Through its Web site, HopeLink helps connect people to emerging medical treatment options. The founders of the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company plan to announce tomorrow that they are donating 20 percent of HopeLink's stock, 1.38 million shares, to a nonprofit foundation called Web of Hope in an effort to inspire a new model of corporate philanthropy, a company executive said in an interview.
Web of Hope, founded early this year and also based in Menlo Park, was created to invest in and reinvigorate programs to bring orphans prescription drugs and other therapies for treating illness.
"What we want to do is establish what can be a new business model," said Jim Messemer, a medical industry veteran who serves as HopeLink's chief executive. "We all believe here that this is a calling, and we really want to make this a reality so we can make an impact and a societal change."
The idea for HopeLink was born after co-founder Kathryn Tunstall was diagnosed with breast cancer and became frustrated with the lack of relevant information on the Internet. In response, Tunstall founded HopeLink with Messemer and chief operating officer Hugh Hempel in January.
Messemer explained that many people, particularly minorities in urban areas, do not have access to different medical treatments; HopeLink was created "to rectify that situation through the Web of Hope."
Another company taking an active approach to funding charities is teen-focused Web network Snowball.com. The company last month said it would donate $1 million worth of pre-IPO shares to a Silicon Valley charity.
Other companies making philanthropy essential parts of their online businesses include CharityWave, Wave Systems and Working Assets' ShopForChange. In addition, Web giant America Online launched its own charitable site, Helping.org, in October.
HopeLink's key investors include Sun Microsystems co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim; former Netscape and Amazon.com executive Ram Shriram; and Michael Gelman, executive producer of ABC's "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee."