Santa Cruz Tech Beat

Companies

Startups Boost Social Good with Tech Shares Initiative

By Teresa Ruiz Decker
Community Foundation Santa Cruz County
Special to Santa Cruz Tech Beat

March 27, 2018 — Aptos, CA

A new initiative by Community Foundation Santa Cruz County gives entrepreneurs a concrete approach to building philanthropy into corporate culture

Marilyn Calciano (from left to right) is President of Community Foundation Santa Cruz County, Susan True is Chief Executive Officer, and Freny Cooper is Vice President. (Contributed)

Best-in-class mountain biking trails, world renowned surfing, a solid offering of coworking spaces and access to talent have helped Santa Cruz grow as a tech community. While the community has its fair share of challenges (housing, traffic, environment and education at the top of the list), there’s no denying that Santa Cruz is great place to lay down roots. The beach and mountains may be a big a draw but it’s the community that keeps people here. Now start-ups have a new way to invest in the place they call home thanks to the Tech Shares initiative by Community Foundation Santa Cruz County.

“We’re inspired by a growing number of early stage companies that want to instill a strong culture of creating social good at the company’s roots,” says Susan True, CEO of the ‎Community Foundation. “These tech leaders are compelled to make Santa Cruz County a better place to live now and in the future. We are here to help do exactly that.”

The Foundation has worked with local companies to create Tech Shares as a way for local start-ups to donate founders’ stock to the Foundation at little or no cost to the companies while integrating social good into their organizational values early on. With the new Tech Shares initiative Community Foundation Santa Cruz County joins a handful of foundations around the country with a strong enough start-up base in their community to take this innovative approach to philanthropy.

“The Santa Cruz tech community has a strong moral compass for social entrepreneurship, are stewards of our natural resources and serve the community,” said Santa Cruz New Tech Meet-Up Founder Doug Erickson. “I’m glad to see the Community Foundation providing guidance to these budding entrepreneurs.”

One early stage company, still in stealth mode, has already donated 20,000 founders’ shares to the Foundation. Discussions involving several more gifts of founders’ stock are in progress. While there’s no guarantee of a payout on these founders’ shares, capturing even a small fraction of the $87 billion in resources venture capitalists invested in 2017 would benefit the community significantly. It’s been done before with companies like eBay in the 90s, and the trend continues today with partnerships like Tableau and the Seattle Foundation, the Pledge 1% initiative and more.

By opening the door for local start-ups to engage in strategic philanthropy, the Foundation helps early stage companies infuse social good into their company culture, attracting new talent and getting their name out in the community and in front of potential investors. At the same time the Foundation builds inroads with the tech community to raise awareness around some of the community’s most pressing issues. In essence, Tech Shares signals Community Foundation Santa Cruz County’s good faith in local start-ups to invest in Santa Cruz and make big bets on a more positive future for Santa Cruz County.

“If it works, this becomes a sort of virtuous cycle,” said Sam Leask, Director of Philanthropic Services at the Foundation. “These companies are saying ‘We benefit from being part of this community, so we are including the community from the beginning. If we’re successful, the community is successful too.’”

Interested in learning more about Tech Shares? Connect with Director of Philanthropic Services Sam Leask or visit www.cfscc.org/techshares.

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