The Trade Desk CEO Jeff Green Signs the Giving Pledge

When Jeff Green, billionaire CEO and founder of advertising technology company

trade office

At the age of 17, he took on the job of a sociology teacher to break out of social norms and see life from a different perspective seriously, avoiding showers for four days and dressing inappropriately for the Salvation Army before heading to a nasty downtown area. Denver.

Green’s job was to be homeless for the weekend. Soon after arriving downtown, he meets James, a homeless man, and spends hours learning his life story and the struggles that drove him to the street. At about two in the morning, Green followed James to the place of blocking the wind where they could sleep. A few minutes later, the sirens went off and the police arrived, addressing the terribly homeless crowd that had gathered there, Green recalls. He pulled an officer aside, explained why he was there, and was told “Just get in your car and don’t come back”.

As he drove home, Green, 44, was crying wondering “Why am I here and why is he there.” It was an incident that had such a profound effect on him that he wrote at the beginning of his letter announcing that he was signing the Giving Pledge, joining more than 200 of the world’s richest people on Tuesday in agreeing to donate most of his fortune to charity.

In his letter, Green wrote, “No one reaches his place in life alone, good or bad,” and it is a common tradition for those who join the pledge. “I didn’t get to that far statistic position on my own, and neither did James.”

Green has become a billionaire at least five times, according to Forbes, due to the success of The Trade Desk (stock ticker: TTD), a tech company that makes data-driven decisions for digital advertisers. The Trading Desk went public on the Nasdaq in 2016 at $18 a share, and today it’s trading around $700 a share, which represents a 10-to-1 stock split in June. The market capitalization of the company is more than 30 billion US dollars.

The Giving Pledge was created by Bill Gates, Melinda French Gates and Warren Buffett in 2010. Green, whose career began at


Her previous company, the ad platform he co-founded AdECN, which was bought by the tech giant, viewed Gates’ approach to philanthropy as a model for “doing the most good.”

While the adage that “luck is opportunity meets preparation” is generally true, as Green wrote in his pledge letter, he believes that much in life can depend on getting one break—or not. It is a view that fuels the direction of his philanthropic work.

“There are a lot of events in life that could have gone the other way and your whole life would be different,” Green says. “If there’s a way to create those breaks, that seems to be the way to make a difference in the world.”

The billionaire is helping create these breaks for others at California State University, Channel Islands, in Camarillo, California, near where Greene lives, through a peer mentoring program developed with CSUCI officials to stem dropout rates.

This approach came from looking at graduation rates and realizing that a first-generation college student who drops out or fails a class in his first year is “less likely to graduate,” Green says. This fact becomes even more important if the student has had two incidents related to dropping or failing a class. “It’s the single biggest indicator of whether or not they’re going to continue to have that,” he says.

Looking at accurate data is central to Green’s business, but it’s also fundamental to his approach to philanthropy. In both, the passion “must be present or else you won’t have a chance to solve the problem,” he says. But getting to the right solution often requires data.

“Sometimes we make really irrational decisions, in part because the reason is noble,” says Green. To have a real effect, and to be able to scale that effect, requires demonstrating that an idea can work.

At CSUCI, a peer mentoring program developed over the past four years provides student scholarships to mentor 10 other students. Nearly 600 scholarships have been awarded so far, and Greene says, “We’ve seen meaningful increases in both groups.” Using the data, the college decided to scale back the grade requirement for a scholarship to a GPA of 2.0 out of 3.0. They also keep track of the grant level that yields the best results.

“I’d rather give 40 [scholarships] That makes a difference to people over 50’s lives, but “don’t,” Greene says, “so, ‘let’s figure out what’s best, and let’s keep tweaking and tracking everything.'”

After Covid-19 hit in 2020, Green, through his family foundation, provided CSUCI $250,000 for the program and other peer mentoring efforts. In parallel with the pledge announcement, he also plans to announce his first grant of over $1 million US dollars that will go to the college to expand the program. The hope is to eventually expand it to California State University, Northridge, in Los Angeles, where the former CSUCI president is now, and then to other California campuses.

Greene’s other major philanthropic efforts to date include expanding the Texas-based Ruth Cheatham Foundation’s scholarship program for teens who have experienced cancer from the state to more than 30 universities across the country, and supporting the Police Justice Center in Los Angeles. Green is currently sponsoring a CPE data collection study in an East Coast city to understand the effectiveness of deploying mental health professionals and other resources in relieving stressful situations, he says.

Given his full-time job as CEO, Green has hired a former colleague to coordinate his philanthropic work, which he does largely through an LLC called dataphilanthropy. Plans to continue giving while working and running the business. But Green expects the bulk of his charitable work to happen after he retires, per the advice of Gates, who told him it’s hard to moderate both the work and the great charitable giving at the same time.

So far, Green says his reluctance to give big gifts hasn’t been about donating money, “it’s about investing the time to do it wisely,” he says. Gates recently reminded him that by continuing to work, he can not only grow his fortune, but he can also continue to make a positive impact on the world through his work.

The Commerce Desk’s job, Green says, is to create a competitive internet that a few companies don’t own or control “by making data-driven decisions for advertisers, so they can pay more and get more.”

“I could still spend 10 to 20 years in my career, and then spend years letting go of them with passion and thoughtful decisions.”


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