Representatives of leading venture capital (VC) firms in Israel announced today in Tel Aviv the official launching of Tmura -- The Israeli Public Service Venture Fund. The goal of the fund is "to increase the involvement of the hi-tech community in non-profit activity in Israel, with a focus on education and other youth initiatives." The translation of the Hebrew word tmura is "change/metamorphosis," and also "value for money." The root is similar to truma, which means contribution,
"The mission of Tmura is to support charitable initiatives in Israel, with a special emphasis on educational activities and youth opportunities," said Yadin Kaufmann, a founding partner of Herzliya-based Veritas Venture Capital. "In this way, we hope to develop a culture of giving within the hi-tech sector, and share the wealth that is being created by the country's technology industry.
"We recognize the need to give back to the community, especially in light of widening social gaps between the richer and poorer segments of society," Kaufmann continued. "Tmura also wishes to strengthen the societal base from which future entrepreneurs and thus potential portfolio companies in whom we could invest will emerge."
Joining Kaufmann in launching the initiative were venture capitalists Shlomo Kalish of Jerusalem Global Ventures and Zeev Holtzman of Giza Venture Capital. Other VC firms that have already announced their support are Walden, Gemini, Tamir Fishman and individual venture capitalists Arad Naveh (of Benchmark Israel), Amos Bar-Shalev (of TDA) and Daniel Barkan.
Other entities donating their services on behalf of the effort are the law firm of Gross, Kleinhendler, Hodak, Halevy, Greenberg & Co., as well as the accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers. The latter is negotiating with the tax authorities for tax-deductible status for Tmura, which is planning to register as a non-profit organization and "serve as a bridge between hi-tech and non-profits," according to Kaufmann. The public relations firm Ruder, Finn is also donating its services, as have Web site designers Yaniv Dvir and Tanya Roitman.
Kaufmann said that the model for Tmura is one that is already operational in the US, by the Silicon Valley and Austin Entrepreneur Foundations. Holtzman noted that the same model was actually introduced by Israel Seed Partners of Jerusalem, under venture capitalist Jon Medved.
The way the process works is that VC funds will ask hi-tech start-ups to set aside 0.5 percent to 1% of their equity for the charitable work of Tmura.
When a liquidity event or exit occurs -- such as an investee company going public, or being acquired -- the value of that amount of stock will be transferred to Tmura, whose board of advisors will then allocate money to projects that will have been identified as worthy.
Kalish said Tmura hopes to make grants of $5 million within five years.
"Jewish tradition teaches that we must be a world leader in this area," he said.
Tmura has begun a capital campaign to underwrite the operating expenses of the organization, so that as close as possible to 100% of the eventual proceeds can go directly to the charitable activities. VC firms, professional service firms, corporations donors and individuals have begun making commitments, Kaufmann said, in order to cover such expenses as hiring a director, publishing promotional literature, maintaining a Web site (www.tmura.org) and organizing fundraising events.