Bryan Sims is not a billionaire. Not yet, anyway.
Still, he's following in the footsteps of Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Michael Bloomberg and at least 37 other billionaires in taking his own version of The Giving Pledge.
The Pledge, originated by Buffett and Gates, asks that the country's wealthiest individuals donate at least half their life savings to charity by the time they die, and while Sims isn't quite playing in the big leagues, his Oregon-based business brass Media, which produces a magazine and other tools to get youths interested in finance, has seen significant growth since Sims founded the business at age 19 and landed in the Inc. 500 when he was just 25.
Now, at 27, Sims believes he's still got plenty of room to grow and hopes it will enable him to make a substantial contribution to charity by the time he dies. Sims spoke to Inc. reporter Issie Lapowsky about why he's suddenly decided to make such a serious commitment so early in life.
When did you decide to make this promise?
Just last week. I was writing a column for the magazine we produce, and I was writing about the 40 billionaires pooling their money together and how it's important for people to do those things, so I started thinking there's really no reason I couldn't make the same pledge they'd made, and there's really nothing stopping me. You don't have to be a billionaire. You don't have to be close to retirement to make the decision that it's something you want to do.
Hopefully you have a lot of years to go, though. Do you think you'll be able to follow through?
I'm going to be creating a written pledge that I'll put on my wall, so it's always there as a reminder that this is something I'm going to do at the end of my life. It's not set in stone, but it's more like something you plan on doing and commit yourself to doing. Who knows what happens in the next 50 years as far as life goes, but no matter what, if you've got it left over, why not pass it back.
Have you always been involved with charities before?
Not personally, but I do plan on creating a foundation in the next couple of years. It's going to be focused on economic education, financial education. I'm big on teaching young people about personal financing and entrepreneurship, so they can solve their problems themselves. It's the teach people to fish model.
Why not just give along the way, instead of giving it all at the end?
I believe I've got a skill when it comes to building business, and I want to be able to leverage that skill in the next 50 years to compound the collective value and give more later on.
How do you think this could affect you later in life?
If you put it out there before you get married and have kids, it just becomes part of who you are growing up, so it never becomes a question of what's going to happen to [the money]. I think it's a smart idea, what Bill Gates has done. He's announced he has money, but he's always said he's going to give it all back at the end anyway. So I think it's a good thing to say, 'Here's what's happening and that's how it is.'
Would you consider spearheading a Giving Pledge for young business owners?
I'm involved with a couple different groups of young entrepreneurs. It's a close-knit, small circle of people who are, who knows, maybe the next Bill Gates or the next Michael Dells or Oprah Winfreys. It'd be cool to get those people thinking at an early point, maybe this is something we should do as we get older and we start becoming the next generation of entrepreneurs running the country. Bill Gates started at 21. Michael Dell started at 19. Oprah Winfrey started in her teenage years at a radio station. If you can plant that seed pretty early on, I think it's a pretty important thing.