Twitter set to open $1M homeless learning center

Steven Loeb · October 24, 2014 · Short URL:

The company is partnering with Compass Family Services to offer tech lessons to poor citizens

Silicon Valley has been getting all philanthropic recently, and Twitter wants in!

The social network is going to build a learning center, with the goal of teaching technical skills to some of the city’s poorest residents, including the homeless, Twitter has confirmed to VatorNews.

The center, which will apparently be called The NeighborNest, will be located directly across the street from Twitter's headquarters at the Essex Fox Plaza. It is scheduled to open at some point in the summer of 2015.

"We’ve put down deep, enduring roots in San Francisco and are committed to transforming lives right here in the neighborhood where we work. I’ve been impressed with Compass Family Services’ track record and can’t think of a better partner for this," Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said in a statement to VatorNews.

In all, Twitter is going to invest $1 million into the project, and will be partnering with Compass Family Services, a non-profit organization that provides tools for low-income and homeless families to "break the cycle of poverty and homelessness." They serve over 3,500 homeless families in the neighborhood.

Compass currently has seven programs, which includes a family shelter, a rent-subsidy program and a resident center.

“When a Compass family completes our programs they have a 95% shot at remaining self-sufficient and in a stable home. The Twitter NeighborNest will only add to their empowerment, confidence and chance of success," said Erica Kisch, Executive Director for Compass Family Services.

Twitter employees will volunteer their time at the center in order to teach tech skills and resume-writing to, as well as to provide a space for the children of those people to play and learn.

The new center will serves another purpose for Twitter: it extends the company's community benefit agreement. San Francisco wants to keep companies like Twitter from leaving the city, so it has agreed to give them a tax break if they help improve the surrounding neighborhood.

Last year, Twitter avoided paying $22 million in taxes just for helping charities learn to tweet. Do you know what $22 million can buy? At least 22 of these kinds of centers, apparently.

Silicon Valley Philanthropy

Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan are pretty much the models of giving in the tech world, as they were named the most charitable people in 2013, having donated 18 million shares of Facebook stock, which amounted to a total of $992.2 million.

A big portion of their charity has so far gone toward education. Zuckerberg founded the Startup: Education foundation in Newark, New Jersey, and personally donated $100 million to the Newark public school system. In December of last year, Startup: Education, along with Bill Gates’s The Gates Foundation, participated in a $9 million philanthropic investment in EducationSuperHighway, a non-profit aiming to help K-12 schools get connected to reliable, high-capacity Internet access.  Zuckerberg also donated $120 million to Bay Area schools. 

Most recently he gave $25 million to the Center for Disease Control to help fight the Ebola virus.  

Also on that list of top charitable people was Google co-founder Sergey Brin and his wife Anne Wojcicki, who came in at number 9 after donating $219 million to the Brin Wojcicki Foundation and the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. 

Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison donated $72.2 million to the Lawrence Ellison Foundation, making him the 26th most philanthropic person in 2013. 

Others who have made hefty donations include eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, who has donated more than $1 billion through the Omidyar Network to causes that include poverty alleviation, human rights and disaster relief. 

Intel founder Gordon Moore created the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation which has made around $3 billion in grants for causes such as environmental conservation and patient care. 

Recently, Oculus co-founders Brendan Iribe and Michael Antonov, gave $35 million to their alma mater, The University of Maryland. Iribe's $31 million portion of the gift was the largest the university had ever received since it was established in 1856.

The vast majority of the money will be used to build a new computer science building, called the "Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation." $1 million of the gift will be used to establish the Brendan Iribe Scholarship in Computer Science.

If that all weren't enough, Iribe’s mother, Elizabeth Iribe, also donated another $3 million, bringing the total from all three to $38 million altogether.

The news of the Twitter center was first repored by the San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday. 

(Image source:


Support VatorNews by Donating

Read more from our "Trends and news" series

More episodes

Related Companies, Investors, and Entrepreneurs



Joined Vator on

What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests. 

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

How is Twitter built?

Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes. 

We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.

How do you make money from Twitter?

There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.

In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.


What's next for Twitter?

We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users. 

We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.


Dick Costolo

Joined Vator on