Posts Tagged ‘venture capital’

Nonprofit lipstick on a startup pig?

May 14, 2008

In the midst of a conversation on the 501(c)Files among skeptics about “venture philanthropy,” the following comment appeared, suggesting that what’s really going on is a sort of high-end shell game and money laundry. The Nonprofiteer extends her appreciation to commenter JP Burnes for his/her provocative notion:

Venture Philanthropy . . . one of the last few tax write-offs or tax advantageous schemes–-or ways to help buddies get rid of dogs or other unwanted investments[?] Here’s how it works . . . . a non profit . . . creates for-profit entities to generate revenue to help support the non-profit parent. But . . . . a for-profit company, a startup in technology, needs an investment from a known brand . . . to make it attractive to other investors. But the known-brand knows it won’t get anything for its investment in the startup. So the primary backer of the startup, a V[enture]C[apitalist], donates a few million to the name-brand’s parent non-profit. The brand then turns around and invests nearly the same amount into the startup……lots of favors all around.

In other words, a start-up business buys credibility by “donating” to a brand-name nonprofit, whose for-profit subsidiary funnels the money back whence it came. The start-up is no richer than it was before, but no poorer, either, and now it’s able to present itself to potential purchasers as an established pillar of the community instead of a fly-by-night operation–particularly if its founder has gotten some ink as one of those amazing “venture philanthropy” creatures who’ve figured out how to make charity unnecessary.

Comments from people who actually understand venture capitalism eagerly solicited!