Venture capitalist Ira Ehrenpreis was an early entrant in the cleantech space, an early investor and board member at Tesla, and is now an early investor in mission-driven heartland tech companies via his firm DBL Partners (Double Bottom Line). Ehrenpreis has made a point of investing in entrepreneurs who are contributing to both their communities and their cash flow, and he sees no tradeoff between the two.
“I really want to debunk the old view that to get top financial returns you have to give up social and environmental returns,” Ehrenpreis said in an onstage interview at the VentureBeat Blueprint summit in Reno, Nevada. DBL investments include Mapbox, Apeel, SpaceX, Farmers Business Network, Advanced Microgrid Solutions, and Off Grid Electric.
“It’s not a zero-sum game or a tradeoff if you back the sort of entrepreneurs we’re backing. There’s an unprecedented wave of entrepreneurs right now who don’t believe in those tradeoffs. They don’t buy into the 18th or 19th century idea that you make money by day and think about your mission at night, or make money when you’re young and get into philanthropy later in life.”
Ehrenpreis cited Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk as a key example, and said the generation of millennial entrepreneurs coming up behind him are emblematic of this ethos as well. DBL’s first fund was focused on investing in underserved areas — typically low and moderate-income communities.
“We wanted to find those left behind and use entrepreneurship to catalyze economic development and job opportunities,” Ehrenpreis said. The firm continues to track its investments in low and moderate-income communities, as well as the diversity of the entrepreneurs it funds.
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