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Innovators searching for solutions to thehave a new champion in Alexis Ohanian, who made his fortune in Silicon Valley decades ago as a co-founder of Reddit. Ohanian is now the driving force behind a foundation that provides funding to young entrepreneurs dedicated to tackling the challenges posed by a warming planet.
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 aims to distribute $20 million to fund climate solutions. Twenty young people from around the world are now utilizing the first round of funding to embark on diverse projects ranging from eliminating carbon emissions from the atmosphere to mitigating the spread of wildfires.
Ohanian said the best ideas get funded even if they haven’t been totally figured it out and are just 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 has a 5-year-old daughter, Olympia, with his wife and tennis star Serena Williams.
“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.
Maya Penn 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 just 23 years old, she has an impressive resume that includes giving a TED talk at the age of 11, starting her own sustainable fashion line at 8, and being featured in Vogue earlier this year for her climate activism alongside singer Billie Eilish.
Now she is also finishing work on an animated short film about bees and the loss of their habitat. Viola Davis is an executive producer and Whoopi Goldberg is voicing one of the characters.
“It’s an environmental action adventure … and I really want to normalize topics like sustainability, normalize topics like climate environment,” she said.
She said it means the world to her as a young Black woman to have someone people in what she’s doing, and give her funding to do it.
Ohanian said he’s committed to dedicating his life to finding climate solutions.
“At the end of the day we’re just trying to solve one problem, which is keep the Earth habitable for a very long time and that’s what I want to spend the rest of my life doing,” he said.