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The Founders Pledge is a program based in the UK managed by Founders For Good Ltd., where entrepreneurs make a commitment to donate at least 2% of their personal proceeds to charity when they sell their business. It launched on June 10, 2015.
The same name is used by an unrelated program of the same name run by Full Circle Fund, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, that encourages startup founders to build giving into their company's DNA from the start through a combination of equity, time, and product pledges. Full Circle Fund launched the Founders Pledge at the Runway Incubator on September 10, 2014.
David Goldberg, the director of Founders Forum for Good, previously quit a Ph.D. program after realizing that its impact on the world would be small. He also worked in finance, sold a business in Europe, and ran a chain of Segway dealerships. He was also involved with the Founders Forum for Good, that was focused on helping social entrepreneurs build and scale businesses.
Goldberg says he realized that making social businesses was hard, and a potentially higher-leverage strategy might be to make it easier for people who were founding successful technology businesses to commit to donating the money they would eventually earn. He says that the ideas of effective altruism (that he first encountered in Peter Singer's TED talk), earning to give, and the work of 80,000 Hours in particular, was influential to his thinking and his decision to choose this route. Goldberg further stated that tech founders, who were generally too busy to spend time and energy trying to investigate the best philanthropic causes, found the idea of pre-committing a share of their future earnings particularly appealing.
The Founders Pledge money pledged has increased steadily:
- $28 million at the time of public launch (June 10, 2015).
- $45 million in August 2015, when the Duedil CEO wrote about it in the Huffington Post.
- $64 million in November 2015. Of this, $1.3 million has already been realized as a result of exits worth $350 million.
- $134 million in May 2016 leading up to their one-year anniversary.
In September 2016, the Open Philanthropy Project (funded with money from Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz's private foundation Good Ventures) awarded a grant for $1,032,947 to Founders Pledge for two-year support to expand to Germany, France, and Sweden, and hire a developer.
At the time of its public launch in June 2015, the Founders Pledge had founders at a number of UK companies signed up, include Duedil, Huddle, Farfetch, SwiftKey, Tapdaq, and Zopa. The total estimate of money pledged, based on the founders' equity and the companies' valuation as of their most recent fundraising round, was $28 million.
Damian Kimmelman, CEO of DueDil, one of the pledgers, explained his reasons for signing the pledge in a Huffington Post article in August 2015. Ed Rex, founder of Jukedeck, also wrote about his signing of the pledge in a blog post for Medium.
A more complete list of participants is available on the Founders Pledge website.
In September 2016, Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator, wrote on the Y Combinator blog about the Founders Pledge, saying: "Many of our founders ask us about how they can donate part of their equity or post exit proceeds, and now we have an answer: Founders Pledge."
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