December 3, 1979 |
Herndon, Virginia, U.S.
|Education||Oakton High School
Chantilly High School
|Known for||Managing Partner at The Founders Fund
Co-founder of Plaxo, Napster, Airtime, and Causes
President of Facebook
Chairman of the Parker Foundation
|Net worth||US$2.4 billion (Forbes 2016)|
|Board member of||Spotify
|Spouse(s)||Alexandra Lenas (m. 2013)|
Sean Parker (born December 3, 1979) is an American entrepreneur and philanthropist who cofounded the file-sharing computer service Napster and served as the first president of the social networking website Facebook. He also cofounded Plaxo, Causes, Airtime, and Brigade, an online platform for civic engagement. He is the founder and chairman of the Parker Foundation, which focuses on life sciences, global public health, and civic engagement. On the Forbes 2016 list of the world's billionaires, he was ranked #722 with a net worth of US$2.4 billion.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Education
- 3 Ventures
- 4 Philanthropy
- 5 Political donations and activism
- 6 In popular culture
- 7 Personal life
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Parker was born in Herndon, Virginia, to Diane Parker, a TV advertising broker, and Bruce Parker, a U.S. government oceanographer. When Parker was seven, his father taught him how to program on an Atari 800. Parker’s father, who put his family over his entrepreneurial dreams, told Parker "if you are going to take risks, take them early before you have a family." As a teenager, Parker’s hobbies were hacking and programming. One night, while hacking into the network of a Fortune 500 company, Parker was unable to log out after his father unplugged and confiscated his computer keyboard. Because his IP address was exposed, F.B.I. agents tracked down the 16-year-old. Since Parker was under 18, he was sentenced to community service.
Parker attended Oakton High School in Fairfax County, Virginia for two years before transferring to Chantilly High School in 1996 for his junior and senior years. While there, Parker wrote a letter to the school administration and persuaded them to count the time he spent coding in the computer lab as a foreign language class. As a result, towards the end of Parker’s senior year at Chantilly, he was mostly writing code and starting companies. He graduated in 1998. While still in high school, he interned for Mark Pincus (the CEO of Zynga) at Pincus's Washington D.C. startup FreeLoader. He won the Virginia state computer science fair for developing a Web crawler, and was recruited by the C.I.A. By his senior year of high school, Parker was earning more than $80,000 a year through various projects, enough to convince his parents to allow him to skip college and pursue a career as an entrepreneur.
As a child, Parker was an avid reader, which was the beginning of his lifelong autodidacticism. Several media profiles refer to Parker as a genius. He considers his time at Napster to be his college education, calling it "Napster University," since he became well-versed in intellectual property law, corporate finance, and entrepreneurship.
When Parker was 15, he met 14-year-old Shawn Fanning over the Internet, where the two bonded over topics like theoretical physics and hacking. A few years later Fanning and Parker cofounded Napster, a free file-sharing service for music. Parker raised the initial $50,000, and they launched Napster in June 1999. Within a year, the service had tens of millions of users. Napster was opposed by recording labels, the Recording Industry Association of America, and the heavy metal band Metallica, among others. Lawsuits by various industry associations eventually shut down the service. Napster has been called the fastest-growing business of all time, is credited with revolutionizing the music industry, and is considered by some to be a precursor to iTunes.
In November 2002, Parker launched Plaxo, an online address book and social networking service that integrated with Microsoft Outlook. Plaxo was an early social networking tool, which would later influence the growth of companies like LinkedIn, Zynga, and Facebook. Plaxo was one of the first products to build virality into its launch, and that earned it 20 million users. Two years after founding Plaxo, Parker was ousted by the company’s financiers, Sequoia Capital and Ram Shriram, in an acrimonious exit that reportedly involved the investors hiring private investigators to follow him.
In 2004 Parker saw a site called "The Facebook" on the computer of his roommate’s girlfriend, who was a student at Stanford. Parker had experience in the social networking industry as an early advisor to Friendster and its founder, Jonathan Abrams, for which he was given a small amount of stock in 2003. Parker met with Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin, and a few months later joined the five-month-old company as its president. According to Peter Thiel, Facebook’s first investor, Sean Parker was the first to see potential in the company to be "really big," and that "if Mark ever had any second thoughts, Sean was the one who cut that off."
