Alexis Ohanian's 776 Foundation—named after his venture capital fund, Seven Seven Six, aims to distribute $20 million to young people over the next decade to work on climate solutions.
Climate activists have a new champion in Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder and executive chairman of the social media site Reddit. Although he was only 22 when he cofounded Reddit in 2005, Ohanian is now the driving force behind a nonprofit providing funding to young entrepreneurs dedicated to solving climate change challenges. According to CBS News, Ohanian said the greatest existential threat humanity faces is the threat to climate, and if left unsolved, "nothing else is going to matter in a hundred years." His 776 Foundation—named after his venture capital fund, Seven Seven Six, aims to distribute $20 million to young people over the next decade to work on climate solutions.
Ohanian noted that the best ideas get funded even if they are still in the research project stage. "I tell these fellows, 'I just need one of you to do something amazing, and I will be bragging about that for the rest of my years to my daughter,' right? I'd be like, 'Remember, papa was the one to believe in that thing that saved our planet,'" Ohanian said. Ohanian, who wed Serena Williams in 2017, hopes to set an example of integrity for Olympia, their 5-year-old daughter. "I want people to come up to Olympia talking about how cool her dad is just as much as people come up to her and say how cool her mom is," he said.
The foundation, according to Fast Company, run by Lissie Garvin, previously chief of staff at 776, Reddit, and Initialized Capital, will fund new ideas to support marginalized people, beginning with the fundamental challenge of climate change. “When we looked around, we tried to think about this from first principles,” Ohanian says. “Ultimately, nothing matters if planet Earth is f***ed. All of the things we want to get in the way of a better society, and at the end of the day, start with making sure we can still inhabit this planet over the coming decades. And, obviously, climate disproportionately affects marginalized people.”
Maya Penn, 23, is one of the first recipients of Ohanian's $100,000 grants for climate and environmental entrepreneurs, which he is funding through his 776 Foundation. At only 11, she gave her first TED talk, started her sustainable fashion line at 8, and was featured in Vogue earlier this year for her climate activism alongside singer Billie Eilish. Penn is now working on an animated short film about bees and the loss of their habitat. In the film, Viola Davis is an executive producer and Whoopi Goldberg is voicing one of the characters. "It's an environmental action adventure ... and I want to normalize topics like sustainability, normalize topics like climate environment," she said, reported CBS News. As a young Black woman, this opportunity and the funding mean the world to her.
#climatefellow @teresa_liu_ is working toward a climate tech company that will be able to reduce 0.5 gigatons worth of greenhouse gas emissions per year. We can't wait to see what she creates because it'll have a huge impact on the world. pic.twitter.com/FM3y0OAdoA— 776 Foundation (@776foundation) April 17, 2023
The grants support a range of work, from building new climate-tech startups to activism. “This is designed for super, super early ideas,” said Ohanian. “And they don’t have to be for profit. Part of this is like, let’s see what happens when we open it up to the creativity of folks,” reported Fast Company. This foundation hopes to accelerate more climate action in the future. “When I see folks who feel helpless about the state of things, I get it,” he noted. “I understand where that energy comes from. But we so desperately need the energy, especially from young, just amazing, motivated people, to be in problem-solving mode. And I hope this cascades, because yes, this is a huge, huge problem. We need the energy of the builders. We need our best and brightest minds.”