trajectory of entrepreneur-CEO-altruist seems increasingly woven right into the
valley's DNA. Tech engineer turned philanthropist turned Hollywood producer Jeff
Skoll may be the textbook example, first finding success at eBay and then giving
away a billion dollars to deal with water and nuclear issues by the time he was
46. But he's got more and more company on the dance floor.
"Once entrepreneurs get a big win under their belt, they'll often tackle things they weren't comfortable with before that," said Dale Partridge, the 28-year-old founder and CEO of online clothes-and-accessory "social-good retailer" Sevenly. His 2-year-old firm, which donates $7 from each sale to a different charity every week, has "grown to 50 employees and revenues of eight figures."
Not everyone buys the purity-of-motive argument. Karen Brosi, a Palo Alto financial planner and tax expert, heard the Brin-burger story and thought: "That's just too weird. Or I see Larry Ellison buying an island in Hawaii and it seems like some of these guys have more dollars than sense."
Then there's Musk and Bezos, with their fascination with outer space.
"There are so many places in the world where these guys could make a significant difference with their dollars and you're going to take me on vacation to the moon?" Brosi said. "It makes me want to grab them by their ties and say, 'What are you thinking?'"
(EDITORS: STORY CAN END HERE)
BIG SIDE PROJECTS
Corporate chieftains and their ambitious if sometimes quixotic side projects:
Sergey Brin, Google co-founder: A huge offshore wind power development to pump up the East Coast power grid; a driverless car; Google Glass; test-tube hamburger.
Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook: Founded Start-up:Education foundation with $100 million in an attempt to transform public schools, starting with Newark, N.J.; shot and killed a bison as a way to show he's "thankful for the food I have to eat," and had the head mounted on a wall at work.
Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Tesla: Working on "The Hyperloop," a new high-speed transportation system that he says will take riders from Los Angeles to San Francisco in a half-hour; launched SpaceX to develop rockets that would open up space travel and eventually enable people to live on other planets.
Larry Ellison, co-founder and chief executive of Oracle: Made a brief cameo appearance in the 2010 movie "Iron Man 2"; bought a 50 percent share in a top U.S. tennis tournament; collects exotic cars; won the America's Cup in Spain in 2010 and his Team Oracle USA is currently defending the title in San Francisco; bought most of Lanai, Hawaii's sixth-largest island.
Marissa Mayer, former Google executive and president and CEO of Yahoo: A passionate baker, she once created a spreadsheet of ingredients for cupcake recipes, saying, "My hobbies actually make me better at work"; has invested in tech startups like crowd-sourced design retailer Minted and car-sharing marketplace Getaround.
Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon: To encourage more "long-term thinking" on the planet, he's helping build a clock inside a West Texas mountain that will keep time for the next 10,000 years; bought the Washington Post for $250 million of his own money; to open space travel to paying customers, he launched Blue Origin, a human spaceflight startup borne of his fascination with space travel, including "space hotels, amusement parks and colonies for 2 million or 3 million people orbiting the Earth."
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