Tmura uses donated stock and stock options to benefit Israeli schools and youth programs.Change is the one constant in Israel’s ever-growing group of nonprofits, known as the Third Sector, and Tmura, the Israeli Public Service Venture Fund, is banking on it.
Tmura, which in Hebrew means “change” as well as “value for money” is a nonprofit organization founded in 2001 to increase the involvement of the high-tech community in charitable activity in Israel. Tmura wants to develop a “culture of giving” within the high-tech sector and is eyeing the many growth companies in this industry and making the most of their capabilities. Tmura has an innovative plan to harness this emerging wealth to make gains for the greater good.
Yadin Kaufmann, the co-founder of Veritas Venture Partners, one of Israel’s leading venture capital funds, is the visionary founder of Tmura. Kaufmann, who holds a B.A. from Princeton University and an M.A. and J.D. from Harvard University, knows Israel’s high-tech marketplace well. As the co-founder of Veritas, he manages venture funds that invest in early-stage high-tech companies in Israel. He recognized the similarity between the for-profit business world and the philanthropic orbit.
Raising funds, evaluating worthy projects, and supporting and assisting investment beneficiaries are the hallmarks of the highly competitive venture capital industry. Utilizing these same principles, Tmura, led by Executive Director Baruch Lipner, hopes to help nonprofit organizations in the fields of educational and youth programming, while at the same time encouraging an emerging Third Sector in Israel.
Focusing on early-stage companies with the potential for high capital appreciation, Tmura reaches out to private and sometimes public companies for donations of equity stock and stock options. (Tmura, it should be noted, also is a play on the word truma, which means “donation”). Gifts of stock and stock options are less taxing to a company during its startup phase than cash contributions and have more potential for gain. In making these donations, these venture capital funds and companies are motivated by a desire to better Israeli society, to create pride in their employees, and to create positive networking relationships. These entrepreneurs are hoping for business success, knowing that it will also benefit those in need.
Already three energized startup companies are taking the lead. KiloLambda, which is developing state-of-the-art components and subsystems for vendors of the all-optical network; Sight Code, which is developing a generic software environment for designing and developing complex business systems; and U.C.G. Technologies, which is developing products for medical imaging based on novel image-processing algorithms, have signed on. These three high-tech companies are allocating a percentage of their equity, in the form of warrants, to Tmura, sharing the goal of advancing educational and other youth-related projects.
“We are thrilled that these three companies share our belief in the importance of partnership between the corporate and philanthropic sector. We’ve seen this type of partnership work through the Entrepreneurs’ Foundation in high-tech centers in the U.S. such as Silicon Valley and Austin, Texas. With companies like KiloLambda, Sight Code, and U.C.G. Technologies setting an example, we hope Tmura will have this same success in Israel,” Kaufman said.
Once a company’s shares are liquid, Tmura exercises the options and sells the shares. The funds then are allocated to worthy nonprofit causes in Israel. The recipient organizations come from a highly selective and researched inventory of charitable organizations that focus primarily on Israeli education or youth-related programs. Additionally, Tmura will consult with these philathropic startup companies in this evaluation process.
“We hope to create a norm whereby every new high-tech company and venture capital firm understands that they can contribute philanthropically through Tmura. Our goal is to make an equity contribution to Tmura part of every high-tech investment in Israel. We’re building not only the high-tech industry, but an infrastructure to support critical nonprofit programs as well,” Lipner said.
Thus far, support for this vision has been strong from the high-tech community. Several leading Israeli venture capital firms including Veritas, Jerusalem Global, Giza, Gemini, Walden, Pitango, Vertex, Infinity, and Tamir Fishman, contributed seed funding to establish Tmura. Tmura also received significant pro-bono assistance through a number of leading professional service firms including the law firms of Gross, Kleinhendler, Hodak, Halevy, Greenberg & Co. in Israel, and Mintz Levin, and Morrison Cohen in the United States, as well as the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers/Kesselman.
Tmura knows that success won’t happen overnight – not for the philanthropic-minded startups and VCs, or for the nonprofits that receive the gifts. What Tmura does know is that it is one of many innovative organizations helping to create a sea change in Israel’s ever-emerging philanthropic sector.