As president, Parker brought on Thiel as Facebook’s first investor. In the initial round of funding, he negotiated for Zuckerberg to retain three of Facebook’s five board seats, which gave Zuckerberg control of the company and allowed Facebook the freedom to remain a private company. Additionally, Parker is said to have championed Facebook’s clean user interface and developed its photo-sharing function. Zuckerberg notes that "Sean was pivotal in helping Facebook transform from a college project into a real company."
During a party in 2005 police entered and searched a vacation home Parker was renting and found cocaine. Parker was arrested on suspicion of drug possession but was not charged. This event caused Facebook investors to pressure Parker into resigning as company president. Even after stepping down, Parker continued to remain involved with Facebook’s growth and met regularly with Zuckerberg. The event was later dramatized in the movie The Social Network.
While working at Founders Fund, Parker had been looking to invest in a company that could further Napster’s music sharing mission legally. In 2009 a friend showed him Spotify, a Swedish streaming music service, and Parker sent an email to Spotify’s founder Daniel Ek. The pair traded emails, and in 2010 Parker invested US$15 million in Spotify. Parker, who currently serves on Spotify’s board, negotiated with Warner and Universal on Spotify's behalf, and in July 2011, Spotify announced its U.S. launch. At Facebook’s f8 conference that year, Parker announced a partnership between Facebook and Spotify, which allowed users to share their Spotify playlists on their Facebook profiles.
In 2011 Parker reunited with Napster cofounder Shawn Fanning to found Airtime.com. Some of the investors are Ron Conway, Michael Arrington, and Ashton Kutcher. Parker will serve as executive chairman and Fanning as CEO.
In August 2013, Parker invested in mobile commerce company WillCall alongside European angel investor Oliver Jung—during that round, a total of US$2.1 million was raised. The company, co-founded by Donnie Dinch, aims to develop partnerships with live music venues to enable customers to organize and pay for their concerts with only the use of their mobile handset.
In April 2014, Parker announced his backing of a new initiative called Brigade, an online platform for civic engagement to "combat a lack of political engagement and interest in all levels of government across America." Parker serves as the Executive Chairman of Brigade. The initial round of funding was $9.3 million from Parker, with additional sums from other investors. In 2014, Brigade acquired Causes, an online platform for social impact and political activism. Causes had in 2013 acquired Votizen, a political advocacy startup. Parker and The Founders Fund were a part of Votizen's $1.5 million funding round in 2010, and Parker served on the board of directors. He has stated, "Politics for me is the most obvious area [to be disrupted by the Web]."
The People's Operator
The Founders Fund
In 2006 Parker became managing partner at Founders Fund, a San Francisco-based venture capital fund founded by Peter Thiel. Founders Fund is focused on investing in early-stage companies, has $500 million in aggregate capital, and has invested in Quantcast, Path, and Knewton. Parker was given carte blanche by Thiel when finding investments. In 2014, Parker stepped down from his role at Founders Fund to focus on other projects. Parker has also hosted The TechFellow Awards, a partnership between TechCrunch and Founders Fund that annually gives 20 entrepreneurs $100,000 each to invest in startups.
In June 2015, Parker announced a $600 million contribution to launch the Parker Foundation, which focuses on three areas: Life Sciences, Global Public Health and Civic Engagement. It takes an interdisciplinary approach to large-scale challenges, combining insight, capital, science and technology, organization building and public policy.
