Venture Capitalist Shervin Pishevar: Using Philanthropy to Pay it Forward

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Super Angel Shervin Pishevar is famous for being one of Silicon’ Valley’s most successful investors. He went in early with Uber, Airbnb, Postmates and other wildly successful businesses, which made him a sort of oracle for businesses that were going to break big. 

But beyond his wisdom in investing in certain startups, what is Shervin Pishevar really proud of? His record of philanthropy. 

The last few years have shown big changes in the super angel’s life. He abandoned Silicon Valley and moved to Miami with his father, son, and daughter. But even during all this, the venture capitalist has spent an extraordinary amount of time helping the needy and raising money for those less fortunate. How much has philanthropy defined Shervin Pishevar’s life? Let’s take a look.

Pishevar Foundation Helps People Around the World

Though he doesn’t spend time advertising it, super angel Shervin Pishevar and his family opened up a foundation to help people in need all over the world. But the foundation is more than just a way to honor those who need support, it’s a tribute to Abraham Pishevar, Shervin Pishevar’s nephew. 

In late August of 2014, young, promising student Abraham Pishevar boarded a small plane with three other students who were all heading to Case Western University. By all accounts, Abraham was extremely bright and had a promising future who was excited to start college. 

Then the unthinkable happened. The plane, being piloted by a fellow student, crashed near the airport. The harrowing crash killed Abraham Pishevar, Lucas Marcelli, John Hill, and the 20-year-old pilot, William Felton. 

The Pishevar family was devastated. In a website tribute, venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar described Abraham as a model student and a great athlete who brightened up the days of students around him. 

“I am literally on the floor again now thinking of all the possibilities of his life and that he was taken far too soon from us. My son and daughter were very close to him and were more like brothers and sisters,” Shervin Pishevar wrote. “I just told my son that we must live 2 lives now to honor him and his legacy of positive action, love, and humor. That way Abe, as we called him, will live through us and his spirit will never ever die.”

Shortly after, the Pishevar Foundation was started. Since super angel Shervin Pishevar and his family started the foundation, they’ve focused on causes that mean much to them personally. 

Last year, through the foundation, Shervin Pishevar, and his family donated in a big way to the victims of the shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue. The Muslim community, in solidarity, raised more than $70,000 for the families of the 11 people killed and more six people injured, with the Pishevar Foundation answering the call and donating another $25,000. 

Long a champion for victims and the less fortunate, angel investor Shervin Pishevar understood that we are all human, and regardless of religious preference, need to be treated with love and respect. 

Earlier this year, to further honor Abraham Pishevar, Shervin Pishevar and his family participated in Occupy Skid Row, an event designed to help people who are on the streets.

Shervin and his family gathered and delivered hygiene kits, food and clothing for the homeless in front of the Los Angeles Mission. 

an article in the prestigious Journal of the American Medicine Society, which laid the framework on how to document torture.

But what venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar quickly realized was that business and startups were where it was at. 

At 23 years old, Shervin Pishevar founded WebOS. It was the very first browser to use a windows-like interface and was seen by the Financial Times as a disruptive technology that could be a game-changer. 

Then super angel Shervin Pishevar did something extraordinary in 2001: He co-founded and helped run Seges Capital, a venture arm of a $2.5 billion fund for endowments by Vanderbilt University. In this capacity, he backed 17 startups and early-stage companies. 

All of this was happening to a man who came to America as a teen. 

In 2016, he was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, which recognizes, according to the Ellis Island Honors Society: Individuals who have made it their mission to share with those less fortunate, their wealth of knowledge, indomitable courage, boundless compassion, unique talents, and selfless generosity. They do so while acknowledging their debt to their ethnic heritage as they uphold the ideals and spirit of America.

Venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar was also tapped by President Obama to become a member of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, where he helped teachers, scholars and other trainees from other countries participate in exchange programs focused on education.

The investor in Airbnb and Postmates and uber and Slack also championed a smoother visa process for talented immigrants in 2011. Named the Startup Visa, venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar proposed a visa for the brightest and best immigrants from other countries to come to America and build businesses in software, biotech, and other areas. 

“Immigrant entrepreneurs are an integral part of the Silicon Valley ecosystem,” he said at the time. “Studies have shown that Silicon Valley has a higher concentration of foreign-born entrepreneurs, technologists, scientists and engineers operating within the high technology sectors including software, semiconductors and biotechnology, than any other US region.”

While the Startup Visa program never made it through congress, it showed Shervin Pishevar’s commitment to immigrants all over the world who wanted to make a difference.

What was Shervin Pishevar’s signature program? The Cyrus Prize. The Cyrus Prize is a $100,000 prize given away every few years to Iranians and Iranian Americans who have shown dedication, talent and promise. Created to celebrate the entrepreneurship of Iranians, he has given the prize to several winners, the first being Dropbox co-founder Arash Ferdowsi.

For a wealthy person like Arash Ferdowsi, who is often seen as the quiet member of the Dropbox founding team, $100,000 is not something that will make or break him. However, the spirit of the prize is to encourage others and pay it forward, which is why other prize winners have donated their $100,000 to other startups and schools.

In 2015, Rostam Zafari developed a test strip kit that was portable and could detect the Ebola virus. Named REDS, or Rapid Ebola Detection Strips, these strips could be deployed and used to control outbreaks in Africa and beyond. He received the Cyrus Prize in 2017 and rather than using it for himself, he turned around and donated it all to The New School, a place where Zafari teaches as an entrepreneur. 

“Getting money early can make you lazy or distracted, and I didn’t want to be either of those things,” Zafari said at the time. “I wanted hunger and grit. I want to feel pressure — the good type of stress that keeps you engaged.”

