Brian and Tegan Acton: Tech Grants

NET WORTH: $6.7 billion


FUNDING AREAS: Safety net services/basic needs and youth, Bay Area community, fostering empathy, animals

OVERVIEW: Brian and Tegan Acton conduct grantmaking through several organizations. Their charity, Sunlight Giving, supports basic needs of low-income families with children age five and below in the Bay Area. In addition to Sunlight Giving, the Actons established Acton Family Giving and Solidarity Giving. Acton also recently gave $50 million to create the Signal Foundation. 

BACKGROUND: Brian Acton attended University of Central Florida and University of Pennsylvania, and graduated from Stanford University with a B.S. in computer engineering in 1994. He became the 44th employee at Yahoo. Acton met Jan Koum at Yahoo. The duo went on to co-found WhatsApp, which they sold to Facebook for $19 billion in stock and cash. 

SUNLIGHT GIVING: In 2014, following the sale of WhatsApp to Facebook, Brian and Tegan Acton established Sunlight Giving. The charity supports the basic needs of low-income families with young children and backs organizations that provide food security, family support resources, housing stability, and healthcare access, primarily in 10 Bay Area counties.

Grantees include Alameda County Community Food Bank, Berkeley Food & Housing Project, Centro Legal De La Raza, Job Train, and East Bay Agency for Children.

SOLIDARITY GIVING & ACTON FAMILY FUND: The Actons created Solidarity Giving, a donor-advised fund at Fidelity Charitable. This charity focuses on human and civil rights and committed some $10 million to its partners in 2017. Partners include the ACLU Foundation, the Anti-Defamation League, Planned Parenthood, and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Acton Family Giving also a donor-advised fund at Fidelity Charitable, supports initiatives with a close connection to the family. One initial focus is on building empathy in society. Current initiatives include supporting first-person storytelling and promoting compassion for vulnerable animals throughout the world.

SIGNAL FOUNDATION: Signal, an encrypted messaging service, recently expanded into the Signal Foundation on the heels of a $50 million gift from Acton. As Acton describes, the Signal Foundation seeks to "develop open source privacy technology that protects free expression and enables secure global communication." 

LOOKING FORWARD: Acton is a billionaire to watch for greater giving down the line. With several recently minted philanthropic organizations, the Actons seem to want to make a splash sooner rather than later.