Venture broker – Focus on technology

By Todd Cohen

In addition to rounding up funding and startup help for entrepreneurs, a new venture firm also aims to plug its clients into philanthropy and, when possible, help meet nonprofits’ technology needs.

VentureSurf, which matches investors and advisers with entrepreneurs, encourages all of them to support nonprofits.

“We feel that it is a very attractive way for our community of potential donors to contribute in a way that makes sense to them by providing technology for nonprofits,” says Karen Svensson, director of philanthropy for VentureSurf, based in Palo Alto, Calif.

The firm – which takes a percentage of “angel” investments it helps arrange for entrepreneurs, as well as a share of the entrepreneurs’ stock – also provides its own support for nonprofits, and has created a philanthropy committee to advise it and its clients.

VentureSurf already has helped arrange contributions for two groups – TechFoundation, a philanthropy in Cambridge, Mass., that support nonprofits’ use of technology, and Brave Kids, a San Francisco nonprofit that provides Internet access for children with terminal diseases.

VentureSurf is developing a strategic partnership with TechFoundation that generally calls for VentureSurf to encourage its investors and entrepreneurs to contribute pre-IPO stock to the foundation.

VentureSurf encourages all its investors and entrepreneurs to contribute 100,000 shares of stock to philanthropy to TechFoundation, Community Foundation Silicon Valley in San Jose, Peninsula Community Foundation in San Mateo or Entreprenuers’ Foundation in San Francisco.

N2Plus, for example, is a startup firm in Glendale, Ariz., for which VentureSurf helped secure seed financing. Before its sale to Digital Bridge, last fall, N2Plus pledged 1 percent of its founders’ stock to TechFoundation.

VentureSurf, which had six entrepreneurs under contract by the end of 2000, also aims to actively support two to three nonprofits at any given time.

Brave Kids, for example, was looking for foundation grants, so VentureSurf hooked up the nonprofit with a pro-bono grantwriter. The firm also is trying to help line up corporate funding for the nonprofit.

VentureSurf also plans to refer nonprofits it supports to TechFoundation for grant support and tech assistance.

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