How to Give : Sean Parker’s Tips for Hackers

firoz patel“It’s important for hackers to embrace the values that made them successful in the first place: skepticism of the establishment and a desire to provoke or upend it. The hackers who are entering the global elite should embrace charitable giving as its own reward, not as a means of acceptance into the very social systems they have played a role in demolishing.”

Sean Parker is known as many things. To some he is the unyielding kid behind the notorious Napster, to others, he is the controversial founding president of Facebook as famously portrayed by Justin Timberlake in the Social Network. Additionally,Sean Parker serves as a board member of Spotify and is the chairman of the newly formed philanthropic endeavor, the Parker Foundation.

In a recent article featured in the Wall Street Journal, Sean Parker outlined the challenges of wielding so much power and financial clout for emerging tech barons. Sean describes this “new global elite” as a class comprised of true innovators and pioneers in telecommunications, Internet services, personal computing and other tech-based niches.  He reflects on the fact that over the past few decades, the grand shift in demand for technology services has in turn restructured the division of wealth among, well, the wealthiest.

Parker mentions that this class of people has been described as “ technologists, engineers and even geeks, but they all have one thing in common: They are hackers”.

He then goes on to describe the common characteristics of this hacker class. Parker claims Hackers share a skepticism of the establishment, a demand for transparency, an inborn ability to find weak spots in systems and a passion for exploiting the weaknesses of a system through the creation of elegant solutions. Most importantly, hackers maintain a steadfast belief in data as an integral part of problem solving.

After Mr. Parker seemingly concludes his description of the “typical hacker” as an outsider, he goes on to describe the driving force of idealism as a propellent back into the more traditional realm of philanthropy.

Parker admits, that while this desire to do good ushers these new radicals into a well-established milieu, the hacker elite is more interested in evaluating their own impact as opposed to partaking in the pageantry that can accompany such generous giving. In this article, Sean Parker provides a call to action for those looking to contribute large sums of money to generous causes.

Parker suggests that those looking to create a foundation or contribute to an endowment:

Give Early

Parker alludes to an extremely important difference in how you look at managing the capital behind a business vs the mindset behind managing the money in a foundation. Business mogul Warren Buffett recently shared this same sentiment at the Forbes philanthropy summit.  Parker suggests that the money spent through a foundation or a charitable cause should be spent now. You’re not trying to build an extensive reservoir of money to be held onto in perpetuity. Instead  you want the assets to go to issues we face today with the hope that this will positively impact both the present and the future.

Stay Small

Another important tips that Parker offers, particularly to those looking to start a foundation is the importance of staying small. Although well-established foundations  and government-run agencies may have some advantages in the form of larger endowments or certain tax breaks respectively, smaller foundations bear one huge advantage. And that is agility. By keeping  a foundation small, this organization remains unencumbered by decades of red tape.  A small and new foundation has the mobility to contribute and react in real time, whereas older or government bound organizations may not.

Although Mr. Parker was directly addressing the specifics of small, but growing class of tech-elites, the overarching sentiment can still be applied to people in other fields trying to figure out how to approach the broad concept of “giving back”.


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