By Steve Guengerich, Guest Blogger
My family and I moved to Austin more than 20 years ago. My career brought me here as a young executive in an information technology services firm that I helped co-found.
It was a good move. Not only was Austin on the verge of becoming one of the globally recognized centers for tech startups that it is today but it was, and still is, a marvelous place to raise a family, plant some roots, and be part of a community.
After we sold that first tech firm, I was fortunate to be in a position to split more and more time between professional work and community work. It was during this period that the Austin Community Foundation first came to my attention.
I quickly learned that the Foundation was what I like to call a “center of gravity” in the Greater Austin community—one of those places that has a very strong force to it that attracts people, resources and respect.
What it didn’t attract, however, was attention. I found this curious, but not altogether unusual. Because, in my work in the tech industry, I’d come to recognize this same quality in the world of investing in new ventures.
You see, most young entrepreneurs and first-time founders learn about the conventional forms of venture capital: angel networks, seed funds, venture capital firms (series A, B, etc.) and so forth. But, what they don’t learn about as often is a class of highly impactful investors I refer to as “the darknet” of capital. These investors operate out of the limelight but share information and leverage relationships to get the right projects off the ground.
There is of course a real “darknet,” a vast a portion of the internet that’s not indexed by most search engines that is composed of peer-to-peer networks and is home to data that scientists access and share for research. In short, it’s where techies hang out, share knowledge and resources, and where great ideas are born. However, most people don’t know about it.
Similarly, the more I learned about the Austin Community Foundation, the more I came to realize its place as a central hub in a web of charitable capital in Austin hidden in plain view.
It’s in plain view, because practically anywhere you look around Austin, Austin Community Foundation has played a unique role—helping to create such essential basic needs providers as the Capital Area Food Bank and People’s Community Clinic; and providing grant or endowment support to the places we all love like the Long Center, museums and arts groups and the Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail and Boardwalk. The Foundation is also the charitable force behind Season for Caring, the Austin American-Stateman’s annual campaign to engage our community in helping those in need during the holidays.
Austin Community Foundation’s name and logo appear in the fine print of hundreds of annual nonprofit donor recognition web pages and performance programs—and yet for a long time the Foundation went relatively unnoticed. Yet, the Foundation touches the lives of individuals, families, nonprofits and companies across Central Texas every day.
In my own example, the Foundation has had enormous impact.
- First, by offering me the privilege of serving as a member of the Board of Governors for three years, with a chance to see and support, first-hand, the life-changing programs at Austin-area nonprofits.
- Second, by being the lowest-cost, highest-value custodian of a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) I created to honor my parents.
- Third, by being the fiduciary sponsor for a social venture that a partner and I were exploring but not yet ready to stand-up as an independent entity.
- And, lastly, as an always-open hub of community-minded people with advice, introductions, and support.
I’m pleased to say Austin Community Foundation is hidden no longer! I’m very excited to see the Foundation is impacting even more organizations and people’s lives through new ways of giving and new strategies to deploy capital like the Impact Investment Fund.
Now everyone can fully appreciate the scope and impact of Austin Community Foundation, locally and beyond, as a launch point for social innovations around our state, our country, and our world.
Steve Guengerich is a life-long entrepreneur and award-winning author, whose newest book, Naturally Caffeinated: Addicted to Entrepreneurship, is available at bit.ly/ncthebook. He is the Managing Director of BroadBrush Ventures LLC, a Principal with Powershift Group, and an Adjunct Professor at St. Edward’s University. Among his many community roles, Steve has served as a member of the Austin Museum of Arts, Austin Social Venture Partners, and Capital Area Workforce Development boards of directors, CEO of Easter Seals of Central Texas, and founder & chairman of Knowbility.