How DBL Partners’ Ira Ehrenpreis looks for both community and financial returns

March 6, 2018

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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