Childhood & Early Life
Sean Parker was born on 3 December 1979, in Herndon, Virginia. His mother, Diane Parker, was a TV advertising broker while his father, Bruce Parker, was an oceanographer in the US government.
At the young age of seven, his father taught him computer programming on an Atari 800.
He initially attended William Taft Elementary school and then went to Oakton High School in Fairfax County, Virginia.
After a couple of years, he joined Chantilly High School in 1996 for his junior and senior schooling.
As a child, he was passionate about reading, a habit that has helped him in self education.
As a teenager, he liked hacking and programming and was once caught by the FBI for hacking into the network of a Fortune 500 company. Since he was underage, he was sentenced to community service in a local library.
From childhood, he suffered from asthma and has allergies to specific foods.
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While Sean Parker was still in high school, he developed an early web crawler which won him the Virginia state computer science fair award.
He was recruited by the CIA; however, he chose to intern for FreeLoader, a startup by the CEO of Zynga, Mark Pincus. He further worked for UUNet, an early Internet service provider.
Around the same time, he met Shawn Fanning over the Internet and along with few others, the two started an Internet-security company, Crosswalk. The company did not do well, but a bond between the two young minds was formed.
In 1999, Parker and Fanning joined hands to establish Napster, a free file-sharing service for music. Napster attracted millions of users in just one year.
With popularity, came a lot of opposition from various corners including the recording labels, the Recording Industry Association of America and the heavy metal band, Metallica. The various lawsuits filed against Napster eventually led to its closure.
In 2002, he founded Plaxo, an online address book and social networking service. Plaxo was an early pioneer in the social networking tool and influenced the way other such sites (Facebook, LinkedIn) functioned in future. A couple of years later, he was sacked by the financiers of the company.
In 2004, he came across The Facebook (now Facebook), a social networking website meant for college students and joined it as its first President. He encouraged its co-founder, Mark Zuckerberg to develop the social networking site further.
Next year, he was arrested on the suspicion of cocaine possession. Though he was not charged, he had to resign as the president of Facebook. Still, he continued to be involved with Facebook in many ways.
In 2006, he joined Peter Thiel’s venture capital firm Founders Fund as managing partner. He continued in the position till 2014.
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In 2007, together with activist Joe Green, he established Causes which went on to develop an application for Facebook users by which they could mobilize group of people for philanthropic causes and generate funds for them via donations.
In 2010, during his tenure in Founders Fund, he invested in the Swedish streaming music service, Spotify. He became a part of Spotify’s board and in the following year announced its launch in the US.
In 2011, he once again joined hands with Shawn Fanning and launched Airtime, a social video-chatting service. It faced hardships during its initial days and had to be relaunched in 2016.
In 2014, he lent his support to Brigade, an online platform for civic engagement. He serves as the Executive Chairman of Brigade.
Since very early in his career, Sean Parker has been regularly associated with various philanthropic causes. In 2012, he announced a grant of $5 million to Stand Up to Cancer and the Cancer Research Institute for the formation of Immunotherapy Dream Team.
In 2014-2015, he announced a grant of $24 million for the establishment of Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research at Stanford; $4.5 million for the Malaria Elimination Initiative at California University (University of California San Francisco's Global Health Group)2 and finally $10 million to establish Sean N. Parker Autoimmune Research Laboratory at UCSF.
In 2015, he established Parker Foundation with three primary focus areas: Life Sciences, Global Public Health, and Civic Engagement. The following year, he approved a donation of $250 million to form Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy.
He is a part of board members of various nonprofit organizations like the Obama Foundation, Global Citizen, Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy and Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
During his career, he has made abundant donations to both Democrats and Republican parties in the US. He has also supported numerous political causes and campaign.
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He is also the founder and executive chairman of the Economic Innovation Group (EIG). In this position, he was the driving force behind the path breaking Opportunity Zones program, a community investment tool that encourages private investment in low-income communities throughout America.
Awards & Achievements
In 2013, he was awarded the Oliver R. Grace Award for Distinguished Service in Advancing Cancer Research by ‘Cancer Research Institute’.
He figured in ‘Time’ Magazine Healthcare 50 for his work in the field of cancer research.
His cancer related work also earned him ‘Pontifical Key Philanthropy Award’ in 2016 from the Vatican. The same year, he was given the Jefferson Foundation Award for Outstanding Public Service by a Private Citizen.
In 2018, he won the Kemp Leadership Award for his role in Opportunity Zones programme.
The same year, he was named one of the ‘Icon’ by ‘Wired Magazine’ for his support to research in DNA programming and genome editing in fighting cancer.