Photo: Getty/Sean Gallup
With great wealth comes great responsibility.
That’s how we judge the tycoons of tech. While many of them spend their money on expensive luxuries, like cars, houses, planes — even islands — they are also expected to use their prosperity to do good works.
That’s the implicit demand of the tech industry.
Some are astoundingly generous, giving tens of millions —even hundreds of millions — to their favourite causes. How much they give says a lot about them. Which causes they support does, too.
Larry Ellison is known for his extravagant lifestyle filled with cars, aeroplanes, mansions, even a Hawaiian Island. But he's a big philanthropist, too, giving to his own Ellison Medical Foundation.
Ellison jokes about it: 'We are focused on diseases related to ageing--I mean, for obvious reasons.' (He's 69.)
But it's no joke. He's trying to cure diseases like Alzheimer's and arthritis. And he's generous. The foundation awarded 70 new grants, giving away $46.5-million last year alone, reports Philanthropy.com
Through a $3.3 billion donation to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Microsoft cofounder is trying to fix lots of the world's problems. He's eradicating polio, trying to end poverty, improving education.
But some of his causes are more fundamental. For instance he's working on better ways to dispose of poop. The foundation sponsored a 'Reinvent the Toilet' fair with the winners picked by him.
He's also offering $100,000 to anyone who can make a condom people actually like to use.
Paul Allen, Microsoft's other billionaire cofounder, is also known for an extravagant lifestyle that includes owning multiple pro sports teams, massive collections, building music museums.
He's invested a half billion dollars into the Allen Institute for Brain Science. It will study how the brain works with a goal of curing diseases like Alzheimer's, an illness his mother suffered from. And ultimately, institute has another goal: to replicate the brain and build machines with human intelligence.
Venture capitalist Peter Thiel, who earned his billions largely thanks to backing Facebook in its early days, has his own take on anti-ageing.
He's financing medical research that could help people live to be 150 years or more. He doesn't believe that people really, truly have to die.
His Thiel Foundation supports a bunch of anti-ageing projects like Ray Kurzweil's Singularity Institute, which works on artificial intelligence, and Aubrey de Grey's Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence, which hopes to reverse ageing altogether.
The Thiel Foundation also supports social causes like the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the Human Rights Foundation.
Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is worth about $10.7 billion since inheriting her late husband's stake in Apple and Disney. (Her Disney stock is actually worth about twice her Apple shares).
For decades she's been an advocate for immigration reform and education but she's probably best known for College Track, a nonprofit she founded in 1997. It helps children living in poverty finish high school and get into college.
She also runs Emerson Collective, which gives money to social entrepreneurs and education leaders, and she supported the Eastern Congo Initiative, actor Ben Affleck's nonprofit.
Sergey Brin and his wife Anne Wojcicki are probably best known for their work to cure Parkinson's disease and for good reason: Brin has blogged about how his mum has the illness and that he's got a good chance of getting it, too.
Wojcicki cofounded 23andMe, a genetic testing startup that made a big discovery about Parkinson's. And they've donated about $95 million in recent years to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.
On top of that, they've bankrolled a $190 million foundation of their own that focuses on social issues. It supports organisations like Ashoka, a fund that invests in social action startups; the Human Rights Foundation; and Tipping Point Community, a nonprofit that serves needy families in Northern California.
Michael Dell is well known in Texas circles as generous philanthropist.
He and his wife, Susan, run a charitable foundation dedicated to helping kids in urban poverty. It supports a bunch of education and health care causes. This year alone, their foundation gave $50-million for a new medical school at the University of Texas and another $10 million for community health care programs in central Texas.
Billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad once named Dell as the second most powerful philanthropist, after Bill Gates.
Marc Benioff and his wife, Lynne, love to support causes around his beloved home town, San Francisco.
Their biggest gift to date is a $100 million donation for the 180-bed UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital to support its 'pioneering work with fetal surgery,' he said in an interview with Forbes.
They also support homeless charities, particularly those that help homeless single mothers.
Marc Benioff also famously invented the 1-1-1 philanthropic model in which companies dedicate a percentage of profits, equity, and employee time to nonprofit work.
Benioff loves to point out that this is different (and to his mind, better) than a model like the The Giving Pledge, in which billionaires collect money throughout their lives and then give it away at the end.
Dustin Moskovitz, who earned his money as Facebook's cofounder and is now building enterprise startup, Asana, wants to rid the world of poverty-related disease.
His foundation, Good Ventures, gives money to causes recommended by GiveWell, a nonprofit run by Moskovitz's girlfriend, former Wall Street Journal reporter Cari Tuna.
Good Ventures has donated about $4 million to a wide variety of causes including vaccines to fight malaria, medicine to cure parasitic worms and a few social issues, like Marriage Equality campaigns.
Billionaire SAP cofounder Hasso Plattner loves tech design.
He invested $35 million into the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University. He also gave about $265 million to the Hasso Plattner Institute, which focuses specifically on enterprise-software design.
Not that he's ignored social issues. He's donated millions over the years to fighting AIDS and hosts AIDS fundraisers at his luxury golf estate in South Africa, a country hard-hit by the disease.
Facebook cofounder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla have been exceptionally generous even by a billionaire's standards.
They donated 18 million shares of Facebook stock, worth nearly $500 million, to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. That made them the No. 2 most generous philanthropists in 2012, after Warren Buffet, according to Chronicle of Philanthropy. The Foundation supports education and health programs.
That follows Zuckerberg's $100 million pledge in 2010 to improve Newark, N.J.'s public schools.
David Duffield, the billionaire cofounder of Workday who earned the bulk of his money from his first company, PeopleSoft, loves animals.
His foundation, Maddie's Fund's, is named after the Duffield family dog, a Miniature Schnauzer who passed away in 1997. It funds a variety of animal causes, from no-kill shelters to veterinary research.
Sheryl Sandberg clearly doesn't mind the public spotlight. She's a TV regular these days as she promotes her new book on women in the workplace, Lean In.
But she is strangely silent about her charitable donations. We know she makes them, and generously. Sandberg made a gift of some 429,184 shares of Facebook stock in December, nearly $12 million worth at the time. But she wouldn't disclose the beneficiary.
Women's issues are close to her heart. All the profits from her book will go to them and she sits on the boards of Women for Women International and V-Day and advises many others.
She also helped launch Google's philanthropic arm, Google.org.
eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife, Pam, are also known as big-time philanthropists.
Pam is chairwoman of HopeLab, a nonprofit in Redwood City, Calif., that develops technology to help critically ill children.
The couple donated $74.5 million in 2011 alone to various charities. HopeLab was one big receipient. So was Humanity United, a human rights group working to abolish slavery worldwide.