First Efforts at Emergency Relief

Mar 23, 2020

We find ourselves faced with a new crisis—COVID-19—that threatens the world’s health and well-being. This is a moment of urgency, and this morning, Tom and I deployed $1 million toward efforts to fight against the virus and its effects.

At Preston-Werner Ventures, our philanthropic investment concentrates on international efforts. From this lens, we have expertise in understanding long-standing challenges contributing to economic and social imbalances of power and resulting in climate change. Working at this level often means thinking about slow-moving pieces. This foray into emergency relief is the first time we have made such quick funding decisions.

We believe that one role philanthropists can play is to step up early and fill gaps or fund initial models while governments work through their red-tape and determine their own courses of action. With this in mind, we are focusing our first efforts in San Francisco, one of the regions in the U.S. first hit by COVID-19. Our donations are spread equally across four organizations:

  1. UCSF Medical Center—funding the needs of frontline healthcare workers, including paying for hotel rooms so they can rest and not infect their own families. Give now.
  2. Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital—funding the needs of frontline health workers, including the procurement of PPE. Give now.
  3. YMCA of San Francisco—funding free childcare for healthcare workers and essential workers, including care for ages 0-5. Give now.
  4. GIVE2SF—funding grocery gift cards for undocumented residents and mixed-status households, low-income households with a pregnant woman or infant, and elderly adults without support. Give now.

Yet we cannot focus solely on what is at our front door. Our team is mobilizing with our public health grant recipients worldwide to determine how Preston-Werner Ventures can best help. I know other funders are similarly pushing to know how they can support on-the-ground work.

This is the beginning of the fight. Now is an excellent time to get involved at whatever level and in whatever way you can. Our involvement, our government’s response, and the programs we all fund will serve as models for the rest of the country and likely the world.

Announcing RedwoodJS

Mar 10, 2020

For the past several months Tom, Rob and a couple of other contributors have been building a new Javascript framework. Today we're proud to unveil Redwood, a framework for the next phase of the internet.

Redwood is meant to be deployed to the edge—CDNs and Lambda functions that can be distributed around the globe and served to users in milliseconds. In tech circles this is known as the JAMstack (Javascript, APIs and Markup). Until now the JAMstack has mostly focused on static sites being backed by a CMS (Content Management System). Redwood makes relational databases a first-class citizen in the JAMstack, allowing your front-end to get and send data to a real database through a GraphQL API. This, along with many other time-saving and productivity-enhancing features makes Redwood not only a powerful JS framework, but it's actually fun to work in, too.

We think Redwood is poised to be a major player in this new world of single page applications. Want to help us build it? Join our discussion forum and open up a pull request!

Annual Letter from Tom and Theresa

Jan 23, 2020

Preston-Werner Ventures is at the beginning. We have just today launched our website, a sign to our patient grantees and partners that we are, in fact, a real thing. To nudge us forward, I am writing a letter to document where we are today and where we’re hoping to go someday soon.

As a couple, when Tom and I come together, we goad one another to “push harder, and do more!” This has become our family motto. On my own, I’ve spent my career working with and learning about inequality, political economy, and the monitoring and measurement of human activity. Tom has worked ever since I’ve known him (twenty years this February) on gaps in technology and how to develop innovative solutions.

Our date nights consist of rapid-fire conversation, pens scribbling across notebooks; dinner and desert the afterthought. We make proposals to one another, unafraid to sound grandiose, but knowing that the other has veto power. We try to differentiate between recognizing a problem we want to solve and the solutions that may or may not solve it. It’s like the line attributed to Henry Ford about building a faster horse.

You must leap with imagination, Tom says to me.

We also know that we can be limited by the imaginations of the people asking the questions. Hence, Preston-Werner Ventures seeks to collaborate with people who know more than we do, and this approach will extend to our grantmaking and investing and to our support of open-source development. We intend to stand back as the voices of other rise up. This is the basis of Preston-Werner Ventures. We want to push projects forward, build in the world, and expand the boundaries of what’s possible and accessible for everyone. We can’t do it alone. We need more people asking questions, and more people providing answers. We’re interested in funding solutions that protect and enhance our world and the people in it.

Let’s see how much we can get done in 2020.