By Jemima Whyte. Originally published in the Financial Review.
Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquahar wants every start-up business to commit to giving employee time, equity and funds to charity. He and a program backed by salesforce.com are on their way: they’ve signed up more than 600 businesses in the past 18 months.
“We’re maybe 12 months away from [start-ups] saying it’s odd not to do it,” he says, noting that Silicon Valley start-ups, venture capitalists and angel investors have all got on board Pledge 1 per cent.
More Australian companies will pledge to give 1 per cent of their time, equity and product to not-for-profit organisations next week at the Nexus Youth Summit, which will be launched by Lucy Turnbull on Sunday and held over two days in Sydney’s Double Bay.
Geoff Wilson’s Wilson Asset Management, Future Generation Investment Company and Future Generation Global Investment Company will all pledge. So will eight-year-old tech group Industrie IT.
So far, about 50 Australian companies have signed up out of 600 or so global pledgers. Mr Farquhar would like to see more.
“I think we are slightly underrepresented in Australia for where we’d like to be. I always like to see Australia punch above its weight. Part of that is because we are behind in technology,” he says.
Within the local tech community, Industrie IT chief executive Con Zeritis says the activity around giving back to the community is increasing.
“More and more young companies in their early stages of incorporating are thinking about those structures from the outside. I think often [and in our case] the will is there but perhaps there’s some ambiguity around how to go about implementing it,” he says, adding that the company will hold off on giving 1 per cent of its equity until there is a liquidity event.
As well as creating a community of givers, Pledge 1 per cent provides tools for how to implement the right structures within companies at different stages of the business.
Fund manager Mr Wilson says his case is slightly different from many of the pledgers in that the company was already meeting the targets with employees having one day a month to volunteer at charities and each employee donating $10,000 a year to their charity.
He said in their case, it’s more about alerting others to what they are doing and “developing that conversation” within the funds management industry, which began for him when he approached nearly 20 managers to invest pro bono for the Future Generation funds.
“Let’s take the good things the tech industry is giving us, and some great leadership, and broaden it out to the funds management industry,” he says, adding he’d much prefer to stick with fund managers than attend tech start-up breakfasts and networking events hosted by Pledge 1% members.