Tech Leaders Jointly Invest $25 Million in Change.org

A group of tech heavyweights has invested a total of $25 million in Change.org to help the petition website expand, the New York Times reports.

The two dozen tech and business leaders, whose contributions range from $250,000 to a few million dollars each, include Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, eBay co-founder Pierre Omidyar, and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, as well as Virgin Group founder Richard Branson. Change.org makes it easy for anyone to create an online petition calling for a specific action. A mission-driven B Corp., the company will use the funds to strengthen its engineering team, invest in mobile development, and expand a tool that allows those who are the target of an online petition to engage with individuals who signed the petition.

"We want a world where elected representatives can openly and authentically connect with their constituents at scale," said Change.org CEO Ben Rattray. Earlier this year, after the site posted a petition urging that a Christian Sudanese woman be spared from execution drew more than a million supporters, the woman was freed with help of the Italian and American governments.

Change.org had previously raised nearly $20 million, most of it in a $15 million fundraising round last year. According to the Times, it is unusual for investors to commit so much money to a startup that it doesn't need traditional venture capital. Moreover, because the money comes from individuals rather than a VC firm, Change.org will not be under pressure to go public or sell quickly, said Rattray.

"It would have been a lot more straightforward to raise money from a single institution," said Rattray. "But we had a group of people who are passionate about our mission and who had experience building global enterprises, who we can turn to for advice....The reason we want mission-aligned investors with long-term horizons is so we can focus on the product."

David Gelles. "Tech Figures Join to Fund Change.org Petition Site." New York Times 12/08/2014.