- Silicon Valley billionaires are collectively pledging billions of money from their personal fortunes towards relief funds against the devastating impact of the coronavirus.
- The biggest pledge so far has come from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who announced he was donating $US1 billion towards a relief fund (roughly 28% of his net worth, according to Dorsey).
- Other execs have pledged hundreds of millions of dollars, but compared to their net worth this may not be as much as it seems.
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As the coronavirus outbreak has spread, tech companies and their executives have hastened to donate medical supplies and cash.
Companies including Facebook, Apple, and Tesla have pledged millions of dollars in the form of both cash and medical resources like masks, protective gear, and ventilators.
Individual executives are also kicking in. Bill Gates, who founded his philanthropic organisation the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 20 years ago, has been particularly vocal about the crisis, and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey recently announced he was setting up a $US1 billion fund.
But to Silicon Valley billionaires, who make up some of the world’s richest individuals, even enormous sums of money can make up only a fraction of their net worth.
Here is a breakdown of how much money four tech billionaires have pledged versus how much their estimated net worth is, per the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Estimated net worth: $US3.89 billion
Amount pledged: $US1 billion
The Twitter CEO announced on April 7 he was donating $US1 billion in equity from his digital payments company Square to a relief fund called “Start Small.” Dorsey said it will initially focus on coronavirus relief, but will in time move towards funding girls’ health and education.
Dorsey published a link to flow tracker with the fund. At time of writing, it shows $US100,000 is earmarked for America’s Food Fund.
According to Dorsey, the fund constitutes roughly 28% of his net worth.
San Francisco Chronicle reporter Owen Thomas wrote this isn’t the first incarnation of the Start Small fund. He points out that Dorsey made a promise in a 2015 SEC filing for Square that he would donate millions of shares into the Small Start fund, but that as of 2018 they had not materialised in the public record.
Thomas also points out that, as an LLC fund, the money is not yet committed, and can return to Dorsey at any point.
Estimated net worth: $140 billion
Amount pledged: $US100 million
Jeff Bezos announced in early April he was donating $US100 million to Feeding America, a nonprofit focused on supporting food banks.
At time of writing Jeff Bezos is the world’s richest person with an estimated $US123 billion, meaning $US100 million would make up roughly 0.08% of his fortune.
“Even in ordinary times, food insecurity in American households is an important problem, and unfortunately COVID-19 is amplifying that stress significantly,” Bezos wrote in an Instagram post.
Meanwhile, Bezos’ company Amazon has set up its own relief fund for its contractors and seasonal workers, kicking in an initial $US25 million and opening the fund up to outside donations.
Jeff Bezos is one of the few billionaires who has seen his wealth increase alongside the coronavirus pandemic. At time of writing Bezos’ net worth has increased by almost $US25 billion since the beginning of 2020.
Estimated net worth: $US103 billion
Amount pledged: $US250 million
Gates’ philanthropic organisation The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation initially pledged $US100 million towards fighting the pandemic in February.
In March, the Gates Foundation said it would contribute $US50 million towards a joint fund with Wellcome and Mastercard called the “COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator“, which combined would hold a $US125 million pot. It is not clear whether that $US50 million came out of the initial $US100 million pledge or not.
On April 15 the Gates foundation announced it was pledging a further $US150 million, days after President Donald Trump said he was withdrawing funding to the World Health Organisation – a move Bill Gates openly criticised.
The total sum of $US250 million constitutes 0.24% of Bill Gates’ $US103 billion net worth.
The foundation is also funding at-home coronavirus tests in Washington State, and Gates says it will help fund the construction of seven factories to manufacture potential candidates for a vaccine, even though at most one vaccine candidate would be selected.
Estimated net worth: $US67 billion
Amount pledged: $US25 million
Zuckerberg’s philanthropy organisation The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative announced in March it was donating $US25 million towards the Therapeutics Accelerator set up by the Gates Foundation, Wellcome, and Mastercard. This makes up just under 0.04% of Zuckerberg’s estimated net worth.
Following the donation a TikTok video illustrating how little of Zuckerberg’s wealth $US25 million makes up went viral.