Now that he’s head honcho at Fifty & Fifty, Javan Van Gronigen keeps a low profile. He hung up his wallet-chain and ditched the studded dog collar a long time ago. He’s dialed his use of the f-word way down and hasn’t sported a shaved head since the Clinton administration.
A little known fact: this CEO was raised on a steady diet of punk rock. He came up in a town called Manhattan Beach — home of bands such as Black Flag, Descendents and Pennywise — where irreverent gutter-punks were a strong presence and the DIY method was standard.
Just in case we’re unclear on what the heck this sub-culture is all about, let’s break it down. On the surface it’s about teenagers getting together to make thrashy rock n’ roll, press their own records, and promote their own shows.
But at its core, punker ideology rejects materialism and pretentiousness; it’s an anti-establishment philosophy that gives the ol’ one-finger-salute to mainstream music and politics.
Indeed, it was an excellent time and place for an adolescent to soak up plenty of attitude. But like any regular kid, the excitement of being a renegade begins to wane after a while. He figured out you don’t need liberty spikes and piercings to go against the grain (not that there’s anything wrong with that). You can dress civilian and still believe in anarchy, right?
See, the thing is: punk isn’t just about fast music and loud fashion. It’s got plenty of heart, too. Punk rockers actually care a lot—about poverty, politics, the environment, animal rights. And there’s no shortage of veterans (Henry Rollins, Jello Biafra, Tim Mcllrath) that go out of their way to bring loads of support to non-profits doing important work.
It goes the other way, too. Blokes like Javan have taken a page out of the punkers’ playbook by applying the DIY work ethic when interacting with charities. In fact, he started Fifty & Fifty out of a rebellion of sorts when he saw that Fortune 500 companies were getting all the kickass design attention for their websites while the smaller budget non-profits got scraps.
He took the heart from the punk rock mentality and recruited real design talent that would pour their creative labor into meaningful causes. Fully aware that charity work isn’t floating in cash, this crew, dedicated to social good, now poses a major threat in the world of web content.
Yep, the man has come a long way—from sneering teen to non-profiteer. And he’s definitely not alone. In fact, we might have to add him to a growing list of Philanthropunks who regularly disrupt the scene by affecting social change in unconventional (and borderline rude) ways.
P.S. If you’re wondering why I didn’t include a photo of Javan in his punk rock glory, it was an intentional choice to not embarrass the boss man – or, you know, to not get fired. But trust me, Javan was legit-ish.