Amount donated: $100m in 2014
Philanthropic Causes: health, economic development, US policy
Region of philanthropic focus: global
Ranking: Not known
Net Worth: $10.2bn
Source of wealth: tech, Facebook
At the age of 31, Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz has been a billionaire for just a matter of years, but he is unique amongst philanthropists in already having reached the conclusion that his immense wealth would be put to better use attempting to correct some of the world’s ills. What’s more, his attitude is borderless; unlike many prominent philanthropists, the goal of his Good Ventures Foundation that he set up with his wife Cari Tuna is simply to ‘help humanity thrive’.
Born in Florida to psychiatrist and teacher parents, Moskovitz became an accidental billionaire through gaining a place at Harvard University to study economics. It was there that he met Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin and Chris Hughes, with whom he founded Facebook. As a result of their snowballing success, he and Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard to run the site full-time from California, with Moskovitz acting as Chief Technology Officer. He was at the core of developing the architecture of Facebook and expanding its mobile presence, yet in 2008 he left the project to found Asana, the task management app designed to help developers collaborate on their work which he still runs.
However, his focus today is much changed: upon leaving Facebook, he retained a 7.6% stake in the company, which saw him become a billionaire overnight after Facebook’s IPO in 2012. Contemporaneously, Moskovitz and his partner Cari Tuna sat down to consider the factors which could derail humanity’s progress and what impact they could have. Having travelled the world and conducted hundreds of interviews, they launched the Good Ventures Foundation to contribute to their chosen areas of U.S. policy, global catastrophic risks, international aid and science. In a rare interview with The Washington Post, Tuna has said that The Life You Can Save by Australian ethicist and philosopher Peter Singer greatly influenced their thinking in this period by arguing that money spent on luxuries in developed countries could save lives in developing countries, and not to do so would therefore be immoral.
Perhaps unsurprisingly for an economics undergrad, Moskovitz is also a believer in the good that business can do in the world, a standpoint which is supported by their founding of Good Ventures LLC, a venture capital vehicle which invests Moskovitz’s capital and ploughs profits back into the Good Ventures Foundation, thereby providing a completely sustainable philanthropic ecosystem.
Moskovitz was well aware of the social responsibility such capital gave them, saying in 2013 that “it turns out to be quite difficult to flush such a large sum back into the world in a way you can feel confident about”. As a result, Moskovitz and Tuna’s first step into philanthropy was to fund GiveWell, a non-profit charity evaluator which they then used to pursue ‘effective altruism’ by looking objectively at where the most good can be done, rather than giving to personal or emotionally connected causes.
This utilitarian outlook has led them to make over $100m of donations. In the field of health as elsewhere, they’ve concentrated on sometimes less publicised struggles that would benefit greatly from their input, and as a result have given generously to Against Malaria, the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, Population Services International, and to correct IQ-reducing iodine deficiency in the developing world. They established their commitment to marriage equality by giving generously to Freedom to Marry, an American organisation which campaigned successfully for the legalisation of same sex marriage. They’ve also been active in other areas of US policy, for example by donating to the Drug Policy Alliance which looks to reduce the percentage of the US population that is incarcerated by reforming drugs laws.
Having signed the Bill Gates and Warren Buffett Giving Pledge in 2011, it’s clear that their forays into philanthropy are just the start of a lifetime of giving. Indeed, their overall philosophy is remarkable in being one of complete selflessness and commitment to the common good, with Moskovitz quoting Louis C.K. in a 2013 Quora webchat by saying that “I never viewed money as being ‘my money.’ I always saw it as ‘The money.’ It’s a resource. If it pools up around me then it needs to be flushed back out into the system.”