Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

DonorsChoose.org Looking at $11 Million Investment–Finally, a Start-Up BoomTown Can Love

I will admit it–most funding announcements for tech start-ups bore the living daylights out of me.

Writing about however many millions of dollars go to however many frivolous widget companies is about as interesting as watching Robert Scoble’s blog video lectures. (Sorry, Bob!)


So it is nice to see a good (and good-for-you) charity site like DonorsChoose get some money and, hopefully, attention.

The site, which lets teachers upload proposals for resources and projects–from books to playgrounds–they need funding for and matches them with donors, has to be limited in geography. But today, it will open its services to every public school in the U.S. to allow teachers nationwide to get their wish lists fulfilled online.

With the national expansion, the nonprofit hopes be on track to becoming 100% self-sustaining, according to its founder, a former Bronx schoolteacher named Charles Best.

That’s due to $11 million in possible funding from a panoply of big Web players. EBay Founder Pierre Omidyar has promised to pony up $6 million, with Yahoo’s David Filo, longtime VC Vinod Khosla and Netflix’s Reed Hastings adding in the rest. (Khosla was an early supporter, allowing the site to expand to the San Francisco area from its New York base.)

The catch for the funding? Omidyar will release the bulk of his commitment only if DonorsChoose completes the round by Nov. 30.

It seems like a pretty good investment to me, using the Internet to clarify and amplify the donating process. Sort of like eBay meets Match.com meets Amazon. So far, the site has given away $14.5 million to projects.

Best says DonorsChoose authenticates every project proposal before posting it. Then it purchases the resources when a project is funded and sends the goods off to teachers, with some donors also adding in more money to pay for fulfillment costs.

That will now be a lot cheaper and more efficient due to a donation by Ariba of fulfillment software and services to DonorsChoose that the site values at over $2 million. That follows a donation by Filo, said Best, of five Yahoo engineers who were lent to DonorsChoose full-time for five months to rewrite its code base.

But Best is more articulate than I can be, so here is a video of him talking about his site: