Three lessons from R+D

Tipping Point CEO + Founder Daniel Lurie spoke at the NewCo Shift Forum in San Francisco this week, a conference exploring how today’s business leaders navigate rapid technological change and regulatory uncertainty. One thing is for certain in today’s business climate: innovation is a must.

Daniel’s presentation explored the importance of incorporating an R+D mindset into the non-profit sector to solve some of today’s most pressing issues. Here is a quick recap.


In the Bay Area, we see some of today’s brightest minds coming up with incredible ideas — introducing us to new ways of connecting, traveling, treating diseases, or saving energy.

But the premium put on outside-the-box thinking doesn’t apply in the nonprofit sector. The leaders we work with at Tipping Point are simply not given the same opportunity to think big, invent or create as their corporate counterparts are.

We, as a society, expect non-profits to tackle and solve massive social problems but we don’t offer them the capital or autonomy to make it happen.

Tipping Point has always believed in taking shots where we see opportunities. Over the past three years, we have invested in Research + Development (R+D) projects and have recently made it part of our core grantmaking strategy.

It has been a steep learning curve for us. These are three of the most important lessons we’ve learned from R+D:

  • It’s not enough to provide risk capital: Testing and building new ideas requires more than just money. It requires engagement, connection and commitment to a common goal. We’re building out an in-house team to work with our grantees, and partner with best-in-class partners like IDEO and frog to amplify our impact.
  • There are no guaranteed outcomes: R+D work is resource intensive with no guarantee of outcomes. It can take months to years to yield tangible results, and countless rounds of iterating to get the balance right on a project. Even once that balance is achieved, it can still take a significant amount of time to see a return on impact.
  • We have to be comfortable with failure: As funders and individual supporters, we have to shift our mindset from that of “investing in known outcomes” to “investing to learn.”

To learn more about Tipping Point’s R+D work, visit our website.