California's Silicon Valley is rife with people who over the past decade built fortunes working for technology companies or arranging mergers, and who are leaving their jobs while still relatively young to start new careers as social entrepreneurs, Bloomberg News reports.
Social entrepreneurship, which came of age during the 1990s, is especially apparent in Silicon Valley and other parts of California, which had more millionaire residents than any other state in 2003, the most recent year for which the U.S. Census Bureau has complete information. In a related development, the number of private foundations in the state has surged 81 percent, to 11,367, over the past decade.
Former software executive Charly Kleissner, 50, left his job at Ariba, Inc. five years ago to help bring renewable energy to impoverished areas of the world; his goal is to provide electricity to at least 100,000 people over the next five years. To that end, he has established two organizations in Sri Lanka that back biomass energy projects — growing crops to be used as fuel in a power generator. His group also helps remote villages restore forests with gliricidia trees and other vegetation, which in turn are used to fuel a power plant.
Others are quick to point out that social entrepreneurs can also apply their talents to more established organizations. George Yandell, 49, switched to full-time philanthropy in San Francisco after working as an investment banker for First Boston and Montgomery Securities. Now he negotiates land purchases for the Nature Conservancy. "I'm buying land and trying to get the best bang for the donor's buck," he told Bloomberg. "Conservation is very similar to investment banking. A remarkable number of skills are transferable."
"[Social entrepreneurship] is not just about writing a check and walking away," adds Doug Bauer, a senior vice president at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors in New York City. "It's about rolling up [your] sleeves."