Over the years, I’ve written about my belief in the importance of giving back to your communities and #givefirst. In this spirit, one of the key organizations my partners at Foundry Group have helped create and nurture is Pledge 1%.
In 2007, we were a founding member in the predecessor organization to Pledge 1%, called Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado (or EFCO). EFCO started as an experiment here in Boulder, not unlike Techstars and Startup Week/Weekend that got their start in our backyard. In 2014, Pledge1% Global launched as a joint effort between Foundry Group, The Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado, The Salesforce Foundation and The Atlassian Foundation which we helped seed financially and continue to support.
While all of the Foundry Group partners have been involved, Seth Levine has been spearheading our engagement and the transformation from EFCO to Pledge 1% (he, along with key members of the teams from Salesforce, Atlassian and Ryan Martens are the founders of Pledge 1%). At a partner offsite at the end of last year, we were reflecting on some of the gifts from Foundry Group through our Pledge 1% involvement, which included:
We had some extra money left in our Pledge 1% Colorado account from distributions over 2018 and decided that, rather than saving it up for another larger gift, we’d give a series of modest gifts to a handful of local (and one non-local but nearby) organizations as a surprise holiday gift. Those organizations were:
If you are a co-founder at a startup, leading a company, or an employee at a company and want to learn more, check out the Pledge1% (or here if you’re in Colorado). Or email me or Micah Mador if you want to get involved.
I’m not doing my usual crazy schedule of running around to panels and events as I’ll be out of town for most of the week but wanted to highlight a few events I’m especially excited about.
Amy and I supported the Pledge 1% Colorado Nonprofit Pitch contest last year with a $10,000 grant through our Anchor Point Foundation and are happily doing it again this year. This and other Social Impact Track events are working to engage the broader startup community and expand Startup Week beyond just high-tech startups.
If you are around Boulder next week or want to see the Boulder community at it’s finest, check out the BSW schedule and join in on the fun.
SRS Acquiom and Pledge 1% have teamed up to created EscrowUP by SRS Acquiom. As investors in SRS Acquiom and members of Pledge 1%, we are excited about the creative idea the two organizations have come up with to increase charitable giving as a result of merger transactions.
When one company buys another, a portion of the proceeds (usually between 10% and 20% of the deal) goes into an escrow account for a period of time (usually a year or two). This escrow is used to cover any undisclosed or agreed to liabilities that come up for this period of time after the transaction. One of the shareholders, called a shareholder rep, is responsible for managing all the activity on the sellers side. It’s a thankless task and a number of years ago my partner Jason Mendelson helped create SRS Acquiom to address this. Instead of a VC, board member, or founder being the shareholder rep (and doing what can turn into a lot of work for free), you can now outsource this to SRS Acquiom.
The money kept in escrow is typically held by a bank. Not surprisingly, the bank makes a spread on the money for doing nothing other than holding the money. Often, the accounts are interest free because it makes tax and accounting easier, and the interest on the escrow accounts isn’t material in the context of the individual deal. But, the numbers across multiple deals adds up. Therein lies and interesting opportunity.
Imagine the following situation: Assume GiantCorp agrees to buy AwesomeStartup for $1 billion. As part of the deal, GiantCorp insists that $100 million of the $1 billion (10%) be put in escrow for 18 months after closing to ensure everything AwesomeStartup represented about its business is true.
GiantCorp and AwesomeStartup could agree that the escrow will either go into an interest bearing or non-interest bearing account. Whatever they select, they get the same terms with EscrowUP as they would without it so there is zero impact to them. But if they agree to have it participate in EscrowUP, then money goes to charity.
That money comes from SRS Acquiom, not out of the deal parties’ pockets. SRS Acquiom gives a portion of their revenue (up to 24 basis points) from the deal to the awesome group of designated charities that support entrepreneurs.
The result is that up to $360,000 would to go to the designated nonprofits from this single example deal of GiantCorp buying AwesomeStartup. If lots of deals join in, it drives many millions to Pledge 1% and the other nonprofits.
For a different summary, Erin Griffith wrote a good article in Fortune titled How the Merger Boom Can Drive Donations to Charity.
At Foundry Group, we have a deeply held belief that we benefit from our local community (Boulder, in our case) and that we have a responsibility, as we have success, to give back to our local community.
My partner Seth Levine just had an excellent OpEd in the Boulder Daily Camera explaining this. It’s titled Entrepreneurs can give back, by giving early to EFCO. In it he explains more about Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado (EFCO) and Pledge 1%, two organizations we have helped create.
Seth also describes our recent gift of $300,000, via EFCO, to Boulder-based non-profits, to fill a gap in funding from Foothills United Way that happened recently.
“The Community Foundation Serving Boulder County announced last week it will grant an additional $300,000 to local Boulder County nonprofits this summer in response to a 62 percent cut in funding from Foothills United Way. The grants will be funded by Foundry through our membership in the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado (EFCO).”
While many people view Boulder as a wealthy town, we have our share of people struggling to make ends meet. In fact, as Seth highlights in his OpEd:
“We hope this money will impact the thousands of local families and individuals who struggle to make ends meet in what is viewed by many as a wealthy, prosperous community. In fact, Boulder County has higher poverty rates than Colorado as a whole, and more than 9,000 children in our community live below the poverty level (defined as just over $24,000 per year for a family of four.)”
Amy and I contribute personally to several of the non-profits that this funding will go to. But, with EFCO, many more people can help. This gift is from Foundry Group and involved all the people (11 of them) who work for Foundry Group, not just the four partners. And, when you go to the EFCO page and see the list of the other 70+ or so companies that are members, you start to get a sense as to the power of the startup community in giving back to the broader community.
To date, Boulder-based startups such as Rally Software, Gnip, Revolv, Mocavo, DocPopcorn, Techstars, and Filtrbox have joined Foundry Group in distributing more than $3.5 million to Colorado community nonprofits since 2007 at the point of exit — when companies are either acquired or go public.
If you are a founder of a company and subscribe to the #GiveFirst motto that is so central to the Boulder startup community, give me a shout if you want to get plugged into EFCO (if you are in Colorado) or Pledge 1% (if you are anywhere else in the world).