May 10, 2001
Entrepreneurs Foundation Starts Up Community Service
by Mark Thomsen
Innovative organization taps the resources of the entrepreneurial sector to strengthen communities.
Start-up companies often evoke an image of a group of dedicated people with their noses fast to the
grindstone, completely focused on cranking up the revenue of the new firm. Entrepreneurs Foundation (EF), a San Francisco-based organization,
is working to expand that image a bit, prodding entrepreneurial firms to make community involvement
and service a core value early in the company's development.
EF's approach is
two-pronged. It enlists pre-public, venture-backed companies and helps them to develop a culture
of community involvement within the firm and among employees. EF also targets non-profits in the
Bay Area that, through innovative ideas and programs, have been successful on a small scale.
"Underlying EF's Venture Philanthropy program is a vision of creating a model for developing
high-performing non-profit organizations," said Bob Miller, CEO of the Entrepreneurs Foundation.
"Just as the venture capital community invests in technology entrepreneurs, EF invests in social
entrepreneurs by providing financial resources, managerial advice, active board participation and
EF's current community investments total approximately $1.2
million. The three organizations it has invested in include Partners in School Innovation, OpNet
and City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley. Partners in School Innovation is an elementary school
reform organization that works with public schools in low-income communities. OpNet provides
computer job training and internship programs for under-employed individuals between the ages of 18
and 25, and City Year is a national service organization that unites diverse young leaders for a
challenging year of full-time service, leadership development and civic engagement in low-income
EF works with each organization and their various stakeholders to develop a
business plan that includes well-defined metrics and outcomes. Additional funding is contingent on
the performance of EF's investment, measured by how well business plan objectives were achieved.
So far 74 start-ups have made a commitment to social responsibility by joining EF. Each
company makes a small pre-IPO equity donation, typically $100,000, to the foundation. Of that
donation, 50 percent is earmarked for a company-directed community fund, 35 percent for EF's
venture philanthropy investments, and 15 percent to support the corporate community involvement
services that EF provides to the companies and foundation operations.
EF also commit employee volunteer time. In 2000, more than 6,200 employees from EF's participating
companies volunteered time with 85 Bay Area community organizations.
"An interesting thing
that we have discovered in working with our current three investments is that intellectual capital
is as important as financial capital in bringing a non-profit organization to scale, said Miller.
"We now have a five-person team that combines experiences in venture capital, entrepreneurship,
general management, marketing and organizational development."
EF is the brainchild of Gib
Myers, a 27-year veteran of the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Mayfield Fund. Since being
started in 1998, the foundation has already established a national affiliates program with
organizations that have adopted its model in Austin, Dallas, Boston and Atlanta.
is optimistic about EF's impact in the future.
"Our vision is to have thousands of companies in the Bay Area and across the nation engaged in
strengthening the local community with tens of thousands of employees volunteering their time in
non-profit organizations." Considering the success it has achieved in just three years, EF seems
to be a venture well worth backing.