New Money on West Coast Flexes Crypto Muscle for Homeless

(Bloomberg) -- Many of Silicon Valley’s tech moguls, venture capitalists and financiers are still building their empires, and most have decades to go before they have to start worrying about their legacies.

But at a gala Thursday night in San Francisco, America’s newly wealthy showed they can raise some serious money to fight poverty in the Bay Area. The nonprofit Tipping Point Community brought in more than $14 million by the next day.

In a sign of just how new much of the wealth is, the organization accepted Bitcoin, Ripple and Ethereum for the first time this year. A who’s who of the digital currency world had gathered: Chris Larsen, CEO of Ripple; Brian Armstrong, co-founder and chief executive of Coinbase; Dan Morehead, founder and CEO of Pantera Capital Management; Micky Malka of Ribbit Capital and Ted Janus of J Capital.

“It’s great to see in the Bay Area because this is all about making sure that wealth is getting to people who need it most, and this helps lubricate that goal," Larsen said.

Morehead sat one table over. “It’s a productive and worthwhile application from a nonprofit that’s driven by some of the most innovative minds in San Francisco."

“I think a lot more charities will be accepting crypto in the future," Armstrong said.

Crypto Gifts

“Trust me, no one is doing this in New York yet," said auctioneer Lydia Fenet, who made the trip from Christie’s in Manhattan to lead the donation drive after dinner.

The crypto gifts -- made with a QR code printed in the program -- will be converted to dollars and spent within the next fiscal year, Tipping Point spokeswoman Marisa Giller said. The organization raises money from scratch annually to support grantees, develop new solutions and scale proven ones. The board pays all expenses. The nonprofit received its first Bitcoin donation (outside the annual benefit’s pledge drive) in 2014.

Led by Daniel Lurie, a former staffer of New York’s Robin Hood Foundation, Tipping Point brings a tech and data-driven approach to education, employment, housing and early childhood development that’s earned it a following among the region’s developing philanthropists. It’s tapping their intellectual and financial capital.

Facebook’s David Marcus helped create Tipping Point’s Messenger bot, which drills down on the issues. Tibco Software analyzed parking-ticket data to see how citations burden people with low incomes. Grantees have built Salesforce.com databases to track participants to improve outcomes.

“If there’s one place in the world that can solve this, it’s the Bay Area,” said Alan Waxman, chief investment officer of TPG Sixth Street Partners. It’s not just the “massive wealth creation that has taken place and will take place in the next five years,” Waxman said, but the technology, smarts, passion -- and Tipping Point’s leadership. “I hope it can be done in other cities," he added.

Policy is becoming a more visible tool for Tipping Point. The group’s chairman, Chris James of hedge fund Partner Fund Management, said mayoral candidates in San Francisco’s June special election signed on to a Tipping Point pledge to secure 1,000 units of housing for the homeless within their first year in office.

The region is facing some urgent issues. Tipping Point raised $33 million in response to the North Bay fires, and committed $100 million to reduce by half the number of chronically homeless people in San Francisco by 2022. That’s about 2,100 people who have been on the streets for more than a year and with a mental or physical disability.

In a city where the average income of the top 1 percent of households is $3.6 million, there’s an increasing sense of responsibility.

Poverty is “in your face” here, Kate Harbin Clammer of Source Capital said. At a Christmas party at the Homeless Prenatal Program, her kids served food, handed out gifts and helped children select books. “It was really great for the kids, for me to be able to say, ‘This is not a party for you, we are here to work,’” Clammer said.

Like the Robin Hood Foundation benefit, Tipping Point’s is a big, fun party with music (this year from Leon Bridges and DJ Kiss) and stories from the people it serves. Thursday at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, Brittney Venter, a former foster youth, spoke of the support she got from the San Francisco State Guardian Scholars Program. She’s now a social worker at the hospital where she went as a kid to get off the streets.

In the auction, Andrew Wilson, CEO of Electronic Arts, and a chair of the event, agreed to give a private tour of his firm’s studio in Vancouver. In the Motion Capture Lab, four visitors will be turned into digital avatars, and one will appear in an upcoming game. The package was sold twice, raising $240,000.

Seen among the more than a thousand guests: Joe Gebbia, co-founder and chief product officer at Airbnb; Ned Segal, chief financial officer of Twitter; Max Levchin, co-founder of PayPal and his wife Nellie, a partner at HVF Investments; Lo Toney of GV, the venture arm of Alphabet Inc.; Juliet de Baubigny of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers; Ev Williams of Medium; Jed York, John Lynch and Jimmy Garoppolo of the San Francisco 49ers; Marshawn Lynch of the Oakland Raiders; Kirsten Green of Forerunner Ventures; and Kevin Marchetti of Lineage Logistics.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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