Ron Conway

NET WORTH: Unknown

SOURCE OF WEALTH: Founder of SV Angel; investments in Google, Facebook, Square, Twitter, PayPal and others

FUNDING AREAS: Healthcare, Bay Area community, gun control, homelessness, public policy

OVERVIEW: Conway is an proponent of the power of philanthropy to sway municipal legislation and redirect civic life when deployed locally. He made a big splash in January 2015 with a $40 million gift to help establish the UCSF Ron Conway Family Gateway Medical Building. Now in his mid 60s, Conway has been active in the Bay Area angel investment scene since the 1990s, and serves on many boards. Conway makes a lot of his gifts with his family.

BACKGROUND: Ron Conway is the founder of SV Angel, which made early investments in companies like Facebook, Zappos, Square, Airbnb, Twitter, among many others. He's been an active angel investor since the 1990s. Conway's net worth has been upwards of $1.5 billion, but he's not currently on the Forbes billionaire list. Conway, or "the human router," as Marc Andreessen calls him, is well-known in tech, political and celebrity circles in the Bay Area. Conway and his wife Gayle are active in local civic life, where, for instance, Conway is a member of the UCSF Medical Center Campaign Cabinet, and is a board member at the Salesforce.com Foundation. Conway attended San Jose State University. 

ISSUES:

HEALTH: In 2015, Conway and family donated $40 million to help pay for a new outpatient medical building at the UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay. This appears to be Conway's largest gift to date. The 207,500-square-foot facility that anchors the $1.5 billion hospital complex hosts outpatient services for women, children and cancer patients and is named the UCSF Ron Conway Family Gateway Medical Building. Conway has also supported the Avielle Foundation. Its mission is to "prevent violence by fostering brain health research, education, and policy." The foundation was created in memory of a student and victim of the Sandy Hook shooting.

Conway is a member of the UCSF Medical Center Campaign Cabinet and served on the UCSF Foundation Board for several years. Conway has also supported UCSF Neuroscience Initiative, which brings together scientists and clinicians from multiple disciplines.

GUN CONTROL: Conway had little interest in national affairs until the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The shooting occurred while the Conways were hosting a Christmas party with guests which included Gabrielle Giffords. Her presence was interpreted as “a sign,” by Conway who later became a gun control activist. Conway has started a campaign with other venture capitalists to encourage the development of gun safety technology, working with organizations like the Sandy Hook Promise. This has taken the form of the Smart Tech Challenges Foundation, a group led by Conway that invests in businesses trying to develop smart gun technology. This explains Conway's support of the Avielle Foundation as well.

It has also been reported that Conway is on the board of Americans for Responsible Solutions, a non-profit super PAC formed by Gabrielle Giffords in 2013 to help stem gun violence. 

BAY AREA COMMUNITY: Conway founded and currently chairs sf.citi (the San Francisco Citizens Initiative for Technology and Innovation), a nonprofit that is "leveraging the collective power of the tech sector as a force for civic action in San Francisco." Sf.citi advocates for the technology community in San Francisco and includes at least 500 companies such as Google, Facebook, and Salesforce. Sf.citi is also involved in a number of public initiatives, and private/public partnerships involving tech companies.

Conway is involved in local and state politics, with support going to Democratic contenders. He is known for having a close relationship with Mayor Edwin M. Lee, and was Lee's single largest campaign solicitor during the 2011 mayoral election. Conway is also an advocate for immigration reform and cofounded FWD.US.

Conway has also given steadily to Sacred Heart Schools, Atherton (at least $500,000 annually over the past few years), and has supported City of Hope, San Francisco Parks Alliance, and KIPP Bay Area Schools.

HOMELESSNESS: Under former Mayor Gavin Newsom, Conway helped found and fund Project Homeless Connect, which connects the homeless with basic services including medical, dental and vision care, and employment assistance. He served as president of Project Homeless Connect's board of directors when it began in 2004. 

In December 2016, it was reported that Conway is partnering with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff to "raise $10 million from fellow technology philanthropists on a three-year plan to end chronic family homelessness in San Francisco." Conway contributed $1 million of his own money towards this initiative.

PUBLIC POLICY: In March 2013, Conway helped fund a think tank called the Economic Innovation Group with Napster cofounder Sean Parker, investor Joe Sanberg, and Dana Settle, cofounder of the venture capital firm Greycroft Partners. Based in Washington, D.C., the Economic Innovation Group is "an ideas laboratory and advocacy organization dedicated to building a more entrepreneurial and innovative U.S. economy." The group conducts research and uses "data-driven advocacy to address America's most pressing economic challenges." The think tank surveyed 25,000 ZIP codes for its Distressed Communities Index, which is meant to "visualize economic distress and prosperity" across the U.S. The group has also conducted research on where new businesses have formed since the Great Recession, and has surveyed Millennials on their views of the economy. 

LOOKING AHEAD: Conway's philanthropy is still developing, and he's very much involved in business. He appears to have a preference for local issues and told the New York Times, “I think you can accomplish a lot more locally. I don’t want to spin the wheels and not get anything done.” Of course, the exception to this might be his work in gun control, immigration reform and the public policy think tank, which focuses on geographical inequality.

LINKS: Ron Conway Twitter