Written by Julie Maples. Originally published on LinkedIn.com
Today, FYRFLY Venture Partners officially joined Coach K’s Dream Team. No, Philipp Stauffer and I have not been drafted to play basketball for Duke. Rather, we are making a significant donation to the V Foundation for Cancer Research Endowment, which enables the organization to mobilize 100% of direct donations towards finding cures for cancer. In doing so, we have fulfilled part of our commitment to Pledge 1%, a global movement to build philanthropy into the DNA of companies.
We are sharing this news because we want more founders and investors to Pledge 1%.
Today, humanity faces a once-in-a-generation challenge. Unemployment, civil strife, food insecurity, and the grief of losing loved ones to COVID-19 have stricken too many communities. However, 2020 has been a boom year for technology startups, an unusually high number of which are going public. The many liquidity events of 2020 have given entrepreneurs and investors the opportunity to make a difference at this crucial juncture in history.
If you’ve been graced by fortune this year, I encourage you to Pledge 1%. How you fulfill your pledge is a personal decision. I’d like to share why FYRFLY pledged and how that led us to Coach K’s Dream Team.
When Philipp and I founded FYRFLY in 2015, we didn’t see ourselves as an “impact” fund, but wanted to make philanthropy a core of our identity and mission anyway. We took our lead from Salesforce founder Marc Benioff, whose 1-1-1 philanthropy model was gaining traction through Pledge 1%. Philipp and I committed to donate 1% of our carried interest, 1% of our time, and 1% of our product to charity. Many of our portfolio companies have also adopted these practices, which have become a crucial part of their brand identity and success. We encourage our founders to focus on issues that have impacted their lives.
So, why did cancer become one of FYRFLY’s main areas of support? And why The V Foundation?
Founded by the legendary college basketball coach and commentator Jimmy Valvano, who passed away from cancer in 1993, the V Foundation is on a mission to cure cancer. Coach K (aka Mike Krzyzewski), a dear friend of Jimmy’s, is leading the charge to sustain the V Foundation in these chaotic economic times.
My father produced the first Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly (ESPY) Awards in 1993. Jimmy V received the Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award that day. During his acceptance speech, Jimmy announced that, with ESPN’s support, he was launching the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research and stated his famous edict: “Don’t give up…Don’t ever give up!”®
Nearing the end of his life, Jimmy did not give up. Instead, he asked the audience for research funding. “It may not save my life. It may save my children’s lives. It may save someone you love,” said Jimmy.
I lost my mother to cancer at a young age and connected deeply to Jimmy’s cause. Philipp lost his mother to cancer as well. Worldwide, more than 9.5 million people will die of cancer in 2020. It is the second leading cause of death globally. But thanks to world-class research funded by The V Foundation and other nonprofits, we have drastically better treatments for cancer today than we did in Jimmy’s day. Now more than ever, there is HOPE for cures.
Today, I am the chairwoman and co-founder of The V Foundation Wine Celebration, which has raised over $118 million for cancer research. When I founded the event, I wanted to give my time and effort. Yet being a part of “The V Team” and serving alongside Coach K and other esteemed members, I’ve learned that sharing a mission to change lives has given me far more in return.
Pledge 1% was one of the most important decisions FYRFLY Venture Partners has made. It has defined the spirit of our work, reminding us always to consider the impact of our investments and our advice to founders. Indeed, we believe that ‘Impact’ Investing is the Only Kind Left.
In joining Coach K’s Dream Team and being explicit about our Pledge 1% commitment, we are proud to honor our mothers, Jimmy V, and our mission at FYRFLY Venture Partners to align commercial success with the common good.
If curing cancer is a cause dear to your heart, join us on Coach K’s Dream Team. Either way, Pledge 1%, pick causes that fill you with passion, and use your resources to do good. Your leadership and support matter.