets with an emphasis on Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. We continually scan for promising innovations wherever they might occur, and we will invest if we believe it furthers the goals of PlaceFund.
How can an NGO apply for support?
- We source all of our grants and investments through our existing networks. We do not accept unsolicited proposals.
What is PlaceFund’s relationship with Omidyar Network?
- While PlaceFund has received seed funding from Omidyar Network, it is a completely independent organization. PlaceFund will manage the property rights portfolio on behalf of Omidyar Network.