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Biz Journal: Venturef0rth’s new leader turns co-working space into nonprofit

December 11, 2014 Category: Uncategorized

This story originally appeared in the Philadelphia Business Journal

Just a few months ago, Venturef0rth’s future was murky. Then Marvin Weinberger stepped in.

News broke in October that serial entrepreneur Weinberger would be acquiring Venturef0rth from its founders, who were apparently planning to close the Callowhill co-working space after their lease expired in December.

Since he took the reigns of the space Nov. 15, Weinberger hasn’t held back. He’s steadily been reworking Venturef0rth’s mission. His biggest change yet: Converting it into a nonprofit — a model much different than most co-working spaces in the city.

“For me, Venturef0rth is not itself because it’s a good real estate play,” Weinberger said. “I’m happy for Venturef0rth to break even.”

Weinberger officially filed the paperwork for the new Venturef0rth Foundation Monday.

Weinberger’s goal is to accelerate young technology companies “by lowering the burdens and increasing accessibility of education, community, expertise, capital and other essential resources,” he said.

Becoming a nonprofit aligns with Weinberger’s plan to create a seed fund for startups, which he announced to the Philly Startup Leaders email listserv late November. The fund, which Weinberger has committed to investing in, too, will be structured as a formal venture fund, and will contribute up to $25,000 in early-stage companies. So far, Weinberger said he has more than $100,000 soft-committed.

“I want to provide companies money to get people from demo day to Series A,” Weinberger said. He also wants to help provide services.

Part of Weinberger’s initiative is to set aside a portion of the space at Venturef0rth for promising startups, such as those that are fresh out of accelerator program DreamIt Ventures. Their workspace will be free until they can pay for it. And if their startup ends up taking a turn for the worse, they still won’t owe anything to Venturef0rth.

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“I’m willing to risk something to help these businesses,” Weinberger said.

Matthew Fineberg, a recent DreamIt graduate, described what Weinberger is trying to do, best: “If DreamIt is undergrad, Venturef0rth will be grad school.”

Weinberger said Venturef0rth’s nonprofit status will make it more attractive for funding, as well as help with taxes.

Weinberger is not new to the co-working scene. He’s been working out of Venturef0rth for about a year now, running his startup American Certified, which the Philadelphia Business Journal profiled in August. He also isn’t new to running a space of the like — albeit unsuccessfully.

Nearly 15 years ago, Weinberger opened what he called the first co-working and incubator space, dubbed Innovation Factory.

“But it opened about five years too early,” he said. “I couldn’t find enough young companies to fill it … I learned a lot from that.”

Photo by Lauren Hertzler

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