A Billionaire Defends Modern Philanthropy

Reid Hoffman may be best known as the founder of the networking site LinkedIn, but these days he’s more of an investor than inventor. Hoffman, who is worth an estimated $3.2 billion, is a partner with the venture capital firm Greylock, which invests in companies such as Groupon and Airbnb. He also spends a lot of time and money on philanthropic causes, giving multimillion dollar gifts to nonprofits such as Change.org and LLCs like the Chan Zuckerbeg Initiative.

Hoffman is also a funder of Code for America, a nonprofit that tries to make government more efficient through technology. Code for America has built services that help people access food stamps and clear their criminal records using their mobile phones, for example. Hoffman contacted me after seeing my story, “The Problem with Modern Philanthropy,” which looked at the influence rich Americans have on public policy through philanthropy. Hoffman argues that, even with its flaws, modern philanthropy has its uses, especially when it works to make government more efficient.

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