Why I left being CTO of The New York Times, joined a startup, and am pledging 20% of my equity to charity

As The New York Times’ chief technology officer, I had a crucial role in guiding the company’s successful transition to digital, and an opportunity to work with and learn from some of the most talented journalists and software engineers in the world. It’s undeniably one of the world’s most influential institutions doing work in the public’s interest, and has been since 1851.

I love The Times and its vision, and cherished my four years there. But, there was something missing in my career. I had been in CTO roles at four major media companies, with accomplishments I was proud of. However, I didn’t want my 3 year old son Fitz Raj to know me for only being a successful corporate executive, but for accomplishing something significant for the greater good.

So I took a leap: A couple of weeks ago, I left The Times to join Vinit Bharara and fellow Times alum Paul Smurl at Some Spider–a startup creating a network of brands dedicated to community, content and commerce. In many ways my move is not surprising. Throughout my career friends and colleagues asked me why I hadn’t “done the startup thing yet.” People saw me as an entrepreneur inside and wondered why I hadn’t already become one.

However, until I met Vinit and Paul, I hadn’t come across a company with all the right ingredients. The most important thing about a startup, even more important than the idea, is the team that supports it. An idea evolves over time, the product and business pivot as the environment changes, and the technology improves and gets disrupted. But throughout, the people make all the difference between success and failure. Both Vinit and Paul share a dedication to building an outstanding team, which is a large part of why I chose to become invested in the company’s vision.

The people also make all the difference when it comes to giving back, and working for the greater good.

Dr. Krishna Chandra Pant (Rajiv Pant)
Dr. Krishna Chandra Pant (Rajiv Pant)

My grandfather, Dr. Krishna Chandra Pant, was a doctor under British rule in India. As the chief medical officer (i.e. the only doctor) at an institute in Mukteshwar, his job was to only treat the (mostly British) employees of the institute. But he knew no borders when it came to helping the sick and injured. There was no other doctor for more than 50 miles, so he welcomed all patients who came to him and he gave them the same treatment. His British employers didn’t appreciate that, and a drawn out lawsuit ensued. The courts finally ruled in his favor and he prevailed in not only keeping his job, but also in gaining the formal authority to treat all patients equally.

He continued his medical practice out of the family home long after his formal retirement. I remember he used to treat poor patients without charging them fees. He would even give them the medicines free of charge.

In 2014, the World Economic Forum selected me to join its Young Global Leaders community. I didn’t realize at the time the impact it was going to have in my life. I thought it was simply another award. But I met exemplary leaders like Ayesha Vera-YuAnalisa BalaresPardis SabetiLorna Solis, and others who have dedicated themselves and already accomplished more for the greater good of humanity than I could imagine accomplishing in a lifetime. I realized that YGL wasn’t really an award for past accomplishments, but an invitation to start a new journey committed to help make the world a better place.

We should challenge ourselves to make the world a better place
in the ways that we can.

Making the world a better place is no small feat. Last year, when the Ebola epidemic was at its peak, I felt a strong desire to help, but I didn’t know how. I have always admired the organization Doctors Without Borders for the work they do around the world. While many people and organizations claim to work for a greater good at personal cost, people who work at Doctors Without Borders live (and die) by that. In the past, I helped out by giving them small donations here and there, but I wanted to do something more impactful.

My move to Some Spider gives me a chance to use my specific abilities to make a substantial contribution to a cause that I believe in. As a part of my hire, I decided to pledge 20% of my equity to charity, most of it to Doctors Without Borders. This may come as a surprise, especially to those who know me only as a CTO. But just because we have talents in one field doesn’t mean that we can’t be of service in another.

The author and his son, Fitz Raj Pant (Rajiv Pant)
The author and his son, Fitz Raj Pant (Rajiv Pant)

We should challenge ourselves to make the world a better place in the ways that we can. For the doctors serving overseas, their commitment may be their life. For me, it’s dedicating myself to a company that shares my vision, and dedicating part of the reward from being at that company to the people on the ground who can make a difference where I can’t.

My grandfather passed away before I could make him proud. I pray that I am able to do something for this world that fills his great-grandson with pride.


