Business

How should Jeff Bezos spend his money? Tell him.

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos took to Twitter on Thursday seeking ideas for philanthropy.
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos took to Twitter on Thursday seeking ideas for philanthropy. Associated Press file, 2014

Bizillionaire Jeff Bezos wants your help to solve the world’s problems.

On Thursday, Amazon.com’s founder and chief executive launched a plea on Twitter for ideas to help him construct an approach to philanthropy.

Having built a retail and cloud computing empire as well as a rocket company by focusing on long-term goals, Bezos says that when it comes to doing good for others, “I find I’m drawn to the other end of the spectrum: the right now.”

As an inspiration, he cited the work of Mary’s Place, a nonprofit dedicated to providing shelter to women and families in Seattle, with which Amazon has struck a deep relationship.

“I’m thinking I want much of my philanthropic activity to be helping people in the here and now — short term — at the intersection of urgent need and lasting impact,” he wrote. “If you have ideas, just reply to this tweet with the idea (and if you think this approach is wrong, would love to hear that too.)”

Unlike other hometown giants, Amazon had long been perceived as aloof in philantrophic matters.

As for Bezos, his highest profile extracurricular pursuits were Blue Origin, a space company, and The Washington Post, even as neighbor Bill Gates dedicated billions of his fortune to building a philanthropic behemoth.

But that has begun to change in recent years, as Amazon’s size — and dominance in e-commerce and cloud computing — grew. The once awkward, hypercompetitive company suddenly found itself in the world’s spotlight — and Bezos is now the world’s second-richest man, after Gates.

So far Amazon’s highest profile philanthropic effort has been its relationship with Mary’s Place. It’s devoting half of one of its new buildings to a permanent home for the organization, a move that will cost the company tens of millions.

More than 700 people replied to Bezos’ tweet less than half an hour after it was posted.

Comments ranged from the tongue-in-cheek (“give your money to me”) to the very serious. “Erasing student loan debt,” wrote one poster. “Anything that can be done to help decreased homelessness, specifically homeless veterans,” wrote another.

If all this seems a bit grandiose, consider that Bezos’ net worth rose by $3.3 billion — in one day in April — from an Amazon stock spike. And he’s about $20 billion wealthier now than last year, based on the company’s stock price, according to Money magazine.

In a quick brainstorm of ideas at The News Tribune newsroom, affordable housing for Pierce and King counties might be a thing for Bezos to consider, as well as tackling global warming and helping low-income kids into gifted programs.

News Tribune staff writer Debbie Cockrell contributed to this report.

  Comments