Since 2005, Parker has been an active donor to cancer research, global public health and civic engagement. In 2012, he pledged a $5 million grant to Stand Up to Cancer and the Cancer Research Institute to create the Immunotherapy Dream Team, uniting laboratory and clinical efforts that will lead to the immunological treatment, control and prevention of cancer. In December 2014, Parker pledged $24 million to create the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research at Stanford. In 2015, he made a $4.5 million grant to support the Malaria Elimination Initiative at the University of California San Francisco’s Global Health Group, and a $10 million grant to create the Sean N. Parker Autoimmune Research Laboratory at UCSF. In February 2015, Sean was ranked number 5 on the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s 2014 Philanthropy 50 list. He donated $250 million to create the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, in April 2016. The funds initially went to over 300 scientists at 40 laboratories, in 6 institutions.
Parker is an active supporter of groups including Code for America, Stand up to Cancer, the Cancer Research Institute, Malaria No More, the Clinton Foundation, ONE, and the "charity: water" campaign.
In 2007 Parker founded Causes, originally one of the earliest Facebook applications, as a philanthropic service that uses social media to connect charities with their supporters and potential donors and then communicates that connection to the user's network of friends. By 2013, 186 million people had joined Causes, donating over $50 million to 60,000 non-profits. Causes is now part of Brigade Media.
Political donations and activism
Parker has made substantial donations to both sides of U.S. party politics; his allegedly "non-partisan" approach favors contributions to "elected officials who have shown themselves willing to work across the aisle." He favored Democrats as well as progressive causes such as campaign finance reform and gun control; he has spoken out in favor of higher taxes, particularly for the "wealthy and super wealthy," and in favor of higher capital gains taxes. Parker has also supported middle-of-the-road Republican candidates and super PACs, favoring "economically moderate" conservatives and candidates with a demonstrated interest in compromise and deal-making. In Washington, he has met with Republican lawmakers about ways of encouraging economic investment in struggling areas of the country. He has also supported cannabis law reform and in 2010, following the example of donations by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz (totaling $70,000) Parker donated $100,000 to the California Proposition 19 campaign to legalize marijuana in that state and $400,000 to the Democratic Party backed California Proposition 63 campaign to require background checks for all ammunition purchases. Sean Parker will donate $250 million to launch a new institute aimed at developing more effective cancer treatments by fostering collaboration among leading researchers in the field.
In popular culture
Although Parker praised David Fincher as a director, many have remarked on the differences between Parker and his portrayal by Timberlake. Former Facebook growth chief Chamath Palihapitiya noted that Parker is "really the exact opposite of his portrayal in the film." Parker took issue with the movie version of Eduardo Saverin's exit from Facebook, as it ironically paralleled his own exit from Plaxo. Parker called the character a "morally reprehensible human being," although he noted that "it's hard to complain about being played by a sex symbol."
In 2011, Parker became engaged to Alexandra Lenas, a singer-songwriter, and they were married in 2013. The couple has a daughter, Winter Victoria Parker, born on January 6, 2013, and a son, Zephyr Emerson Parker, born on December 1, 2014.
Big Sur wedding
On June 1, 2013, Parker married Alexandra Lenas in Big Sur, California, in a wedding at which every guest was given a Lord of the Rings style costume. The wedding purportedly cost $10 million to stage, though Parker describes this estimate as "WAY off base"
The wedding was the subject of an article in The Atlantic alleging environmental damage to the redwood forest to which Parker responded in detail, highlighting his cooperation with the Save-the-Redwoods League throughout. A required permit was not obtained; in addition, the venue from which he hired the space was not permitted to close the space to the public. A California Coastal Commission spokesperson said "Mr. Parker, in essence, leased an ongoing Coastal Act violation when he leased the campground". As part of his settlement with the Commission Parker gave $2.5M and created a beach-mapping app. Former Coastal Commissioner Assemblyman Mark Stone said, “To be able to put money back into the same community that cares so much about coastal resources is a very positive thing.”
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- Adegoke, Yinka. Napster founders reunite with social video service. Reuters. June 5, 2012.
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- Gastaldo, Evann. Meet Facebook 'Genius' Sean Parker. Newser. September 8, 2010.
- Bertoni, Steven. Sean Parker: Agent of Disruption. Forbes. September 21, 2011. "Question the audiophile about the best brand of headphones and you first learn how sound waves are registered by our tympanic membranes."
