The First Principles Forum convenes founders, early employees, and investors in the technology sector with access to resources from recent IPOs or company acquisitions to advance their thinking on impact and philanthropy. This gathering and community provide opportunities to support and challenge the next generation of philanthropic leaders to think consciously about the impact they can have, from the outset of their wealth accumulation.


The inaugural First Principles Forum was held on July 18-19, 2019 with the goal to create a community of tech company founders and early employees who had recently undergone a liquidity event and who were interested in effective philanthropy. The forum gathered nearly 50 founders and early employees, along with 30 foundation, nonprofit and government leaders, experts in the field and advisors to some of the world’s most high-capacity philanthropists.  See the 2019 First Principles Forum Agenda here.

The 2019 Forum was co-hosted by Schmidt Futures and Bloomberg Beta, with programming input from Stanford PACS. The program design was led by Roy Bahat, head of Bloomberg Beta and Denise Hearn, co-author of The Myth of Capitalism.

Following discussions with Roy who joined the Stanford PACS’ Advisory Board in early 2020, Stanford PACS has taken ownership of the Forum for 2020 and into the future.  Led by Forum Co-chairs Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen and Roy Bahat, we hosted the second First Principles Forum on July 24, 2020. We brought together nearly 120 technology company founders, early employees, and investors, along with mentor philanthropists and experts in nonprofit, government, and academia in an engaging virtual format. Our community of diverse participants represented companies like Lyft, Uber, Twilio, Slack, Airbnb, Stripe, Pinterest, Postmates, and Google. Together, we learned from experts such as National Domestic Workers Alliance’s Ai-Jen Poo, UC Berkeley professor john a. powell, Echoing Green President Cheryl Dorsey, philanthropist Cari Tuna, Ford Foundation President Darren Walker and PACS Faculty Co-Director Rob Reich. See the 2020 First Principles Forum Agenda here.

Building on the success of the 2020 Forum and the community’s enthusiasm for more engagement opportunities, we are exploring different types of event and communication formats to continue the conversations and will be convening again on July 16, for the 2021 First Principles Forum.

Stanford PACS believe this Forum is a critical avenue to advance the knowledge, community, and engagement of the new generation of technology leaders in the Bay Area. As part of our goal to improve the practice and effectiveness of philanthropy, we see an opportunity to build a broader community of philanthropists through both the First Principles Forum and Philanthropy Innovation Summit.

What and Who is First Principles

Our members are current or former senior leaders in these and other companies:

Why First Principles?

Reasoning from first principles is the practice of starting with the most basic building blocks of our knowledge — the notions that can’t be deduced any other way. Many are drawn to work in the technology industry to provokechange, and the same first principles that leaders apply in that context can help to question traditional ways of doing things.

The idea of reasoning from first principles goes back as far as the Greek philosophers, and it’s become popular both in technology and in finance in recent years as a way to make sure that our thinking is on solid footing. As we learn together about how to have a positive impact on the world, we want to uncover and test the reasons we’re doing this in the first place — our first principles.