Brad Feld is giving away $100,000 to improve diversity in tech, and I just grabbed some of it.
Earlier this summer Brad Feld, noted venture capitalist and Techstars godfather, quietly announced he was offering a 2–1 match up to $100,000 of his own money for donations to the Techstars Foundation, a seemingly little-known effort that really deserves more attention for the good it is doing. The mandate of this foundation is pretty great — to increase underrepresented minorities in tech entrepreneurship through grants and scholarships (full disclosure, I’m not involved with them in any way, but I did attend Techstars a while ago). It is not traditional startup funding.
The foundation is currently in a campaign to raise $300,000 by end of summer. A 2–1 match is too good to pass up, so I sprang for the chance to make him a few hundred dollars poorer for a good cause. Plus, now I can call myself a “tech philanthropist”.
At first glance the foundation’s site didn’t offer a lot of detail into how it was going to spend the donations. So I reached out to Ali Berman, the foundation’s director. Below are her answers to some questions I had:
Is the foundation being set up as a 501(c)(3)?
Yes, we are a donor advised fund under the Community Foundation of Colorado, so all donations are tax deductible.
If so, how do you intend to divide the endowment between internal expenses and external disbursements?
100% of the Foundation contributions currently go towards grant-making. Techstars covers all costs, including director salary, outside of the foundation. All the money coming into the foundation is slated to go back out to have the most impact.
How are the grant proposals evaluated?
Grant requests are evaluated against the following criteria:
- Impact on underrepresented groups
- Focus on tech entrepreneurship
- Ability for Techstars to amplify through the network.
Grants are evaluated by myself and our advisory board.
How are the grant amounts determined, and for how many recipients?
As a new foundation, we are still experimenting what works best and how we can provide the most support to the organizations we give grants to. We decided to fund 5 smaller grants the first round and are discussing 2 larger grants for the second round.
If I care about a particular aspect of diversity, for example, encouraging more women to work in tech, is it possible to earmark my donation for that kind of project?
Yes, we could do that. Since the foundation is still fairly small most of the donations have been unrestricted, but I would be happy to explore that with you if of interest.
Do you have any mechanisms in place to avoid conflicts of interest?
We have an engaged advisory board to help with conflict of interest. The advisory board members are:
Mary Grove: Director, Google for Entrepreneurs
Rod Robinson: CEO, ConnXus
Jenny Lawton: former COO, Littlebits
Lucy Sanders, CEO, NCWIT
Brad Feld: Foundry Group
Jeremy Shure, Horizon Media, Techstars mentor
Nicole Glaros, CPO, Techstars
David Brown, Managing Partner, Techstars
David Cohen, Managing Partner, Techstars
If you’re tired of the pattern matching that goes on tech, or if you are frustrated at the glacial pace tech companies seem to move at in improving diversity in hiring, then please consider a donation. Here is a direct way to help influence that outcome. Feld’s matching period ends in a month.