Meet Nick Hanauer, A Wealthy Tech Guy With Plenty of Ideas

On the one hand, Seattle-based Nick Hanauer is a prolific venture capitalist with a clairvoyant's eye for value, having managed, financed or founded some 35 companies, including Amazon.com, where he was the first non-family investor. Another company, aQuantive, which he founded, was purchased by Microsoft for $6.4 billion. These moves have put Hanauer in rarefied air, and though he's not on the Forbes billionaire list, one estimate puts the 56-year-old's net worth at $1 billion.

On the other hand, Hanauer once gave a TED Talk in which he declared that “rich people don’t create jobs.”  A recent Atlantic article, moreover, explores Hanauer's fight to raise the minimum wage to $15, having backed candidates and poured money into various initiatives in Washington State and beyond. Hanauer is also passionate about gun control, and on the heels of Sandy Hook, he co-founded the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility. He's also written several books, penned articles, and founded Civic Ventures, "a Seattle-based public policy incubator focused on ideas, policies, and actions that catalyze significant social change."

While in his 40s, Hanauer said that he decided to devote no more than a third of his time to "things associated with increasing [his] net worth." This might explain Hanauer's big civic splash in recent years: between his strong convictions and the cash on hand to make an impact, Hanauer is a figure worth keeping an eye on for even more social engagement down the line.

Hanauer and his wife Leslie move their philanthropy through the Nick and Leslie Hanauer Family Foundation, established last decade with a focus on public education and the environment, among other areas, locally in Seattle and also on a national level. The Hanauer Foundation has supported policy oufits as well. In a recent tax year, the couple gave around $2.5 million, and the foundation held around $23 million in assets. Unfortunately the foundation doesn't have much of a web presence, though Hanauer himself has a website and is also rather active on social media.

Last decade, Hanauer co-founded the League of Education Voters (LEV), an organization that works on behalf of students “to support an education system that provides all students an equal opportunity for success from cradle to career." The Nick and Leslie Hanauer Foundation has continued to fund LEV. Hanauer also supports education outfits such as Code.org, a nonprofit that encourages students to learn computer science, including women and underrepresented students of color. The couple has awarded grants to Epiphany School in Seattle, Seattle Academy (which received a grant of over $1 million in the most recent fiscal year available), and Year Up Puget Sound. Hanauer also supports his alma mater, University of Washington.

Additionally, the couple were primary donors and driving forces behind the launch of University of Arizona's Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter. The story, here, is that Hanauer is an amateur astronomer, and for his birthday, Hanauer's mother sent him to an adult astronomy camp headed by a prominent astronomer at the University of Arizona. Chalk up Hanauer as yet another funder fascinated by the stars.

Related: The Philanthropy of Stargazing: We're In a New Golden Age of Mega Telescope Projects

Apart from education, Hanauer is also strongly interested in the environment. The Hanauers support environmental outfits such as Conservation International, Forterra, and the Bullitt Foundation, which funds environmental organizations in the west. The couple also supports Climate Solutions, a Northwest-based clean energy economy nonprofit.

I previously mentioned Hanauer's work through Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, whose mission is to "put forward and support commonsense solutions to reduce gun violence." The outfit was the primary backer for Initiative 594, which expands state background check laws to all gun purchases. Hanauer donated over $1 million to the campaign. The couple were also major donors to a successful gun buyback effort in Seattle. A recent snapshot of the Hanauer Foundation's grantmaking reveals support of a number of other policy efforts. The Hanauers also support Center for American Progress, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, American Constitution Society, a progressive legal organization, and Third Way Institute, a think tank "answering America's challenges with modern ideas aimed at the center."

On a regional level, the couple supports Progress Alliance of Washington, whose vision is a "Washington State that is a healthy place to live with shared economic success and security, and a democracy that works for its people." Hanauer supports other local Seattle area outfits such as Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Center Fund, and Woodland Park Zoo.

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