Craig Silverstein and Mary Obelnicki

NET WORTH: $950 million, estimated


FUNDING AREAS: Global development, Women’s Education

OVERVIEW: Craig Silverstein views his philanthropy as a work in progress. When he and his wife Mary Obelnicki signed the Giving Pledge in 2014, they both admitted as much. And while the couple has been funding girls' education issues through their Echidna Giving Fund since 2006, they still regularly ask experts to guide their philanthropy.

BACKGROUND: Craig Silverstein graduated from Harvard and is famously known as Google’s first employee, after founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. Silverstein joined Google in 1998 when he was a Ph.D. student at Stanford. After spending 14 years with Google, Silverstein departed from the company to take a position as the dean of infrastructure at Khan Academy, a nonprofit online education organization.


GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT: One of the first decisions Silverstein made was to focus his efforts on the developing world. In a blog post, he said, “A million dollars on cancer or diabetes could make hardly any difference; a million dollars on iodine supplements could change millions of lives.” In 2009, Silverstein made a donation to the Grameen Foundation.

EDUCATION FOR GIRLS/WOMEN: With the goal to eradicate global poverty, Silverstein became interested in funding education for women and girls in developing countries. According to Silverstein, "all sorts of problems in developing countries are made worse by excluding half of the society from participating, economically, politically, and intellectually." He later turned to the expertise of Global Fund for Women for guidance. Both he and his wife, Mary Obelnicki, work to forward education for girls and women in developing countries through the Echidna Giving Fund. The fund’s main goal is to join forces with experts, practitioners, and organizations to advance girls’ education in the developing world. The fund has invested in programs such as Room to Read, the Global Fund for Children and the Brookings Institution, which oversees the Echidna Global Scholars Program, a program started in 2011 which provides fellowships for leaders in girls' education. 

LOOKING AHEAD: Silverstein voiced his plan to give away his money before his death. He has given himself a 50-year time frame to do so, with a rough budget of his annual donations in the different categories mentioned above. 


Kim Wright Violich, President, Echidna Giving Fund,