Google gets a G.E. Gold star for the aggressive formulation of
their philanthropic division Google.org. www.google.org
Biggest star goes of course to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation
for making it not only cool for the rich to give but expected.
Google signs on do-good doctor to head charity
By Jim Hopkins, USA TODAY
SAN FRANCISCO — Google extended its maverick reputation on Tuesday by appointing a tech-savvy doctor who fought smallpox as the first chief of the company's nascent philanthropic arm. Larry Brilliant's life has ranged from civil rights marches with Martin Luther King to working as physician to the Grateful Dead and leading high-tech ventures.
His appointment is an important milestone for the online search giant's $1 billion charitable arm, Google.org, launched four months ago with a focus on poverty, the environment and energy. It ranks in the top 50 of an estimated 66,000 U.S. philanthropic groups. Biggest is the $29 billion Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
As Google.org's executive director, Brilliant, 61, will play a key role in its start-up and in refining its focus, said Gene Tempel, head of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.
Google said it chose Brilliant because of his experience battling blindness overseas and with the World Health Organization in fighting intractable problems such as smallpox. "Those are things that have helped make the world a better place," said Sheryl Sandberg, the Google executive who coordinated a search that included hundreds of candidates.
Brilliant said he took the job because it combines two subjects — health and technology — that have been his life's work. He said he also was drawn by the "don't be evil" corporate mantra advanced by the online search giant's founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page. "This 'don't be evil' slogan permeates every cell in their being," he said.
Brilliant said his medical background did not signal an impending shift by Google.org to fighting disease, a field now dominated by the Gates foundation. Rather, improving health is an integral part of fighting poverty. "It's two sides of the same coin," he said.
Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, said Brilliant's health work is a signal that Page and Brin "care about health and the underclass."
Brilliant most recently was chairman of the Seva Foundation, which he founded in 1979. Seva says its projects in India, Nepal, Tibet, Cambodia and Tanzania helped restore sight to 2 million blind people.
He also was CEO of Cometa Networks, a joint venture of Intel, IBM and AT&T that sought to develop a national Wi-Fi system before it was dissolved in 2003. He also was CEO of Internet service company SoftNet Systems. Brilliant also holds a telecom patent.
Yet it is his background as a hippie-turned-doctor and tech executive that led Fast Company magazine to dub him the "quintessential baby boomer."
He was born in Detroit and received an undergraduate degree in philosophy from the University of Michigan in 1965 and a medical degree from Wayne State University. He arrived in San Francisco during the famous 1967 "Summer of Love." He met one of the 1960s icons, the Grateful Dead, and spent two years traveling with his wife and 40 other hippies through Europe and the Middle East.
Brilliant is the latest Google hire with a Dead connection. The company's legendary corporate chef, Charlie Ayers, was the band's chef.