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As the co-founder of the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado, I’m a huge fan of what the Entrepreneurs Foundation is all about. Two weeks ago, when I was in San Francisco at Cloud Engines’ offices (makers of the Pogoplug and one of our investments) I noticed their Entrepreneurs Foundation plaque signifying their membership in the bay area chapter. I asked Dan Putterman – the CEO of Cloud Engines – if he’d write a guest post about why Cloud Engines joined the Entrepreneurs Foundation. It follows.
As a serial entrepreneur, it feels like there is always a reason to sacrifice; spending too much time at the office at the expense of one’s family, not getting enough exercise, eating poorly, and certainly not taking enough (or any) time to give back to the community, environment or people in need. The rationale is that at some point there will be the ever elusive "exit" and things will
change. The truth is that most of us perpetuate the circle by starting or getting involved in something new right afterwards (being an entrepreneur seems to be in one’s blood). Although guilt can be a great motivator of change, most entrepreneurs just lament amount their shortcomings and soldier forward (tenacity is also one of the traits that makes us successful).
I’ve been trying to break all of the rules at Pogoplug. Yes, we work hard and pretty much live on email morning and night, but I encourage people to take care of themselves and their family. And I do my best to personally demonstrate this life balance through example. This time around, we joined a wonderful organization called Entrepreneur’s Foundation, a well-run group of high-tech focused philanthropists that help you allocate a little time to give back to your community through events and individual time contribution and actually run a foundation on your behalf based on equity that your company donates to it.
Here’s what’s so cool about this model: the more successful a company is, the more the foundation grows in value. The team then gets to put the money to good use on a liquidation event. This way, if you selfishly work tons of hours one week, you can put the guilt aside knowing that the growing the value of your company is good for more than just you and your investors. During our last board meeting, I proposed that we put 1% of our company into the foundation. Everyone unanimously and enthusiastically approved the motion. With the "big picture" out of the way, we’ve also picked two awesome organizations in San Francisco, 826 Valencia and Homeless Prenatal Program. We’re going to do some group events and spend some personal time helping these organizations, including helping to purchase turkeys for hundreds of families who will prepare their first Thanks Giving meal. EF takes care of all of the details so all we have to do is show up and get involved.
Thanks to EF, we are giving back and feeling great about ourselves – and most importantly, we are breaking some outdated and dumb rules about entrepreneurship.
A month or so ago I got a voicemail from William Barrett at Forbes. His message was something like “call me back – I want to talk to you about your bathroom.” Now, I never view a phone call from one of the major business magazines as a good time. I don’t have a publicist so most of the calls are about something negative – which is fine – but rarely something I’m looking for.
Barrett’s message intrigued me so I called him back. We proceeded to have a hilarious conversation about my CU Bathroom gift along with a variety of other topics concerning charitable contributions. I got off the phone thinking – if nothing else – this article will be funny. The resulting article Cash Strapped Charities Put Donors’ Names On Just About Everything is everything you’d expect it to be.
But – it gets better. On the call Barrett said he might want a picture of me in front of the bathroom. I said “sure” expecting never to hear about it again. A few days later I got a call to schedule a photo shoot at CU. Here’s the result.
That’s my plaque on the left. I haven’t seen the physical copy of the magazine yet (I’ve only seen it online) so I don’t know if the photo made the magazine, but if it did I now get to say that “the first time my picture was in Forbes was while I was standing in a bathroom.”
I love working with Todd Vernon, the CEO of Lijit. Todd and I have been friends since I met him in 1997 when I was an investor in the seed round for Todd’s last company, Raindance (fka Evoke fka Vstream fka Something Data Something I can’t remember). Todd’s a great example of an entrepreneur that you just can’t deny – he’s going to get it done no matter what.
Todd just posted Come to Puttin on the Leash 2009 – his plea for support and participation at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley annual event that is happening on Saturday, April 25th at 6pm at the Coors Event Center on the CU Boulder Campus. The goal for the event is to raise $300K for the programs and services that are provided straight back into the Boulder County Communities.
When Amy and I started ramping up our philanthropic activity a decade ago, we started out anonymously. It felt weird and uncomfortable to talk about what we were supporting, but I soon found out that I was missing the point. While some people talk publicly about the charitable organizations they support for ego purposes, many people are doing it to provide visibility to the organizations they support and leadership for the friends to encourage them to support the things they are interested in. Over time, I’ve developed a deep respect for people putting their mouths where their money is with regard to their philanthropic activities. Todd does this beautifully in his post, describing clearly what HSBV does:
- The HSBV serves 8,000 animals annually.
- The HSBV facilitates 5,300 adoptions annually.
- 40% of the animals who come through the front doors of the HSBV need some type of medical attention through the shelter medicine program.
- 150 Dogs received behavioral modification training last year, from food guarding to separation anxiety.
- Average length of stay for dogs is 4 days, for cats 10, these are outstanding statistics!
- Some of the services the HSBV provides include, Adoptions, lost and found, Veterinary Clinic, Behavior and Training Center, Humane Education, Pet Retail Supplies…
- The HSBV Live Release Rate, representing the percentage of animals who come through the door and are reunited with their guardians or placed with a new family is 89% – this is among the highest in the nation.
I’ve never totally understood the "send out physical greeting cards" thing. I get that it’s a "tradition", but it has always seemed like a waste of time, energy, and money to me. Yes – I know I’ve signed my share of these cards – I’ve just played along, but it doesn’t change the way I feel about them.
I now get a flood of electronic cards (and birthday wishes – thanks everyone!) These make me smile and often generate a response via email from me to people I haven’t talked to in a while. I received very few physical birthday cards this year (which is good) since pretty much everyone that would send me a card sent me an electronic one.
As this is likely to be a horrible year for charitable giving (based on the downturn in the economy), I think this is a fantastic idea. Even if it is a modest amount of money, I (a) got my greeting card from KKO and (b) the money they gave to EFFA is going to be put to good use.
Nicely done guys.
Thanks to Micah Baldwin, a bunch of Colorado bloggers (including me) are putting up DonorsChoose widgets on their blogs. Our goal in Colorado is to displace Fred Wilson as king of last years DonorsChoose technology blog category.
We’ve already got a bunch of great Colorado projects up on the DonorsChoose website. To start things off on my blog, I just gave $200 to the Return To Technology project for Ms. E’s Classroom. Look for the sidebar on the right of my main page or click through on the DonorsChoose website link. Any amount helps – give up Starbucks for a week and join in with $25.