May 23, 2013
Henry McCance Draws on the VC Model for Philanthropic Collaboration
The nonprofit uses the venture capital model to fund breakthrough research on Alzheimer's disease. It's a fitting model for the former head of Greylock Partners, current part-owner of the Boston Red Sox, and a man Forbes magazine once labeled as one of the nation’s top 10 venture capitalists. "Venture capitalists are active investors; we're not passive investors," he says. "We go on the boards; we work with the CEO, so it was natural for me to want to be involved in this activity more than just financially supporting it—that's where I get my fun."
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In other words, silos tend not to produce innovation—collaboration does. McCance's group was providing VC-type funding for the researcher's projects without the hurdles of bureaucracy, but in return it became clear that the researchers too would have to give something: "The catch was you need to meet in person with one another four times a year on a Cure Alzheimer’s Fund research consortium call," says McCance. The goal of such meetings was to provide researchers with a forum for information sharing and collaboration. "And out of that will come new ideas, new thoughts, new tangents to run with, and you've got to use those things." McCance says that such meetings—where researchers can brainstorm and share ideas—are critical to setting priorities for the Cure Alzheimer's Fund.
For McCance's philanthropic journey, realizing that he needed to foster collaboration among researchers in order to achieve his goals was an important lesson. It resulted in "something pretty good," he says.
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