Some news just give me the warm and fuzzies. Like this one about Google philanthropy as reported by the NYTimes. It is starting off with a billion dollars and (like the winner of a beauty pageant), aims to tackle poverty, disease, and global warming.
But unlike most charities, this one will be for-profit, allowing it to fund start-up companies, form partnerships with venture capitalists and even lobby Congress. It will also pay taxes.
One of its maiden projects reflects the philanthropy’s nontraditional approach. According to people briefed on the program, the organization, called Google.org, plans to develop an ultra-fuel-efficient plug-in hybrid car engine that runs on ethanol, electricity and gasoline.
And Larry Page in a brilliant move hired Dr Larry Brilliant to head the org.
The executive director whom Mr. Page and Mr. Brin have hired, Dr. Larry Brilliant, is every bit as iconoclastic as Google’s philanthropic arm. Dr. Brilliant, a 61-year-old physician and public health expert, has studied under a Hindu guru in a monastery at the foothills of the Himalayas and worked as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur.
How cool is that? After his medical training, Dr Brilliant spent two years with Neem Karoli Baba who finally instructed him to exchange his ashram whites for medical whites and help with the smallpox problem. He did.
Fast forward a couple of decades and Dr Brilliant wins the TED Prize (see my earlier post on TED) and gets invited to give a talk at Google HQ and Larry and Sergey like Brilliant and they hire him.
I like the for-profit orientation of Google.org. I believe that every charitable, NGO, and governmental organization should be either for-profit or should be “pseudo-for-profit.” What is pseudo-for-profit? That’s my brilliant idea 🙂 which shall be written about later.