NET WORTH: Unknown
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Founder of Half.com, co-founder of First Round Capital
FUNDING AREAS: Educational programs and youth, healthcare and medicine, Jewish programs
OVERVIEW: Venture capitalist Josh Kopelman and his wife Rena do their grantmaking through the Kopelman Foundation, which was established in 2001. The couple are particularly interested in "projects that have not attracted a lot of attention and therefore have previously received limited financial support." They have a strong interest in education and youth, with a component of this philanthropy involving support for youth entrepreneurship. Other priorities include assorted health and Jewish causes. A lot of grantmaking involves the Philadelphia area where the couple lives.
BACKGROUND: Josh Kopelman attended Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. In 1992, while a student, he co-founded Infonautics Corporation. In 1999, he founded Half.com, an online marketplace for used books, movies and music that was eventually acquired by eBay for $350 million. Kopelman also co-founded First Round Capital in 2004, and has invested in companies such as Linkedin and Uber.
Rena graduated with an MBA and a law degree from Villanova University. The couple married in 1995. The Kopelmans live in Philadelphia.
EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS: The Kopelman Foundation's website states: "Today's educational system was designed to prepare workers for the Industrial Age and has remained remarkably unchanged throughout the 20th century. The lesson of the past two decades is that we can not spend our way out of our educational problems. Society must take an entrepreneurial approach towards reinventing education."
The foundation supports organizations such as GreenLight Fund, which "transforms the lives of children, youth and families in high-poverty urban areas by creating local infrastructure and a consistent annual process," Springboard Collaborative, which "closes the reading achievement gap by coaching teachers, training family members, and incentivizing learning so that our scholars have the requisite skills to access life opportunities," and YCS Foundation. YCS (Youth Consultation Service) partners with "at-risk and special needs children, youth and young adults to build happier, healthier, more hopeful lives within families and communities." The foundation also awarded grants to Master Charter High School, Steppingstone Foundation, which "develops and implements programs that prepare underserved students for educational opportunities that lead to college success," and Trustees of University of Pennsylvania. Both Kopelman and Rena are Penn graduates.
A component of this philanthropy involves supporting youth in entrepreneurship and technology. Kopelman supported TechGirlz, "a nonprofit dedicated to reducing the gender gap in technology occupations," and Schoolyard Ventures, "an innovative program that helps teens launch real businesses, nonprofits and other projects meaningful to them."
HEALTHCARE AND MEDICINE: When it comes to comes to healthcare, the Kopelmans prioritize causes that affect them personally. According to the foundation website, "we have decided to focus grantmaking on medical conditions/diseases that have directly impacted the lives of our family and friends. Special attention will be given to projects that investigate new and innovative technologies, provide counseling and support for families affected by these diseases, and inform people better about these diseases and their prevention and care.”
Kopelman and Rena have supported health organizations such as Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Lankenau Medical Center Foundation, National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, and the Familial Dysautonomia Foundation. Familial Dysautonomia is a rare genetic neurological disorder that affects the sensory and autonomic nervous systems, causing life-threatening medical complications from birth.
JEWISH CAUSES: Rena is the chair of policy strategy and funding at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. The couple is engaged in supporting a variety of Jewish programs.
The foundation website states: "The Kopelman Foundation seeks to advance a deeper understanding of Judaism—its traditions, values and history—and help Jewish organizations make a positive contribution to contemporary public life. Grants may be awarded to further Jewish education or religious values in society or to support organizations that harness faith to address society problems including poverty and prejudice."
Past grantmaking has involved organizations such as Jewish Relief Agency, Aish HaTorah Philadelphia, Jewish Family and Children's Service of Greater Philadelphia, and Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El. In 2002, the Kopelman Foundation funded a project to digitize and host the complete text of the Jewish Encyclopedia online.
LOOKING FORWARD: Kopelman is only in his 40s and so his grantmaking may increase in the future. It is worth mentioning that Kopelman's wife Rena has been involved in entrepreneurship efforts for women and so this may be something to look for in the couple's emerging philanthropy, too.