Sam decided to try out earning to give with his career after graduating from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2014. As of March 2021, he estimates he’s worth around $10 billion. He intends to donate most of his wealth to high-impact charities, especially those working to safeguard the long-term future of humanity.
This all started when Sam met Will MacAskill — co-founder of the Centre for Effective Altruism and 80,000 Hours — in 2013. Will had just given a talk about some of the ideas behind 80,000 Hours, including the idea of having a positive impact through earning to give. For Sam, the idea that it was enabling positive change that mattered — not whether he was the one to create the change with his own hands — was compelling and inspiring. He figured that if he could fund several people more qualified than he was to do work that made the world a better place, that might be better than trying to do the work himself.
Sam had been undecided before about what to do after graduation. He became convinced that, given his math skills and enjoyment of messy, real-world problems, earning to give could be a promising path for him.
He was introduced to others interested in this path in the effective altruism community, who told him about Jane Street Capital — a Wall Street quantitative trading firm that promised a high salary. Sam decided to test it out with an internship, and found that the work was a good fit for him: it involved using statistics and economics to create automated trading systems to place trades when the prices of two similar assets got out of sync, which matched his betting mindset.
Our guess is that the impact of quantitative trading itself is socially neutral. But within a couple of years, Sam began to earn enough money to donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to effective organisations — funding people to work on projects that promoted animal welfare and sought to protect the long-term future.
After working briefly at the Centre for Effective Altruism (our parent organisation) in 2017, Sam realised that there might be even better opportunities to apply the trading techniques he learned at Jane Street within cryptocurrencies. Along with others who were also interested in effective altruism, he founded the cryptocurrency trading firm Alameda Research, which is now one of the largest global cryptocurrency market makers.
Sam now runs FTX, a global cryptocurrency exchange specialising in derivatives that he began in 2019. FTX is one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges and routinely has a daily trading volume in the tens of billions. The FTX Foundation allocates 1% of net fees on FTX to effective charities, and has directed over $3 million so far.
Sam has been profiled by Forbes and New York Magazine, and has over 100,000 followers on Twitter.
Sam continues to be actively involved in the effective altruism community, and intends to donate most of his wealth where it can do the most good.
Few people succeed as wildly as this, but earning to give is a great way for many people to use their strengths and have a big impact indirectly, by funding others with comparative advantage in working directly on top problems.