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Impact Investing & The Clean Energy Economy   


By Christian Braemer

Cofounder & CEO, Benefunder

I had the pleasure of attending the recent White House Clean Energy Investment Summit, which brought together key players in government, as well as entrepreneurs, institutional investors, and philanthropists.


If there was one key takeaway, it was that green energy has proven itself as an industry and looks to have a bright future. Not only was the White House's $2 billion funding target commitment doubled leading up to the summit, but the investors in the room were talking about real return motivations in addition to impact.


Government seems to be playing a very different role these days. Where it previously had the resources to fund the innovations that breed new industries, the government is now positioning itself as a convener, facilitator, and collaborator.


Philanthropy and investing used to be separate; now philanthropy is filling in where government and traditional investors are falling short. Donors are using their charitable dollars to invest, allowing them to incorporate the kind of skills that anchored their own successes. Their philanthropy is allowing them to continue that, and at the same time solve major problems in the innovation life cycle. This socially responsible investing has an opportunity to introduce a new and scalable source of risk capital, filling the void left by federal and corporate cutbacks and venture capital.


There's no shortage of breakthrough technologies being developed in universities and national labs -- from state-of-the-art flexible solar technology to affordable, zero-emission fuel cell cars, and NextGen electronics. What's needed, however, is more funding for research and the early-stage capital that can translate these projects into thriving companies.


Our vision at Benefunder is to allow donors to connect with researchers working to solve the problems they care most about, and when or if a technology is ready for the real world, the donor could contribute equity dollars to help kickstart companies. Imagine syndicating a research project or startup deal with a major wealth management firm. That's what we hope one day will become a reality.







To learn more about our Charitable Innovation Fund, please contact Tom Paparatto at






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Welcome to the Benefunder Impact Report, a bimonthly newsletter created to inform and inspire. Our mission is to help create a new marketplace for planned giving, while fueling innovation. 


Incorporating Impact Into Your Client Conversations

There is a current boom happening in impact investment funds, and many firms now offer investment vehicles that favor social or environmental value over gains. Often, financial gains are not a client's primary objective in their career paths and therefore money becomes more of a tool than a pursuit in achieving their life goals. 

According to a PNC Wealth Management study, "Responsibilities and Money: How the Wealthy View Their Role in Society," 70% of respondents believe they bear "a special responsibility in society to help the less fortunate." Additionally, 83% believe that investing in private business and industry is the most efficient engine of societal improvement.


Whether impact investments are made philanthropically, in impact funds, or direct investments in public or private companies, Benefunder can facilitate a holistic approach to giving that takes into account the skill sets and values that got the client to where they are today.


Incorporating this approach into your practice not only brings you closer to your client, but it makes the advisor relationship that much more important to clients, prospects, and their families. Some wealth management firms have even reported doubling their assets since incorporating sustainable and impact investing into their practices.

To enhance your philanthropy strategy with clients with impact investing, contact Tom Paparatto at

*This tip is for information purposes only and should not be considered tax advice.

Life Science Veteran Terry Bruggeman Joins Benefunder Board

Benefunder is pleased to announce biotech and business leader Terry Bruggeman has joined our Board of Directors .


Bruggeman currently serves as executive chairman of BioTork, LLC, an industrial biotechnology company developing third generation biofuels, renewable chemicals and related co-products; and executive chairman of Evolugate LLC, a developer of advanced evolution technologies.


He has also served on numerous nonprofit boards, including California State University San Marcos and the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, and is currently a board member of BIOCOM, Chairman's Roundtable, and Lincoln Park Zoological Society.       


"Terry brings deep financial, governance, and operational experience to the Benefunder board. We're lucky to have him and look forward to benefiting from his vast network and hands-on approach," said Christian Braemer, Benefunder's cofounder and CEO.        


Bruggeman's career has included: general partner of a private equity firm; COO and CEO of private equity and venture-backed companies, co-founder of a leasing company; treasurer and CFO of two NYSE listed public companies; an investment banker focused on restructuring underperforming and troubled companies; and chairman, president and CEO of Diversa Corp. (NASD: DVSA), now BASF/Verenium Corp.    


"I am delighted to join the Benefunder board. Benefunder offers a unique nationwide platform to connect basic and application researchers from world-renowned institutions with a new generation of philanthropists to fill the growing gap of funding needs. These activist philanthropists want to make certain that their giving makes an immediate impact," Bruggeman said.



Share America: Stretching Liquid Metals and Other Undergrad Pursuits

Benefunder researcher Darren Lipomi, a nanoengineer at UC San Diego, was recently featured in a Share America article about research labs in the United States and opportunities for undergraduate students.


In Lipomi's lab, students from Belarus, Thailand, and Mexico are part of the research team working on solar energy - specifically, the pursuit of less expensive and less brittle solar panels.

Read the article here.



Nature Article on Researcher Christopher Lowry: Vaccine Hope for Post-Traumatic Stress


Benefunder researcher Christopher Lowry of the University of Colorado Boulder is getting a lot of attention for his work on developing a vaccine for PTSD.  A recent Nature article about Lowry's research explains how tweaking the immune system could be key to treating, or even preventing, post-traumatic stress disorder.    

Early clinical trials have shown that anti-inflammatory drugs can reduce symptoms of depression, raising hopes that such treatments might be useful in other types of mental illness, such as PTSD. Read more here.



Benefunder Goes to Philly: BIO International Convention   

B enefunder's Larry Mahan participated in the recent

which attracted top innovators in the life sciences industry.  


The event, which had more than 15,000 attendees, included cutting-edge presentations, and compelling keynote speakers shedding light on the future of healthcare. While the conference is industry focused, the role of academic research in fueling the commercialization pipelines of life sciences companies was recognized with a number of leading research universities in attendance who exhibited their technology opportunities. Among those prominently displayed was Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, with whom Benefunder recently announced a strategic partnership. 


"University research has led innovation in many fields, and Benefunder's mission to enhance the ability of individuals and community foundations to directly impact these excellent programs could not come at a better time," Mahan said.

From lifestyle changes to treating disabilities, transforming healthcare, and improving medical devices and diagnostics, Benefunder's platform features some of the nation's top researchers who are discovering groundbreaking solutions in the life sciences. Explore more here. 





As parts of California experience triple digit heat this holiday week, we are once again reminded of the state's four-year drought. California residents have been put on high alert that conservation is a necessity; agriculture and industry are being blamed for wasting; and accurately gauging the actual water supply is still something that eludes our system.


Roger Bales, a civil and environmental engineer at the University of California, Merced is looking at ways to calculate our water supply, predict water patterns, and improve technologies so we have sustainable resources for everyone. Bales believes that by understanding mountain-valley water cycles we can increase water sustainability. His ultimate goal is to influence wiser decision-making on water-related problems prevalent in California today. Learn more about his important work here and how you can help fund his research.