A Philly Focus: How This Venture Capitalist Does His Philanthropy

The 44-year-old venture capitalist Josh Kopelman has been in the top 20 of Forbes Midas list for five years. After graduating from Wharton, Kopelman founded Half.com, an online marketplace for used books, movies and music that was acquired by eBay in 2000 for $350 million. Kopelman co-founded First Round Capital in 2004, and has invested in companies such as Linkedin and Uber. In contrast to many other big tech winners we've written about, Kopelman and his wife Rena are based out of Philadelphia, rather than Silicon Valley. The Greater Philadelphia region has been a significant site of philanthropy for the couple, and in 2001, they founded the Kopelman Foundation, which has three grantmaking priorities: Education, Healthcare and Medicine, and Jewish programs.

So far, Kopelman Foundation funding hasn't been overwhelming. In the 2014 fiscal year, the couple's foundation gave around $234,000. The foundation's website explains, "Since our average grant is relatively small, it is important that a gift of this size makes a significant difference to the success of the project." However, the lack of zeroes in their grants may mean that Kopelman is more accessible to certain nonprofits: "We are particularly interested in projects that have not attracted a lot of attention and therefore have previously received limited financial support." True to his entrepreneurial background, Kopelman is especially interested in initiatives that empower people or "involve launching novel enterprises."

In terms of education, this grantmaking category doesn't just involve schools, but also "informal education projects." The couple believes that an entrepreneurial approach can reinvent education. To that end, they've recently funded outfits 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," and 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." Kopelman has a particular interest in at-risk youth, recently giving to YCS, or Youth Consultation Service, which partners with "at-risk and special needs children, youth and young adults to build happier, healthier, more hopeful lives within families and communities."

A component of this philanthropy also involves supporting youth in entrepreneurship and technology. For instance, the couple has funded TechGirlz, "a nonprofit dedicated to reducing the gender gap in technology occupations," and Schoolyard Ventures, "an innovative program that helps teens launch real businesses, non-profits and other projects meaningful to them." It's worth mentioning that Kopelman's wife Rena has been involved in entrepreneurship efforts for women, so this may be something to look for in the couple's philanthropy, too.

In the foundation's healthcare and medicine category, the foundation has focused on conditions and diseases that have directly impacted people close to the Kopelmans. Kopelman and Rena have recently supported health outfits 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.

The Kopelmans have also supported Jewish outfits such as Jewish Relief Agency, Aish HaTorah Philadelphia, Jewish Family and Children's Service of Greater Philadelphia, and Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El. It's important to remember that Kopelman is only in his mid 40s and still very much engaged in business. The couple may ramp up their giving down the line. Those interested in applying for a Kopelman grant should start by reviewing its critera.

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