Facebook Chief Product Officer Chris Cox is known for being quiet about his giving, but a recent $1 million gift to a small, locally focused organization in East Palo Alto is getting people buzzing.
The organization, Live in Peace, serves about 150 youth in the neighborhood, providing a place to learn to play music, engage in community discussions, or just get in on a game of basketball. Now, with its newest venture, StreetCode Academy, kids in the area can also learn the digital skills that may someday land them a job at Facebook, Google, or any of the other web-based silicon valley empires.
Cox's donation goes toward the development of Streetcode Academy program, where kids will learn programming, mobile app development and how to work with Arduino—an open-source computer hardware and software product used for building digital devices.
The Live in Peace house in East Palo Alto strives to be a place where kids are given the tools they need to overcome social, emotional, and economic barriers. On Wednesday nights, the program hosts "Family Night," a meeting for everyone involved with the organization to discuss their successes and challenges.
Cox, like some of the other big techies in Silicon Valley, is making his way forward as a young philanthropist, trying to identify the best way to deploy his massive wealth. Some are taking the path of Donor Advised Funds, including Mark Zuckerberg, WhatsApp's Jan Koum, and GoPro CEO Nicholas Woodman. Partly due to the Donor Advised Funds trend, Silicon Valley Community Foundation has grown its holdings from $4.7 billion in 2013 to $6.5 billion in 2014.
But unlike some of his peers, it seems that Cox is taking more of an organic route with his giving, through his natural ties to the community. As a fellow musician in a local reggae band, he met one of the leaders of Live in Peace, which led to his involvement with the venture from its early days.
Cox was promoted to his role as chief products officer in May 2014, and leads Facebook’s Product Management, Design, and Marketing functions globally. He is known for his particular acumen with "emotional intelligence"—navigating social situations with an ease that engineers are sometimes considered to be lacking. As part of his duties, the 31-year-old provides an orientation on the mission, culture, and philosophy of the company to new recruits.