[Editor’s note: GeekWire has partnered with Seattle non-profit Vittana for the Geeks Give Back campaign, an effort to help combat youth poverty this holiday season. The winning team that raises the most money will be honored at the GeekWire Gala on December 6th. We hope you can join us and support this very worthy cause].

Four years ago, I walked away from Amazon and a million dollars. I was a twenty-something kid running a billion-dollar team, but I wanted more.

I started Vittana, a non-profit trying to end youth poverty. I wanted to help people like Ana Lizbeth, a mother who dreamed of becoming a programmer. Because of a $713 Vittana Loan, that became possible.

Kushal Chakrabarti

It’s so rare that you’re given a chance to build something that could really matter. As the idea for Vittana started emerging, it was so clear to me it’d matter. To be given that chance and let it fade away — that’d be morally wrong.

Since launching in 2009, Vittana has helped over 7,000 youth in 12 countries on five continents. Ana Lizbeth doubled her income and has already fully repaid her loan. In fact, the average Vittana graduate triples their earning power and 99 percent repay their loans. This year, we’ll be a $5 million organization.

And Seattle? You rock! Seattle entrepreneur Dave Schappell took my first meeting when I was a wide-eyed “wantrepreneur.” Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman gave me the best advice ever: “You should’ve asked for more.” Zillow co-founder Rich Barton helped us grow in incredible ways this year. Author Tim Ferriss donated his birthday, raising $130,000 in 10 days to fight youth poverty.

Today, with GeekWire, we’re launching the Geeks Give Back challenge. Already, 10 teams have raised nearly $5,000, and CEOs like Alex Algard from WhitePages and Kevin Merritt from Socrata are matching their employees’ contributions.

Why should you join their ranks? Your company will get counted towards Seattle’s most generous organizations. If you win, you’ll be honored on stage at the GeekWire Gala on December 6. And not to mention all that good karma!

Ana Lizbeth has benefitted from Vittana support

Go check it out, and join us in the campaign.

On this day of thanks, you can change someone’s life for the price of your Thanksgiving dinner.

With just one click, you can help someone like Ana Lizbeth escape youth poverty too.

Why did I walk away from a million dollars? For me, education was a second chance at life — I wouldn’t be here without my education.

Would you? As a tech geek, it was a chance to do something about a real, tangible problem in the world. I feel blessed to be doing this every day.

I’m blessed to be part of a community and generation that has the means and ability to really change the world. Not only do I not regret it, I feel lucky.

Kushal Chakrabarti is the co-founder and CEO of Vittana, a Seattle non-profit that helps those in poverty gain access to education. 

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to GeekWire's free newsletters to catch every headline


  • QQQQ

    Love vittana. great to hear more of the story.

  • http://www.facebook.com/daveric Dave Richards

    Vittana is a pioneer in demonstrating that youth in developing countries are able and willing to payback student loans. That’s why we fund Vittana.

    • http://www.obviouslywrong.org/ Kushal Chakrabarti

      Thanks Dave! Ya’ll are awesome. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/wpoole8 Will Poole

    Kushal, it’s great to see you tell your story of pursuing meaning and social impact over financial return. Not everyone will (or can) make the kind of trade-off you made. But everyone can be inspired to take action in some small way to give back while pursuing their dreams, whatever they may be.

  • Narjot Singh

    Such an inspiring story Kushal. The world needs more good folks like you to choose goodness over money!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kleitsch Jana Pierson Kleitsch

    Kushal, you are one of the richest people I know! I don’t measure success by stock options. Way to go with all you’ve done with Vittana. YOU are making a difference!

  • Kevin Merritt

    Yours is such an inspiring story, Kushal. Thank you for leading by example. We at Socrata believe in your vision and encourage other startups and tech companies to participate in the Geeks Give Back challenge. Let’s show the community what we’re capable of.

    • http://www.obviouslywrong.org/ Kushal Chakrabarti

      Thanks Kevin! Excited to have you guys part of this!

  • http://twitter.com/anilpank Anil Verma

    I liked your theme of helping poor young people with education.

Job Listings on GeekWork