Feature StoryMeet Your Haas Network
James Hong, MBA 99
Founder of 10over100.org, HOTorNOT.com
The success of James Hong’s popular meeting website HOTorNOT enabled him to pay off his graduate school debt, and then some. But his newfound affluence presented Hong with some hard choices about what to do with it, particularly when it came to charitable donations.
When it launched in 2000, Hong’s HOTorNOT unexpectedly became a huge success. Inviting visitors to rate other peoples’ pictures on a scale of one to ten turned out to be not just a hobby for Hong but continues to be a money-making venture. Today, the seven million individuals who are registered as users of HOTorNOT can also join the site’s “Meet Me” dating section for a monthly fee.
What to do with all this success? “I started trying to figure out how much I should be giving,” Hong says. Unsure, he polled friends in similar situations, largely other entrepreneurs and Internet executives. No one seemed to have the right answer.
“Quite a few weren’t giving much,” he says. “Not because they didn’t want to, but when you’re busy with other stuff you are too busy to think about giving.”
Hong mulled over the idea of how much charity would be enough and then devised a formula he calls 10 over 100, suggesting that people who earn more than $100,000 annually should pledge to donate 10 percent of their income over $100,000 to charities and non-profits.
Hong himself donates to causes supporting underprivileged children and has given to both UC Berkeley’s School of Engineering and the Haas School (he’s a graduate of both). He says people can make a pledge on his site long before they’re earning six figures.
So far, about 700 people have made a pledge on his site. Whether they end up following through is up to them, Hong says. His goal is to promote the idea.
“We’re not here to be enforcers,” he says. “The goal is to increase giving. We don’t care whom you give it to.”