NET WORTH: $600 million (Estimated)
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Netscape, Andreessen Horowitz
FUNDING AREAS: Health and community
OVERVIEW: Andreessen takes philanthropy seriously, as he demonstrated when he led his firm, Andreessen Horowitz, in its decision to give away half its income to charity. He and his wife, Laura, have a family foundation, and as a longtime philanthropist in her own right, Laura appears to have a major influence over Marc's giving. With a few notable exceptions, however, most of what Andreessen has done in the philanthropic arena so far has been under the radar.
BACKGROUND: Marc Andreessen has had more influence over how we view the Internet than just about anyone. He was the coauthor of Mosaic, the first widely used web browser, but is probably best known as the cofounder of Netscape. This early success enabled him to cofound Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capital firm that has enabled him to become a major stakeholder in a number of tech giants, including Facebook, Twitter, eBay, and HP. More recently, he also cofounded Ning, an Internet service that allows individuals to create their own specialized social networks. Andreessen originally hails from Iowa and attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign before moving to Silicon Valley to work in the tech industry. In 2006, he married Laura Arrillaga, the heir to her father's real estate fortune and career philanthropist.
PHILOSOPHY: One of the first questions Andreessen's future wife asked him when they started dating was how he planned to use his wealth to give back. Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen was already independently wealthy and had made it her life's mission to figure out how she could make the greatest philanthropic impact. Clearly, she liked what she heard from her now husband, and together the two have become role models for many in Silicon Valley, encouraging others to give and even advising other wealthy individuals on how to give more effectively.
"We are fortunate to work with some of the best entrepreneurs and technologists in the world, and in the process help create great and valuable companies. That activity, done well over decades, can generate a lot of money that can then be productively deployed philanthropically back into the society that makes it all possible," said Andreessen of his philanthropy.
ANDREESSEN HOROWITZ: It isn't Andreessen's tech or venture capital prowess that has his firm making recent headlines — it's his philanthropic vision. In a move emulating Bill Gates and Warren Buffett's Giving Pledge, Andreessen managed to convince the six general partners at Andreessen Horowitz to donate at least half of their lifetime venture capital earnings to charity. He kicked off their giving by pooling a combined $1 million and having each partner decide where his portion of the money would go. Emmett Carson, head of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, called the pledge "one of the most significant acts of philanthropy in the 21st century," suggesting it was more significant than the Giving Pledge because "it's actionable today."
The initial focus has been on helping the underprivileged in the Bay Area, which could also give a clue as to where the Andreessen Horowitz pledge money might go in the future. Developments so far have included:
- Andreessen decided to support Fresh Lifelines for Youth, a charity for underprivileged children.
- Ben and Felicia Horowitz chose Via Services, which provides support for people with special needs.
- Jeff and Karen Jordan chose Ecumenical Hunger Program, which provides food and other essentials to the poor in the Palo Alto area.
- Peter and Martha Levine chose Canopy, an organization that plants trees in parks, schools, and other areas around Palo Alto.
- John O'Farrell and Gloria Principe chose to donate their share to Second Harvest Food Bank to support its efforts to provide food to underserved populations in San Mateo county.
- Scott and Pamela Weiss chose the Shelter Network, which provides shelter and support for the Bay Area's homeless population.
Andreessen, for his part, is hoping that his firm's idea takes off and is adopted by other venture capitalists, seeing the initiative as an attempt to improve the public image of his sector.
HEALTH: The first major gift that Marc and Laura made as a couple was a $27.5 million donation in 2007 to the Stanford Hospital to provide emergency services. After giving a lot of thought to what their first major gift as a couple would be, they chose emergency services because they wanted to give back in their community, and emergency programs are essential and often lifesaving yet are traditionally underfunded.
TECH DIVERSITY: Andreessen and his wife have also given $500,000 in recent years to three nonprofits — Code2040, Girls Who Code, and Hack the Hood — in order to increase diversity in the tech world. In the same area but with a narrower focus towards LGBTQ organizations, the couple gave $500,000 to Trans*H4CK and Lesbians Who Tech.
LOOKING FORWARD: It's a little early to tell whether the bulk of Andreessen's money will stay local, or whether he will begin to donate more heavily to issues that are more national or global in nature. In the wake of the Ferguson shooting, for example, Andreessen challenged his Twitter followers to donate to the Ferguson public library, prompting some 7,000 donations in just 24 hours. Inevitably, Laura will play a major role in shaping Marc's giving.