Kevin and Linda O'Leary: Tech Grants

NET WORTH: $300 million

SOURCE of WEALTH: SoftKey, The Learning Company

FUNDING AREAS: Entrepreneurship

OVERVIEW: The O’Learys support causes such as education and climate change, but their work has centered on what they can do through capitalism and entrepreneurship, which Kevin believes has more power to do good than giving money to nonprofits. According to Nuvo Magazine, O’Leary and wife, Linda, choose seven charities to focus on for five-year periods, but it is virtually impossible to find records of this giving. As a result, their giving lacks transparency.

BACKGROUND: Kevin O’Leary grew up in Montreal and attended the University of Waterloo, followed by the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario. O’Leary famously co-founded SoftKey with $10,000 in seed capital from his mother. By the mid 1990s, SoftKey had become a major player in the educational software market. He eventually acquired rivals The Learning Company for $606 million and Broderbund for $416 million before being sold to Mattel for $3.8 billion in stock. In 2009, he joined the cast of hit Canadian TV show Dragon’s Den, and the American show Shark Tank, investing in startup businesses presented by budding entrepreneurs.


ENTREPRENEURSHIP: O’Leary is a lifelong photographer, and in September 2013, he launched an exhibit displaying some of his best work over the last 40 years. Proceeds from the sales of this photography are donated to the Future Dragon Fund, which O’Leary created to encourage teenage entrepreneurs. Through the fund, O’Leary has made $5,000 in grants to promising 11th and 12th graders in Canada. Details can be found here.

O’Leary also works on a show called Redemption Inc., where he helps 10 ex-convicts improve their business skills, and gives them a chance to compete for $100,000 of his money to build their own business.

FINANCIAL EDUCATION: The Alitis Investment Counsel donated $5,700 from the proceeds from a talk O'Leary gave to the Victoria Foundation’s Smart and Caring Community Fund. 

ENVIRONMENT: O’Leary is an entrepreneur, investor, and co-host for the Discovery Channel’s Discovery Project Earth, which explores innovative ways to reverse climate change. During an interview with a young anti-GMO activist, O’Leary explained that people who oppose GMOs should "stop eating" so we can "get rid of them." 

LOOKING FORWARD: O'Leary has displayed an interest in issues such as climate change and financial education, but the level of his philanthropy remains to be seen.