- Kirkpatrick, David (October 2010). "With a Little Help From His Friends". Vanity Fair. Retrieved July 1, 2011. "There is hardly a topic—literary, political, medical, or technological—about which he cannot offer an informed and nuanced opinion in his rapid-fire patter. (Don’t get him started on Ben Franklin’s role as a media pioneer.)"
- Kirkpatrick, David (October 2010). "With a Little Help From His Friends". Vanity Fair. Retrieved July 1, 2011. "He's always talking about the potential of computers to generate algorithms for likable melodies, and we have this ongoing argument: he believes it’s only a matter of time before computers will be able to create listenable tunes."
- Bertoni, Steven. Sean Parker: Agent of Disruption. Forbes. September 21, 2011. "I kind of refer to it as Napster University—it was a crash course in intellectual property law, corporate finance, entrepreneurship and law school. Some of the e-mails I wrote when I was just a kid who didn’t know what he was doing are apparently in [law school] textbooks."
- Levy, Steven. The Noisy War Over Napster. The Daily Beast. June 4, 2000.
- Rosoff, Matt. Sean Parker: Yes, My New Startup Is Called Airtime. Business Insider. October 17, 2011.
- "Napster shut down". BBC News. July 27, 2000. Retrieved May 18, 2009.
- "Napster must stay shut down". BBC News. March 26, 2002. Retrieved May 18, 2009.
- Pruitt, Scarlett. Napster's Legacy Lives On. PC World. September 6, 2002.
- Waters, Darren. Napster’s legacy lives on. BBC News.
- Cooper, Charles. Perspective: Apple and the legacy of Napster. CNET. August 6, 2004.
- Napster’s Rise and Fall--And Its Future. Forbes. May 28, 2003.
- Konrad, Rachel. Napster among fastest-growing Net technologies. CNET. October 5, 2000.
- Jardin, Xeni (November 12, 2002). "Napster Co-Founder's New Venture". Wired. Retrieved May 18, 2009.
- Bertoni, Steven. Sean Parker: Agent of Disruption. Forbes. September 21, 2011. “It sounds boring compared to Napster and Facebook, but Plaxo was an early social networking tool and a pioneer of the types of viral tricks that helped grow LinkedIn, Zynga, and Facebook. “Plaxo is like the indie band that the public doesn’t know but was really influential with other musicians,” Parker says.”
- Comcast to Buy Plaxo. Hot Hardware. May 25, 2008.
- Kalyanam, Kirthi; Shelby McIntyre, J Todd Masonis (2007). Adaptive experimentation in interactive marketing: The case of viral marketing at Plaxo. Journal of Interactive Marketing.
- Marshall, Matt (December 12, 2006). "Founders Fund hires Sean Parker as partner, to launch second fund". Venture Beat. Retrieved May 18, 2009. "During the post-bubble downturn, Parker got pushed out by Sequoia Capital and Ram Shriram, and there’s been silence over the real reasons ever since. There were reports of private investigators going after Parker."
- Kirkpatrick, David. The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World. Simon & Schuster, May 3, 2011. "Finally they booted him out. In the end they even hired a private investigator to document his alleged misbehavior.
- Kirkpatrick, David (February 2010). The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4391-0211-4.
- Bertoni, Steven. Sean Parker: Agent of Disruption. Forbes. September 21, 2011. "Facebook’s key architect, Parker helped drive Facebook’s minimalist look. He was adamant that the site have a continuous flow and tasks like adding friends be as frictionless as possible."
- Sean Parker: Managing Partner, Founders Fund. Web 2.0 Summit.
- Eaton, Kit. Why You Should Care About Sean Parker: The Man Behind Napster, Facebook, and Chatroulette. Fast Company. September 8, 2010.
- Kirkpatrick, David (October 2010). "With a Little Help From His Friends". Vanity Fair. Retrieved July 1, 2011. "I don’t think Sean ever really left Facebook," says board member Thiel. "He’s continued to be involved in many ways."
- Marikar, Sheila. Justin Timberlake: From Boy Band Heartthrob to Modern Day Renaissance Man. ABC News. September 30, 2010.