Follow Rajiv on Twitter. This essay was originally published in Quartz.

A career is like a garden (farewell memo to nytimes colleagues)

 

The following is the farewell memo I wrote to my colleagues at The New York Times.


Subject: A career is like a garden

Dear Colleagues,

As you may know, I have accepted an offer to join a startup on June 1st, and therefore have made the difficult decision to leave The New York Times, an organization I have loved being part of for the past four years, and a brand I have admired all my life. I will continue to be a loyal reader, vocal supporter and paying subscriber.

I care deeply about The New York Times. Let me know any way I can be helpful. I remain personally invested in your continued success.

Working with you has been an honor, a pleasure, and a learning experience for me. I would love to stay in touch. You can connect with me on social networks and find my contact info via rajiv.com.

Over the past four years, many of you have become close friends to me. The Times building has felt like my second home. I will leave with fond memories of being part of this wonderful institution.

Paraphrasing Leonard Nimoy’s farewell Tweet:

A career is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.

Live long and prosper.

Rajiv

On Mon, May 4, 2015 at 12:21 PM, Marc Frons wrote:

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to let you know that our CTO Rajiv Pant is leaving The Times to join a startup focusing on community, commerce and content, where he will be heading up technology, product and design. Rajiv told me he has long wanted to be an entrepreneur, and this new position gives him the opportunity to roll up his sleeves and help a startup he co-owns become a successful business.

In his four years at The Times, Rajiv has made an invaluable contribution to the company. He has played a leading role in building and managing the technology behind the growth of our digital business, and the expansion of our mobile and data science teams. Always a magnet for top talent, Rajiv’s proteges can be found in every area of the technology department. Most of all, he has been an unflagging champion of the culture of technology innovation at The Times, and a model of collaboration and good cheer.

Rajiv has agreed to stay on for the next two to four weeks to aid in the transition and help in the search for his successor. Although we are sad to see him go, we wish him every success with this new venture. Regards,

Marc

Please help the people in Haiti affected by the earthquake

If you haven’t heard the news about the earthquake tragedy in Haiti, you can learn about it at: http://www.reddit.com/r/Haiti

The Reddit team at Conde Nast is working with a charity called DirectRelief to help the earthquake victims in Haiti. DirectRelief can use your help. 100% of the donations made to them are going to Haiti response programs — no administrative overhead or fundraising charged against your gift. It’s all going to Haiti.

From: http://www.reddit.com/tb/apnsu

We’ve all been shocked and saddened by the earthquake that’s hit Haiti and based on the trending reddit links since the quake hit, it’s clear many of you are anxious to help. I got to talking with a redditor at DirectRelief, a non-profit specializing in just this kind of disaster recovery and sending 100% of donations to help Haiti – redditors needn’t worry about any money siphoned off for administrative or fundraising costs.

My wife and I made a donation. If you are able to, please join us in helping those in need.

Donate to a good cause and get a useful laptop computer

One Laptop Per Child LogoThe mission of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is to empower the children of developing countries to learn by providing one connected laptop to every school-age child. You can help accomplish the goal and help make education for the world’s children a priority, not a privilege. OLPC is offering1 a Give One Get One program in the United States and Canada. During this time, you can donate the revolutionary XO laptop to a child in a developing nation, and also receive one for a child in your life (or for yourself ;-) in recognition of your contribution.

When you make this donation, you also get one year of complimentary T-Mobile HotSpot access. This complimentary service from T-mobile for one year, valued at more than $350 is a sweet bonus you get for your for your good deed.

I just ordered one. This is an excellent, practical and useful laptop computer for kids or even for adults for basic computer needs. Check out the specs. It is a very rugged, portable, practical and cool computer to carry around at the fraction of the cost of rugged laptops like the Panasonic Toughbooks for business, which are also excellent, but meant to serve business users’ needs.

The XO can be used for basic Web use, writing documents and communications. The XO can even be recharged by human power. That makes it a great system to carry on personal travel, adventure trips and camping because of its rugged design, low cost and that it can provide basic computer needs during personal travel (writing, communicating, and accessing the Web).

Links:

  1. 2007-12-09 update: now extended through December 31 2007. Earlier was only between November 12 and November 26 []