We can give as well as take

San Francisco-based Entrepreneurs Foundation was launched 10 years ago by venture capitalist Gib Myers, a general partner at venture capital firm Mayfield Fund since 1970.

The member companies of Entrepreneurs Foundation, currently numbering more than 200, have to date claimed a benefit to communities worldwide of more than $15 million.

“Entrepreneurs Foundation helps entrepreneurial companies get more involved with communities through community programmes and philanthropy,” Larry Orr, chairman of the Entrepreneurs Foundation board of directors and managing general partner of Trinity Ventures, explains.

“[The organisation is] based on the premise that companies want to be good corporate citizens and give back to the community but many of them don't really have the time or focus and some of them don't even have human resource departments,”says Orr.

EMPLOYEE-GIVING PROGRAMMES
Entrepreneurs Foundation partners with these entrepreneurial companies to help them initiate employee volunteerism and employee-giving programmes as well as establish foundations for long-term philanthropy.

Venture capital firms are a key part of the network that introduces companies to Entrepreneurs Foundation as well as its cultural and financial benefits.

A development council of “about 15 or 20”venture capitalists work with the staff of the Foundation to ensure that it is being introduced to companies receiving venture funding.

“The role [of Entrepreneurs Foundation] is to recognise founders who might have a desire to work with the community not just because it's a good thing to do but because it's good business,”says Orr.

Venture capital firms introduce company founders to Entrepreneurs Foundation to hear about the programme and make it known that the board of the portfolio company would be supportive of it donating equity.

Entrepreneurs Foundation is largely supported by liquidity events from small pieces of donated equity in member companies, “almost like an option you would grant to an employee”, says Orr. The size of the equity grant varies but is typically similar to what would be granted to a director-level manager in the company.

The equity then supports the creation of the company's corporate foundation as well as the development and implementat ion of customised philanthropy and community programmes.

Among the Trinity Ventures portfolio companies that have been involved in Entrepreneurs Foundation, Orr highlights online commercial real estate listings company LoopNet which in 2007 won Entrepreneurs Foundation's “company of the year”award.

A Trinity portfolio company since 1999 and a member of Entrepreneurs Foundation since 2004, LoopNet has since gone public and continues community programmes including offering time off to employees to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, which builds homes for those in need. LoopNet chief executive Richard Boyle now serves with Orr on Entrepreneurs Foundation's board of directors.

Other venture capitalists on Entrepreneurs Foundation's Orr-led board of directors include: Allegis Capital managing director Bob Ackerman; Draper Fisher Jurvetson managing director Don Wood; and Mayfield Fund's David Ladd and GibMyers.

More than 700 companies have been involved with Entrepreneurs Foundation since its founding and the group boasts US affiliate offices in Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Colorado, Dallas, Hawaii, Portland and Sacramento as well Tel Aviv, Israel.

“We feel we were leaders in a movement that is now really starting to gain a lot of momentum in companies of all sizes,” says Orr, adding that young people are increasingly asking about community involvement in job interviews.

PHILANTHROPIC EXPANSION
Pantheon Ventures partner Serge Raicher is the new chairman of the European Venture Philanthropy Association. Outgoing EVPA chairman and co-founder Doug Miller, who continues as a trustee, will focus his attention in 2009 on exploring the possibility of creating a similar organisation for the growing markets of Asia.

Speaking at its fifth anniversary celebration dinner, Stephen Dawson, cofounder and chairman of the venture philanthropy organisation Impetus Trust, announced ambitious plans to more than double the size of the Impetus investment portfolio over the next four years. He called on industry participants to play their part in fighting economic disadvantage by getting involved.

FUNDING INNOVATIONS
Britain's Royal Society has raised £5 million (€6.4 million; $8.8 million) for its Enterprise Fund, which will seek to raise a further £15 million to plug three gaps in UK innovation: a ‘financing gap’ for early-stage, seed investments under £2 million; a ‘preparedness gap’ for businesses seeking financing too early; and a ‘research gap’ for science and engineering ventures.

The charitable foundation of Jeremy Coller, founder of UK secondaries firm Coller Capital, has made a ‘multi-million pound’ commitment to help create a private equity education and research institute at London Business School. The Coller Institute's first chairman will be Eli Talmor, a professor who has led London Business School's private equity activities for several years.