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Gary Rubens.
Gary Rubens.

When Seattle angel investor Gary Rubens meets with entrepreneurs, they often ask him about his foundation and how he uses his own money to support local non-profit programs.

“Over and over I hear entrepreneurs saying that they had always wanted to do something good and give back to society eventually,” Rubens said.

Now, he’s created a way for them to do so.

Rubens this month launched a new program called the 1+1 Initiative that asks founders to give back 2 percent of their earnings from a successful exit, sale, merger, or buyout of their company.

The initiative requires founders to donate 1 percent to the Northwest Education Fund, a new 501(c)(3) that Rubens helped start with support from the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship and the College Success Foundation which provides college scholarships to underprivileged kids pursuing degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) or healthcare.

The other 1 percent will go to another new program called the Northwest Startup Fund, a for-profit investment fund run by the 1+1 Initiative members that will back Northwest-based companies.


Rubens will also match any 2 percent pledge from a successful company or venture in which he is also invested.

“I thought that if I created a way for them to pledge to give back now and understand the long-term benefits to the local community, and if I made it easy for them to commit now, that this could be successful long-term,” Rubens explained.

There are already nearly 50 entrepreneurs that have joined, including CEOs like Kristin Smith and Josh Decker, to investors like Rudy Gadre.

Rubens is certainly familiar with giving back to the community. He’s invested in more than 70 local startups in the past two years and last month announced a $20 million donation to the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship.

Rubens, a longtime Seattleite who sold a home furnishing and fixtures e-commerce site to Lowe’s in 2011, said he was inspired to start the initiative after seeing similar programs around the country and wanting to create one that was Northwest-focused.

He is covering the operational costs of both funds, but says that each entity will have a board of directors that is independent of him.

“My goal is to let the board directors run it,” Rubens said. “I provide the vehicle and let someone else drive.”

Learn more about the 1+1 Initiative here.

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