- Paul Sawers (October 7, 2011). "You have to see this email from Sean Parker in 2009 pitching his interest in Spotify". The Next Web. The Next Web, Inc. Retrieved June 28, 2013.
- Steven Levy (October 21, 2011). "Steven Levy on Facebook, Spotify and the Future of Music". Wired. Condé Nast. Retrieved June 28, 2013.
- "Sean Parker: War on Music Piracy is a Failure". CBS News. October 22, 2010. Retrieved June 28, 2013.
- Dan Simon (September 27, 2011). "Internet pioneer Sean Parker: 'I'm blazing a new path'". CNN. Retrieved June 28, 2013.
- "Killers, Snoop Dogg, Jane's Addiction Rock Sean Parker's f8 Conference/Party". BillboardBiz. Billboard. September 23, 2011. Retrieved June 28, 2013.
- Bertoni, Steven. Sean Parker And Shawn Fanning's Secretive Airtime Gets Big Backers. Forbes. October 6, 2011.
- Apostolou, Natalie. "Napster boys are back with Airtime". The A Register. October 10, 2011.
- Napster founders return with Airtime start-up. BBC News. October 10, 2011.
- "WillCall Raises $1.2M From SV Angel And Sean Parker For Concert, Merch, And Drink Mobile Payments". TechCrunch. August 7, 2013. Retrieved December 16, 2013.
- "Napster co-founder Sean Parker to lead civic startup". Politico. April 14, 2014. Retrieved April 21, 2014.
- "Our Team". Brigade. Retrieved 2015-11-17.
- "Brigade Media Raises $9.3M From Sean Parker To Shake Up American Democracy". TechCrunch. April 14, 2014. Retrieved April 21, 2014.
- Wilhelm, Alex. "Sean Parker's Brigade Media Acquires Causes In Its Quest To Revitalize American Democracy". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2015-11-17.
- Kincaid, Jason. "Votizen Raises $1.5 Million To Make Sure Government Representatives Hear Your Voice". TechCrunch.
- Simonite, Tom. "Five Interesting Things Sean Parker Said Yesterday". MIT.
- Blattberg, Eric. The Many Hats of Sean Parker. Wired. June 22, 2011.
- Guynn, Jessica. Facebook backer now a rival to venture capitalists. The Los Angeles Times. December 18, 2007.
- Marshall, Matt (December 12, 2006). "Founders Fund hires Sean Parker as partner, to launch second fund". Venture Beat. Retrieved May 18, 2009. “At Founders Fund, Thiel is focused on investing in early-stage companies, and he’s given Parker a carte blanche to find the best companies he can, Thiel says.”
- Wilhelm, Alex. "Sean Parker Leaves Founders Fund". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2015-11-17.
- Hoge, Patrick. Sean Parker hosts TechFellow awards. San Francisco Business Times. December 3, 2010
- Arrington, Michael. Announcing The TechFellow Awards With Founders Fund. TechCrunch. April 16, 2009.
- Parker, Sean. "Sean Parker: Philanthropy for Hackers". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2015-11-17.
- "Sean Parker Outlines Big Plans for His $600-Million Foundation". The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Retrieved 2015-11-17.
- Merced, Michael J. De La (2015-06-23). "Sean Parker Seeks a New Approach to Charity". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-11-17.
- "Stand Up To Cancer — SU2C and CRI Announce New Immunology Translational Research Dream Team". Stand Up To Cancer. Retrieved 2015-11-17.
- Buhr, Sarah. "Sean Parker Pledges $24 Million Toward A Stanford Allergy Research Center In His Name". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2015-11-17.
- "Sean Parker donates $24 million to Stanford for allergy research". SFGate. Retrieved 2015-11-17.
- "Entrepreneur gives UCSF $4.5 million to combat malaria". SFGate. Retrieved 2015-11-17.
- Buhr, Sarah. "Sean Parker Grants $10 Million To Aid Radical Autoimmune Research For Type 1 Diabetes". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2015-11-17.
