Origins: Joshua Venture 1.0
Joshua Venture was originally founded in 1998 by three leading American Jewish foundations that were among the pioneers of a social entrepreneurship model in the Jewish community. These funders – the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Righteous Persons Foundation, and the Walter and Elise Haas Fund – sought to empower young leaders with the resources and tools to build influential projects that would bring new life to their Jewish communities.
Over the course of its operations, Joshua Venture supported two cohorts, comprised of eight Fellows each, assisting them to introduce groundbreaking ventures to the Jewish world – the majority of which continue to operate across a variety of fields today. Alumni of the Fellowship and their ventures have been recognized for their innovative contributions to the Jewish organizational landscape, including being named to the Forward 50 and listed in Slingshot, among other accolades.
Re-imagining the Program
While the success of Joshua Venture’s Fellows abounded, due in no small part to the support they received from the organization, serious governance, financial, and management challenges led Joshua Venture’s board to put the organization’s activities on hold. In 2005, Joshua Venture suspended its operations, but not before leaving its mark as a pioneer in the now burgeoning field of Jewish social entrepreneurship.
A small group of leaders spent the next two years evaluating the program’s effectiveness; restructuring its governance, program and funding model; and building a strong financial foundation. In 2008, a group of philanthropists – the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, the Lippman Kanfer Family Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation and the Stanford and Joan Alexander Foundation – committed to funding a relaunched Joshua Venture’s core operations. A new, independent board of directors, and an experienced and dynamic executive director, were recruited to steer the vision and direction of the newly reconstituted program.
The Emergence of Joshua Venture Group
Building on the strong foundation of the original Joshua Venture, and having learned much from its successes and shortcomings, Joshua Venture Group rolled out an enhanced version of its earlier incarnation in 2009. The addition of the word “Group” to our name reflects an emphasis on the fellow cohorts and their respective endeavors that will collectively impact the Jewish world. As it also alludes to a venture capital business, it highlights that those projects to be funded and mentored will be held accountable for their performance and judicious use of funds.
Joshua Venture Group’s primary initiative, the Dual Investment Program, focuses on investing in visionary leaders and in groundbreaking ideas. Throughout the two-year program, each Fellow receives funding and support services worth over $100,000. With this investment, we believe that our Fellows will play an important role in transforming our Jewish communities as they exist today.