Brad Feld, a Boulder, Colorado-based venture capitalist, is one of the founding trustees of the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado (EFCO) (www.efcolorado.org), a new effort that ties Colorado startups into the local philanthropic community. Feld is also busy with TechStars (www.techstars.org), an effort to promote entrepeneurial activity in the state of Colorado. We caught up with Feld to get some insight into his new activities.
Techrockies: Thanks for the interview. It looks like you've been very busy lately, can you tell us a little bit about EFCo and what the purpose of the group is?
Brad Feld: Our goal is to engage entrepreneurial companies in Colorado and involve them in the philanthropic community. We believe it is a great opportunity for the entrepreneurs, their companies, and all the employees of these companies to give back to the communities we love so much.
Colorado has a vibrant entrepreneurial community. Over the past decade, there have been many successful startups that have resulted in numerous entrepreneurs with personal net worth's of multi-millions of dollars. A meaningful percentage of these entrepreneurs are young - many are between the age of 30 and 50. As a result, they often haven't begun any meaningful philanthropic activity. In addition, many of the successful companies are acquired and - as a result - are now owned by companies that are based primarily outside of Colorado.
A group of Colorado entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, lawyers, and The Community Foundation Serving Boulder County have come up with an idea to work with Colorado entrepreneurs to help endow Colorado. Since entrepreneurial success is uncertain - and the vast majority of entrepreneurial endeavors fail - we decided to approach the problem in a unique fashion. Rather than wait for success to encourage philanthropic activity - at which point the successful entrepreneur is likely to be besieged by requests and - if young - not yet certain how she wants to approach her philanthropy, we decided to create a new program - as part of The Community Foundation Serving Boulder County - to help all entrepreneurs contribute early in the creation of their companies to the long term health and sustainability of Colorado.
Techrockies: Entrepreneurs are usually either too short of cash, or time, to get very involved with charities--why should companies get involved with the project?
Brad Feld: That's precisely why the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado exists. Our goal is to engage companies early in their life in the fabric of the community. EFCo is only interested in stock - the foundation and the community benefits in a liquidity event. It's a contribution by the company - so everyone - the entrepreneurs, investors, and employees share in the contribution (and share in the benefit.)
Techrockies: Are there any particular charities that will benefit from EFCo, and how will the funds be used?
Brad Feld: Until there is a liquidity event, the stock or stock equivalent will be held in EFCO. When the grant is made, it will include a pledge agreement that will specify (a) which Community Foundation will be the recipient (e.g. Community Foundation Serving Boulder County, The Denver Community Foundation) and (b) how the grant will be allocated (e.g. by the discretion of the recipient, or to specific categories such as education, environment, or the arts.) The allocations can be to multiple Community Foundations (e.g. 50% to Boulder, 50% to Denver).
Techrockies: You've also been working on another project--TechStars. For those who aren't familiar with the program, what are you hoping to do by offering the program?
Brad Fled: I've got an extensive blog post about TechStars at http://www.feld.com/blog/archives/002136.html. The simple goal is to create a startup bootcamp in Boulder this summer. We are planning on having 10 teams of up to three founders each.
Techrockies: How is that going, and are you getting applicants for your summer program yet?
Brad Feld: We've gotten over 100 applications so far and are very pleased with the response.