August 3, 2022 (Brunswick, ME) – CEI Ventures, Inc. completed the final closing of its fifth fund on July 15, 2022, with a total capital raise of $21.5 million from 46 accredited investors. Known as “The Good Jobs Fund,” it is the largest fund in CEI Ventures’ 26-year history.
A subsidiary of Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI), a non-profit community development financial institution (CDFI) and innovative leader in rural business development, CEI Ventures is one of the only venture capital firms in the U.S. with a mission focus and proven strategy to help create good jobs. Since 1996, including last week’s closing, CEI Ventures has raised over $67 million and invested in 67 companies across five funds, helping to create 2,800 new jobs in geographic regions and with demographic populations often overlooked by traditional venture capital investors.
“Since our first close in March last year we have put the pandemic in the rear-view mirror, and capitalized on a strong recovery,” said Chandler Jones, managing director of CEI Ventures, Inc. “We are glad to have commitments from a variety of partners and investors who recognize that the potential for broad social impact comes from investing in diverse, high growth companies that prioritize people.”
The Good Jobs Fund accredited investors include a mix of individuals, foundations, community economic development entities and banks motivated, in part, by Community Reinvestment Act credit.
“CEI consistently develops creative solutions by leveraging multiple tools — capital, advocacy and capacity building — to support its mission in a deep and intentional manner,” said Tracy Kartye, director of social investments at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, an investor in the fund. “Through the Good Jobs Fund, CEI is well positioned to expand the availability of quality jobs and generate compelling financial returns for its investors.”
“KeyBank is proud to invest in CEI Ventures and The Good Jobs Fund which will create economic opportunities in hard-to-serve markets”, said Brian Maddox, head of KeyBank’s CDFI Lending and Investment Team. “This fund will ensure that good jobs are created for overlooked populations and communities.”
CEI Ventures is able to invest regionally and nationally through a network of partners. With 26 years of experience developing strong relationships with co-investors and entrepreneurs, CEI Ventures has a robust pipeline for deal sourcing across industries that include software, consumer products and services, telecommunications, food and beverage, financial services, health care, biotechnology and environmentally sustainable products and services. Target companies typically have under $10 million in capital needs, attractive valuations, a clear path to liquidity and a desire to invest in their workforce as central to business strategy.
That’s where CEI Ventures’ mission makes a difference. By working hand in hand with CEI’s Workforce Solutions team, CEI Ventures engages with portfolio companies to offer pragmatic solutions to strengthen their workforce, including strategies to improve job quality in order to boost worker recruitment, retention, and company performance.
“Good Jobs Fund investors share our commitment to good quality jobs in regions that have lagged the pace of investment in other parts of the country,” said Betsy Biemann, CEO of CEI. “Innovative companies that can grow and sustain good jobs are not only found in large metro areas. Being on the ground and in community helps us to identify, understand, and get impact capital to strong, mission driven entrepreneurs that are so often overlooked by more conventional funders.”
CEI Ventures works with companies in the Good Jobs Fund portfolio to provide a variety of specific technical assistance from revising job descriptions to attracting a diverse applicant pool to structure pay scales to achieve a living wage for employees. Typical initial equity investments in the portfolio will range from $500,000 to $2 million.
Each of the seven companies in the portfolio has engaged with CEI’s Workforce Solutions Team to conduct a workforce assessment to determine strengths or areas of improvement for implementing CEI’s Good Jobs criteria. At the end of June 2022, all the companies either meet or are well under way toward achieving the benchmarks. For instance, average entry level wage across the portfolio was $26/hr, resulting in living wages for all employees. In addition, all companies provided employer sponsored health insurance plans and wealth building opportunities including stock option or retirement savings plans. Still others received technical assistance to revamp the hiring process to recruit more diverse candidates and are providing opportunities for career growth. They are:
- AquaViTea, a manufacturer of kombucha using all-natural and responsibly sourced ingredients, named a best place to work in Vermont in 2021 and again in 2022.
- Circa, a woman-founded company with a diverse leadership team. Circa’s mobile and web-based platform reimagines how rent is paid, prioritizing choice, convenience, inclusion, and respect.
- Defendify, a fast-growing cybersecurity platform with a focus on supporting small business needs.
- Good To-Go, a woman-founded and -led business that makes dehydrated camping meals in the “better for you” product category.
- HighByte, an innovative industrial software company that addresses the data architecture and integration challenges for smart manufacturers and other companies across vertical markets.
- MedRhythms, a digital therapy platform aimed at measuring and improving someone’s ability to walk after experiencing a neurologic injury or disease by leveraging the power of music and technology to redefine what’s possible in brain health.
- Senscio Systems, an AI-powered health management system that is revitalizing primary care delivery for the Medicare population by providing daily healthcare management for patients in their own homes.
ABOUT CEI VENTURES
CEI Ventures, Inc. manages socially responsible venture capital funds. For 26 years, CEI Ventures has successfully identified and cultivated growth-oriented businesses that create good jobs for people living in rural towns and small gateway cities, primarily in the Northeast. Learn more at www.ceiventures.com
Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) helps to grow good jobs, environmentally sustainable enterprises, and shared prosperity in Maine and in rural regions across the country by integrating financing, business and industry expertise, and policy solutions. CEI envisions a world in which communities are economically and environmentally healthy, enabling all people, especially those with low incomes, to reach their full potential. More at www.ceimaine.org.