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Posts Tagged ‘Lane Turner’

Here’s a story about venture capital with a do-good focus.

Sacha Pfeiffer writes at the Boston Globe, “Among entrepreneurs, there’s a dreaded place called the Valley of Death. That’s where startup companies go when they run out of funding before making money on their own, and it’s an especially common fate for clean-energy startups, like manufacturers of solar panels and wind turbines. …

“But what if that early-stage, high-risk financing could instead come from philanthropists, who aren’t driven by profit? Later, traditional investors could step in and supply continued funding.

“That’s the concept behind PRIME Coalition, a year-old Cambridge nonprofit that has pooled $1 million from wealthy donors, including Hollywood actors Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, as seed money for its first investment: an energy storage startup company. …

“PRIME rethinks the traditional definition of charitable work and charitable giving. Its founder, 30-year-old MIT graduate Sarah Kearney, argues that companies whose products or services reduce greenhouse gases are doing a social good, just like soup kitchens and homeless shelters, so they should be able to receive philanthropic funding. In this case, the social benefits include conserving the environment and fighting climate change.

“The group searches for early-stage alternative energy companies … then locates philanthropists or socially minded for-profit investors to fund them. Those could include charitable foundations, investment offices of wealthy families, and donor-advised funds. …

“Peter Rothstein, president of the New England Clean Energy Council, said philanthropic funding ‘can make a significant dent’ in filling the need for early-stage capital for clean-tech companies.” More here.

It is not unheard of for philanthropy to put its investment dollars into companies that provide a social good. Read about the Heron Foundation’s decision to do so some years back in “Expanding Philanthropy’s Reach: Mission-Related Investing,” here.

Photo: Lane Turner/Globe Staff
PRIME Coalition founder Sarah Kearney says that companies whose products or services reduce greenhouse gases are doing a social good and should be able to receive philanthropic funding.

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I need to ponder a bit before deciding how I feel about publishing books that don’t earn anything for the author and that cost the “buyer” only an unenforceable promise to make a donation to a charity.

I was discussing this with Asakiyume by e-mail this morning. She self-published the delightful Pen Pal and has often said she is more interested in getting people to read the book than in making a lot of money off it. But neither us feels that artists should be expected routinely to give away the fruits of their labors. (If they really want to, there are worthy groups like Artists for a Cause that can make it happen.)

Kathleen Burge describes the new publishing concept in today’s Globe. “When the Concord Free Press was just a radical idea with a one-title book list, founder Stona Fitch nervously pitched Wesley Brown, hoping to persuade the acclaimed author to let him publish Brown’s latest novel.

“ ‘You want me to give you this novel I’ve been writing for years,’ he recalls Brown saying. ‘You’re not going to pay me. And you’re going to give it away for free and hope that readers donate money to something else.’

“ ‘I said, “Wes, yeah, that’s pretty much it.” There’s this long pause and I’m waiting for something bad to happen. And he said, “I’m in.” ’ …

“Readers agree to give away money, in any amount: to a charity, a stranger on the street, or someone who needs it. Donations since 2008 total $409,250 — and that is just those reported back to the publisher. Readers are also asked to pass along the book once they are finished, so donations continue to multiply. …

Gregory Maguire , who wrote Wicked, the wildly popular novel that became a Broadway musical, saw a chance to free himself from his reputation as only a fantasy writer — the way he is promoted by his publisher, HarperCollins — and try a new kind of novel.

“After the book, a tragic farce titled The Next Queen of Heaven, debuted with the Concord press, his publisher paid him a very welcome advance to issue a second — much larger — edition of the work.”

More here.

I can see how this rather Utopian approach could work for an established writer who wants to try a new genre. But the big hurdle for new writers is publicity. They can’t generate their own very well. How do they get into the right hands once they are published?

Photo: Lane Turner/Globe Staff
The Concord Free Press gives away books for free to readers who will donate to a charity or person in need.

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