Another way super angel Shervin Pishevar and his family are helping is through the legal system. Using the motto “What would Abe do?” as a guide, Abraham Pishevar’s father, Afshin, has been doing pro-bono legal work for the homeless, expunging records for the homeless alongside the public defender’s office in Los Angeles.  

Afshin Pishevar has also been helping homeless people use their skills to start a business. In one tweet, Afshin Pishevar spoke of helping a homeless man use his skills as a bike mechanic to gain a certification, and then fix bikes to earn money to support himself. 

But perhaps one of the most stunning ways the family is helping others is through the fires in Bolivia. Earlier this year, super angel Shervin Pishevar’s daughter flew to Bolivia to assist those suffering from the fires in the Amazon. She helped deliver $50,000 in supplies to villagers and the firefighters. Photos from this mission showed firefighters receiving the supplies necessary to combat the deadly fires burning the rainforest.

All of what the Pishevar Foundation does aligns with what young Abraham Pishevar would have done to help others. In that vein, venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar wrote:

“I love you, Abraham, I’ll see you somewhere in the Universe again someday. I’ve shared this with you today so that Abe’s spirit and wisdom will now be a part of your life. Please hug your loved ones tighter and longer. Life is far too short and infinitely precious.”

The Cyrus Prize Honors Immigrants

One of super angel Shervin Pishevar’s causes is immigrants. This makes sense as Shervin Pishevar himself is an immigrant with a storied past, who came here from Iran when he was young.

In 1974, Shervin Pishevar was born in Tehran, Iran. His father was a radio and television executive who earned the ire of the Ayatollah Khomeini after broadcasting ways foreign nationals could leave Iran. With a dangerous future on the horizon, Shervin Pishevar’s father fled to Silver Spring, Maryland, where he became a cab driver. A year and a half later, future venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar arrived in Maryland with his mother.

Despite being an immigrant, it was quickly apparent that Shervin was an overachiever. After excelling as a student in a math and science magnet school, Shervin Pishevar was accepted to UC Berkeley, one of the top schools in the United States.

On the advice of his mom and dad, super angel Shervin Pishevar studied to become a doctor. He majored in molecular cellular biology and studied Magainin Peptides. He even co-authored.

Birthday Wish Funds charity: water

Philanthropist Shervin Pishevar is a big backer of one of the most successful charities to bring clean water to the world. The name? Charity: water. This charity has built fresh water wells all over Africa and in other places, where people are forced to drink and bathe in dirty water. 

Today, charity: water has funded almost 45,000 clean water projects that have helped an estimated 10 million people all over the planet. The charity has funded and built wells in more than 25 countries, including Africa, India, Bolivia, Honduras, and Haiti. 

Super angel Shervin has long been a fan of the charity, and on one birthday, in 2012, rather than accept gifts, he started a campaign to raise $38,000 for clean water wells. At this point, Shervin had actually traveled to Ethiopia to see the charity’s operations first-hand. On his journey, he says he saw dynamite used to build the wells.

Though the plan by the startup investor was to raise just $38,000, through promotion on his social media channels. He wrote:

“I’m turning 38 years old and instead of asking for gifts, I’m asking for $38, $380 or $3800 or more from everyone I know. It’s not going to me, though. All of it is going to build freshwater projects for people in developing countries.” He continued: “My birthday wish this year is not for more gifts I don’t need; it’s to give clean and safe drinking water to some of the billion people living without it. I want to make my birthday matter this year.”

The birthday campaign was a wild success. The super angel went well beyond that amount he was asking for, $38,000, bringing just over $43,000 to the charity. This was at a time when the idea of asking for charitable donations for birthdays was not common as it is today.

Shervin Supports Malala in Helping Young Receive an Education

In many parts of Pakistan, the right to learn how to read—or even study in school–is not given easily. Malala Yousafzai is a prime example of the risks some women take to learn to read, go to school and educate themselves. 

In 2012, Malala was riding a bus after taking an exam. She was already known as an activist who, a few years earlier, had written a high-profile blog about the Taliban’s occupation of Swat Valley. Tor etailate for that, Malala–and two other girls–were shot by Taliban members in an assassination attempt. Malala was shot in the head and taken to a local hospital. 

Though she survived the attack and later received the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala has become a symbol for women who will do almost anything to access education.

Venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar is a big supporter of her foundation. In a blog post about his philanthropy titled “Gaining Knowledge Can Change Lives”, Shervin talks about his support for Malala’s charity, which does much more than just help women and girls in developing education. 

Malala’s charity does three major things to build on their cause. First, they invest in local activists and educators who know the plight of the girls in their own communities. The organization also holds leaders accountable, pushing for change in regions where politicians and other people are blocking access to education. 

And last, the organization helps girls get their message out so they can share their experiences and encourage other women and girls to get their own education. Malala’s foundation ultimately wants every girl to be able to lead and read. Shervin’s commitment to the organization helps in that mission.

Though Shervin supports many other charities, the former J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board member delivers a steady stream of tweets, blog posts and other information to back causes that pop up. So when a city endures a flood or a country is struggling through a war or immigrants are struggling to make it start the company of their dreams, you can count on the founder of HyperloopOne (now Virgin Hyperloop) to raise awareness, raise money, and above all, help global citizens survive and thrive. And he encourages others to do the same.

“You don’t have to be sitting in a chair in a classroom to learn something new,” he wrote recently. “I encourage you to look around at your own neighborhood to find a place where you can make a difference. For example, while at the university, I volunteered in the emergency room at a local children’s hospital. Being a volunteer is an opportunity to learn and add to your education and experience.”

 

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