On Thursday (20 December), Brian Armstrong, Co-Founder and CEO at crypto exchange Coinbase, became the first crypto billionaire to sign the Giving Pledge, an initiative started in 2010 by Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and Melinda Gates that encourages some of the world’s richest individuals, couples, and families to publicly declare that they will dedicate the majority of their wealth to charitable causes “either during their lifetime or in their will.”

The Giving Pledge “came to life following a series of conversations with philanthropists around the world about how they could collectively set a new standard of generosity among the ultra-wealthy.” It is an “open invitation for billionaires, or those who would be if not for their giving, to publicly dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy,” and it is “inspired by the example set by millions of people at all income levels who give generously–and often at great personal sacrifice–to make the world better.” It is envisioned as “a multi-generational effort,” aiming over time “to help shift the social norms of philanthropy toward giving more, giving sooner, and giving smarter.”

People signing the Giving Pledge “often write a letter explaining their decision to engage deeply and publicly in philanthropy, as well as describing the philanthropic causes to which they are devoted.” Although the initial focus was on the U.S., in February 2013, the pledge “went global”; currently, there are 187 signatories, ranging in age “from their 30s to their 90s”, and representing 22 countries (including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States). These signatories “give to a diverse range of issues including poverty alleviation, refugee aid, disaster relief, global health, education, women and girls’ empowerment, medical research, arts and culture, criminal justice reform, and environmental sustainability.”

The list of the pledge signatories includes Richard and Joan Branson, Ray and Barbara Dalio, Larry Ellison, Carl Icahn, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, and Elon Musk.

According to an article in Forbes that was published on November 14th, Armstrong “oversaw a financing round in which the company he cofounded raised $300 million at a valuation of $8 billion,” and at that valuation, “Armstrong’s stake in Coinbase is worth an estimated $1.3 billion, after applying a customary discount for privately held companies.”

In a post on The Giving Pledge website, Armstrong explained his interest in philanthropy and why he had signed the pledge:

  • “About ten years ago I wrote down a goal: ‘start a billion dollar tech company.'”
  • “At the time it seemed ridiculous. I had never started a company worth a thousand dollars, much less a billion, so I had no business attempting something so ambitious… Fast forward ten years, and through a lot of determination and luck I am now the founder of a multi-billion dollar company.”
  • “Once a certain level of wealth is reached, there is little additional utility from spending more on yourself.”
  • “This year, I started my first philanthropic effort, GiveCrypto.org, which makes direct cash transfers to people living in poverty.”


Featured Image Courtesy of The Giving Pledge