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Image 1 of 2 Ted Rheingold was the co-founder of Dogster and Catster, two social communities for pet lovers. Ted Rheingold was the co-founder of Dogster and Catster, two social communities for pet lovers. Photo: Christopher Michel Image 2 of 2 Ted Rheingold (right), the co-founder and former CEO of Dogster, died Monday at the age of 47. Here, he plays with early Dogster contributor Rosemary Pepper’s dog, Estro. Ted Rheingold (right), the co-founder and former CEO of Dogster, died Monday at the age of 47. Here, he plays with early Dogster contributor Rosemary Pepper’s dog, Estro. Photo: Kim Komenich, SFC Entrepreneur Ted Rheingold, Dogster and Catster co-founder, dies 1 / 2 Back to Gallery

The last company Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur and angel investor Ted Rheingold advised was one that helps an overlooked segment of American consumers improve their credit scores.

So Bloom Credit was a prime example of the “profit from purpose” business model that Mr. Rheingold, who died Monday in San Francisco, hoped would redefine what motivates entrepreneurs.

“Perhaps you can understand this isn’t just a job to me, this is a purpose,” the founder of early social media sites Dogster and Catster wrote in a June 17 post on Medium. “I’d personally like to show that true profit-from-purpose models aren’t just a possibility, but a reliable, repeatable, defensible business model. ... And that thousands of such businesses can exist concurrently.”

In a series of candidly raw yet inspiring posts on Medium, Mr. Rheingold, 47, detailed how his life changed abruptly after he was diagnosed with stage four metastatic cancer in April 2016. In one post this year titled “As I Lay Dying,” he noted how a new drug, Opdivo, gave him some relief, to the point where he was finally able to lift his young daughter Mabel when “just weeks before I couldn’t even lift myself up.”


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“A number (but not all) of my grudges, entitled expectations, self-assumed responsibilities, judgments are simply gone,” he wrote. “I have no FOMO (fear of missing out). ... I’m simply content to be alive and living my life. I have no bucket list. Life is the bucket. Meanwhile, I’m entirely at peace if I die. I am ready for life to end at any point, yet also ready to use each day, month, year I get towards a long arc of purpose of my life.”

News of Mr. Rheingold’s death brought an outpouring on social media from tech luminaries, including retired venture capitalist and “Shark Tank” guest judge Chris Sacca.

“It’s true, @tedr passed away today. But as you can see by the mentions on Twitter, we definitely didn't lose him,” Sacca tweeted on Monday. “Take some time to read through the cheers and laments. He brightened so many lives.”

Born in New Rochelle, N.Y., on May 28, 1970, Mr. Rheingold graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor of arts in international relations. He also was a member of the school’s ski team. In 1993, Mr. Rheingold started a yearlong fellowship in Bangladesh with the International Development Exchange.

That fellowship and other world travels helped him gain “a strong sense of connection to people, which impacted his life’s work,” his wife of 13 years, Molly Ditmore, said in an email. “His enthusiasm for creating profit from purpose led him to work with companies in developing nations as well as in underserved communities here at home.”

In 2001, he founded business website developer One Match Fire. In 2003, he decided to start his own site, co-founding Dogster, an online community for dog lovers, and its companion site, Catster.

Longtime friend and Dogster co-founder Steven Reading said Mr. Rheingold always sought to use technology to “empower communities to share stories and ideas.”

The social communities for pet lovers were acquired by Say Media in 2011, which sold them to publishing company Lumina Media three years later. Dogster and Catster are now in print as well, having replaced Lumina’s Dog Fancy and Cat Fancy magazines.

“Dogster helped lead the development of a community-based product which could be powered by affinity groups, where you could build a business around a community without exploiting your user base,” Hunter Walk, a partner at the venture capital firm Homebrew, said in an email. “(Mr. Rheingold’s) legacy is about bringing your human self to your work.”

Mr. Rheingold left Say Media in 2013 and became an adviser and later chief operating officer of Tala, which uses mobile phone technology to bring credit and financial services to underserved markets in developing nations.

He was also an avid skier, urban cyclist and hiker who “delighted in being close to the ocean, the Sierras and the oyster farms of Tomales Bay, where he would take his wife, daughter and dog on spontaneous road trips,” Ditmore said.

“My husband @tedr was a king among men,” she said in a tweet. “He made the world better.”

Mr. Rheingold also is survived by his parents Joyce and Paul Rheingold of Rye, N.Y.; brother David Rheingold of New York City; sister Julia McCartney of Rye; sister Susan Rheingold of Philadelphia; and rescue dog Moxie.

The family plans a private memorial service and suggested donations in Mr. Rheingold’s name to the Northern Sierra Partnership.

Benny Evangelista is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @ChronicleBenny, Site News current daily serving News today and the latest news about politics until News lifestyle and sport.

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