Venture Philanthropy

There was an absolutely fantastic article in the LA Times that my best friend e-mailed me today, titled “Network Philanthropy: The men behind EBay are leading a high-tech revolution that is turning charitable giving on its head” (registration required). I really encourage you to read it — very good inspiration if you are interested in mixing a heavy dose of business with philanthropy work sometime in your career as I am.

The article talks about how eBay founders Pierre Omidyar and Jeff Skoll have redefined venture philanthropy with their work over the past decade. Pierre pioneered the notion of granting pre-IPO shares to a non-profit foundation by endowing Community Foundation Silicon Valley with $1 million in pre-IPO shares in eBay — 12 months later CFSV sold the shares for $40 million (talk about a great gift). Google later followed this example by granting pre-IPO shares, now worth about $1 billion (wow), to Google.org during their IPO in 2004. In 2005, Omidyar donated “$100 million for a new Tufts University program to generate millions of tiny loans, some as small as $40, to finance entrepreneurs trying to escape poverty in India, Bangladesh and other poor countries” (USA Today). Whereas people in the US think of $40 as pocket change and easily blow through twice that amount of money to attend a sporting event, $40 in developing countries can change lives.

Quite frankly, I don’t have as much time to dive into this topic as I’d like to right now, but I’ll come back to it (I just created a draft with the title “A Deep Dive into Venture Philanthropy”). I will say this: It is absolutely fantastic that entrepreneurship, venture capital, and philanthropy are starting to converge. Hats off to those making it happen — they have my respect.

I’m glad VC Confidentia (blogger is Matt McCall) is planning to increase its coverage of venture philanthropy and social entrepreneurship (I just subscribed to the blog’s RSS).

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