Speaker | Entrepreneur | Author

Sam Davidson's blog

If you'd like to get more ideas like these sent to you each day, it's easy: sign up here.


Backed by Bill Gates

In hopes of raising awareness about the reality of genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, Sam writes every Monday about a key issue in an attempt to stop the atrocity. Doing so may not bring about a wave of change, but it is a small ripple that represents the tide that needs turning.

Today’s BBC Article details a new panel to monitor and track aid donations to Africa. The panel will make sure that promised money gets to needy nations and that the recipients are spending their money correctly. The panel is chaired by Kofi Annan and has other big name members. But stopping me dead in my tracks was the phrase at the beginning of the second paragraph: “Backed by Bill Gates…”

Yesterday, Warren Buffett, another prominent multi-billionaire, announced that he was giving away a large chunk of his fortuned amassed over years of investing. I’m glad to see a super-rich guy understand the need to give away stockpiles of cash to those who need it more than him. Besides, after the first billion, everything else you make is just icing (or so I’ve heard).

The bulk (over $30 billion) of Buffett’s charitable giving will go to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Bill announced recently that he was leaving his full-time post at Microsoft to oversee the foundation full-time sometime in 2008. The foundation already had a sizable endowment, courtesy of the Gates. Now, it becomes even bigger, and can further attack global health problems.

Therefore, with nearly $60 billion in the bank, get ready for more things that are “backed by Bill Gates.”

Because, when this man and his charity back things, stuff is going to get done. $60 billion is definitely change-the-world kind of money. I always dream of winning the big (more than $100 million) Powerball jackpot and giving the bulk of it away to local organizations and friends who need it. Besides, after you win $25 million, the rest is just icing (or so I’ve heard).

But $60 billion moves mountains. It ends malaria, hunger, and maybe one day, even AIDS. $60 billion gets you the attention of just about anyone in the world. Which is why that the guy holding that extra-large checkbook is Bill Gates. Anything he backed in the 90’s was almost always golden in the computer and software world. But now, finding himself watching Web 2.0 change the world, and seeing open-source and Google calling shots in lots of the digital world, Mr. Gates has become a better philanthropist that software engineer. His greatest calling could be to give away money to global health initiatives in poor countries. All of his Microsoft days might have only prepared him for his time as nonprofit executive extraordinaire.

Some will complain that the rich get richer. Maybe so, but the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has the methods and capital to change the developing world. Bill has said it’s unacceptable for Africa to be losing nearly 1,000 people a day to preventable and treatable diseases like malaria. He challenges the brightest minds the world over to develop easily transportable and usable vaccines.

Bill Gates built the Microsoft empire by making a product everyone needed and by making this product better than anyone else. He will do the same with his and Buffett’s money in the nonprofit world. He will do it better than anyone else, so from now on, whenever you hear of Bill Gates ‘backing’ something, pay attention, because not only is it going to be good, it’s going to be meaningful.