- "A Look at the 50 Most Generous Donors of 2014". The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Retrieved 2015-11-17.
- Arrington, Michael. Venture Capitalists Ron Conway And Sean Parker Battle For Charity. TechCrunch. December 12, 2009.
- Bowe, Rebecca. Sean Parker: "I am paying far too little in taxes". San Francisco Bay Guardian. October 26, 2011.
- MacMillan, Douglas. Philanthropy: Causes, the Socially Conscious Network. Bloomberg Business. October 21, 2010.
- Causes Crunchbase Profile.
- Stone, Brad. Clicking for a Cause. The New York Times. November 11, 2009.
- Constine, Josh. "Causes Acquires Votizen To Democratize Democracy". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2015-11-17.
- "Tech mogul ramps up GOP giving". POLITICO. Retrieved 2015-11-17.
- Zakrzewski, Cat. "Silicon Valley Moguls Push For Campaign Finance Reform". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2015-11-17.
- "Former Facebook president Sean Parker backs Nevada gun-control with $250,000 donation". Las Vegas. Retrieved 2015-11-17.
- Burns, Alexander (July 15, 2014). "Tech mogul Sean Parker ramps up GOP giving". Politico.com. POLITICO LLC. Retrieved September 4, 2014.
- "Tech bigwigs help launch economic policy group". POLITICO. Retrieved 2015-11-17.
- "Ex-Facebook President Sean Parker backs California pot initiative". latimes.com. Retrieved 2015-11-17.
- MacAskill, Ewen (October 10, 2010). "Facebook cofounder gives $100,000 to push to legalise cannabis in California". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved October 11, 2010.
- Mangalindan, JP (October 11, 2016). "Sean Parker creates a social ballot guide for voters". Yahoo Tech. Retrieved October 11, 2016.
- Gustin, Sam. The Social Network Nabs Eight Oscar Nods. Wired. January 25, 2011.
- Albanesius, Chloe. Oscars: 'Social Network' Fizzles, Douglas and Bullock Light Up Twitter. PCWorld. February 28, 2011.
- Dargis, Manhola. The Social Network (2010). The New York Times.
- Sean Parker: The Social Network is a complete work of fiction. The Next Web. January 23, 2011.
- What's True in the Facebook Movie. The Daily Beast. September 30, 2010.
- White, Charlie. Sean Parker Says "The Social Network" Is "Fiction". Mashable. January 23, 2011.
- Cavin, Cory. Sean Parker Talks Spotify, Hacking, And Being On The Cover Of Forbes. Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. October 4, 2011.
- Sean Parker: Human Accelerant. Forbes. October 18, 2011.
- "Sean Parker, Facebook Billionaire, Welcomes Baby Girl With Fiancee Alexandra Lenas". Us Weekly. January 5, 2013. Retrieved September 27, 2013.
- "Sean Parker, Facebook Billionaire, Welcomes Baby Girl With Fiancee Alexandra Lenas", Us Weekly, January 7, 2013.
- Galla, Brittany (June 1, 2013). "Sean Parker Is Married! Facebook Billionaire Weds Alexandra Lenas". Us Weekly. Retrieved June 2, 2013.
- Madrigal, Alexis (June 6, 2013). "Sean Parker Responds to Redwoods Wedding Criticism, and His Defense Is Actually Pretty Convincing". The Atlantic. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
- Madrigal, Alexis (June 4, 2013). "New Government Documents Show the Sean Parker Wedding Is the Perfect Parable for Silicon Valley Excess". The Atlantic. Retrieved June 4, 2013.
- Abraham, Kera (June 13, 2013). "Sean Parker Wedding Brings Ventana Inn's Campground Violations to Light". Montrerey County Weekly. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
- Alexander, Kurtis (October 17, 2014) "Sean Parker’s Big Sur punishment — create an app." San Francisco Chronicle. (Retrieved Oct 17, 2014.)
- "Tech magnate's controversial Big Sur wedding generates wave of conservation grants.". Monterey County Weekly. Retrieved 2015-11-17.
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