Venture capitalist Alan Patricof delayed a trip to St. Barts last week to be honored by Trickle Up at Cipriani Wall Street. Last night, he was back at the catering hall to be honored by the Opportunity Network.
In between, Patricof squeezed in some down time on the tiny French Caribbean island with his wife, Susan, and son Jamie -- the producer of the Ryan Gosling movie “The Place Beyond the Pines.” His wife, Kelly Sawyer, joined Jessica Alba and Nicole Richie for partying at Le Ti St Barth.
On the island of Manhattan at the April 2 Trickle Up Gala, Patricof said: “I think I coined this expression and pounded it into everyone in this organization: Trickle Up provides small seed grants to get women started in business.”
The women who have benefited are in Africa, India, Latin America and other parts of the developing world. They receive grants of $100 to $250, along with advice, training and encouragement. They buy seeds to plant, or thread to weave into scarves.
“The organization has helped 80,000 businesses, and 300,000 to 400,000 people,” said Patricof, managing director of Greycroft Partners LLC, who recently left Trickle Up’s board after serving for 10 years. “It’s probably the world’s largest venture-capital firm, and no firm has greater return on investment. The difference is eating two times a day instead of one, or living under a solid roof as opposed to a thatched hut.”
At last night’s gala, called the “Night of Opportunity,” Patricof described his part in the founding of the Opportunity Network with Brian Weinstein, now head of corporate finance at Creative Artists Agency.
“Ten years ago, Brian Weinstein came to see me in my office, to tell me about an idea he had for a new approach to mentoring young high-school students,” Patricof said.
The idea was to work intensively with high-performance, low-income students to help them tap into resources and networks they would otherwise not have access to -- or even know existed.
Under the leadership of founder and Executive Director Jessica Pliska, the program now follows 10th graders through college, offering guidance, internships and training in everything from how to shake hands to delivering an “elevator pitch.” The organization works with 416 students at 91 public schools in New York.
“I told Brian all the reasons it wouldn’t work, all the obstacles, all the other organizations attempting to do the same thing,” Patricof said. “Not that I was wrong, but he was certainly right.”
Patricof has been a central figure in the Opportunity Network by mentoring and connecting many of the people who built it.
Its chairman, Jason Wright, was hired by Patricof at Apax Partners LP straight out of Wharton and is now a partner there.
“Networking is really the operative word,” Patricof said, encouraging guests to contribute to the organization. “That’s why LinkedIn is so successful. It wasn’t one of my investments, unfortunately.”
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)