A team of sponsors lead by developer Barry Swenson are offering a penthouse in Swenson's City Heights high-rise housing development in San Jose as a prize in a raffle. A $150 ticket could win you the $1.2 million flat or $1 million in cash — if 15,000 tickets are sold. Otherwise, you'll have to settle for half the ticket takings. The raffle will reportedly benefit InnVision, which provides services to the homeless, but it's not clear how much. But then as the lucky winner you could live like an Objectivist, peering down at the impoverished masses and decrying the folly of altruism all you like. So there's that.
Team Google, stocked with runners from company outposts across the country, finished third out 147 corporate teams in the Hood to Coast relay race sponsored by Nike. The course takes runners from Mount Hood to the Pacific Ocean through Oregon. Team Yahooligans? They finished 140th. Google proudly touted the efforts of the team on the official corporate blog. Fast, sure, but were the ultracompetitive Googlers good sports?The post on the blog didn't use the opportunity to solicit support for their fellow runner Chelsee Caskey, an 18-year old from Lincoln High School in Portland, who was the first person to be hit by a car in the 27-year old event's history. Caskey is still in the hospital in serious condition, while the driver of the car was booked for reckless driving and being under the influence of drugs. Donations to help defray her medical costs can be made at any Washington Mutual branch — like the one at Castro and El Camino in Mountain View. A more curious omission: The team's name does not appear on a list of fundraisers for the American Cancer Society, the chosen beneficiary for team donations. If Google did any good by letting employees run the race, it's not mentioned in the blog post or anywhere else. Way to go, Googlers — you might have nearly won the race, but you managed to lose the point.
We always wondered what, exactly, Wendy Schmidt saw in her husband Eric, the billionaire CEO of Google who sometimes prefers the company of other women. A review of the couple's charitable ventures makes things clearer. The Schmidt Family Foundation, which reported $84 million in assets in December 2006, has handed out some grants since its formation two years ago. But its biggest charitable project seems to be Wendy Schmidt herself.The foundation's two main programs are the 11th Hour Project, an organization which publishes links to information it deems "scientific" about global warming, and Greenhound LLC, a bus operator on Nantucket Island. Schmidt is the founder of the 11th Hour Project, and a longtime summer resident of Nantucket, where she is also an investor in downtown real estate. Both superficially good causes. But if Eric wanted to give Wendy, who has a master's in journalism from Berkeley, a job writing environmental press releases, why didn't he just hire her at Google, as he did with ex-girlfriend Marcy Simon? And if the Schmidts want to boost the value of their Nantucket real estate with bus service, why don't they just pay for it themselves, rather than with the help of a tax-exempt charitable foundation? Eric Schmidt complains about the lack of investigative journalism today. This seems like a good place to start. Compared to Bill and Melinda Gates, whose charity reaches around the globe, the Schmidts don't just come across as small-hearted. They look downright unimaginative.
Now we know why BlueLithium founder and short-time Yahoo employee Gurbaksh "G" Chahal decorated his $6.9 million penthouse with tacky animal skins and a cheap-looking chandelier. To look rich for middle America. Chalal is starring in a Fox "reality" show this fall called The Secret Millionaire. In it, G will live among poor people and pretend to be one of them. But before doing that, he'll have to convince Fox's audience at home he's used to living a fabulously wealthy lifestyle. Hence, the decorations, G's decorator tells us in an email defending his efforts.
Google's do-gooder arm, Google.org, is off in Washington holding a conference to lobby Beltway insiders on commercializing plug-in hybrid vehicles. Which makes sense from a self-interest standpoint, since Google is actively investing in companies and technologies that could benefit from subsidies and regulatory changes by the government. Google.org has also hired engineers tasked with researching the goal of creating renewable energy for less than the cost of coal. Which, again, could make Google orders of magnitude more money than it ever will selling text ads. So everyone really needs to stop referring to Google.org as any sort of philanthropic enterprise, and call it what it is — a venture-investment subsidiary. Just listen to Dan Reicher, Google.org director of energy initiatives, talk about exit strategies for some of the projects the organization has funded in the video after the jump. It's certainly a new approach compared to non-profit climate change preparation and prevention advocates. Just don't mistake it for altruism.
The legendary site in England where the Nazis' communication code was finally broken, Bletchley Park, has hit hard times. The land is being eyed by developers eager to build on the spot situated perfectly between Oxford and Cambridge. Among possible funders who turned the opportunity down was the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — reportedly because it wasn't "Internet related."
The Castilleja School, a posh private prep school for girls in Palo Alto with an annual tuition of $29,305, received a $1 million from the Benificus foundation, which lists John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins as president and his wife, Ann Howland Doerr, as vice president and secretary. The gift was part of the school's fundraising efforts, and granted the foundation the right to name the program chair of the math department after the couple. In what I'm sure is just a coincidence, the Doerr's daughter, Mary Doerr, is set to graduate with the class of 2009. Don't work too hard, young Mary — our tipster figures you'll do quite well on your report cards, as long as you don't take leadership lessons from Jimmy Wales, who recently lectured at the school. For parents a little harder on their luck, the cost to rename the computer lab is a mere $200,000.
After years of going to tech networking events and trade shows, you end up with logo shirts and crappy hats. Unless you have the fashion sense of Robert Scoble, you wouldn't actually want to be seen wearing them in public. Which inspired consultants Michael Liskin and David Preciado to come up with The Schwaggin' Wagon, and BloggerReps CEO Marjorie Kase wrangled the van. They'll take your unwanted promotional goodies and turn them into support for InnerKids, a Southern California nonprofit committed to instilling Buddhist mindfulness in the young. The message on which our youth can meditate: That you care enough to give them something you got for free. (Photo by Andrew Mager)
Rolling Stone's profile of Google.org director Larry Brilliant presents a man with an unimpeachable reputation in public health and a decidedly impeachable one in private business. Since Google.org is run more like a venture fund than a traditional philanthropic foundation, the company's supposedly humanitarian work is expected to serve pecuniary self-interest. The RE<C project to replace coal with renewable energy sources could certainly prove quite profitable. But Brilliant's expertise is in epidemiology, and as anyone in big pharma can tell you, there's very little money to be made in curing diseases, especially in the developing world. The piece does have an interesting sidenote — Steve Jobs ran into Brilliant on his way to meet guru Neem Karoli Baba. Which explains where Jobs learned what it takes to lead a cult. (Photo by Pierre Omidyar)
Ordinarily, this would be good news: Vinod Khosla, the former Kleiner Perkins venture capitalist, and his wife Neeru Khosla, have donated $500,000 to Wikipedia's nonprofit parent, the Wikimedia Foundation. But founder Jimmy Wales's dalliances with other VCs — chiefly Roger McNamee and Marc Bodnick of Elevation Partners — have cast a shadow over every dollar the organization receives. Is this one of the $500,000 donations McNamee recently said he helped broker? And if so, what do he and Khosla expect to get in return? For starters, keep a close eye on Wikipedia's articles on ethanol, a major business interest of Khosla's. Wales, ordinarily Wikipedia's front man, makes no appearance in the press release, quoted below:
Perhaps inspired by Jason Calcanis's successful Twitter for help when stranded sans passport in Paris, the do-gooding Google.org has launched the Innovative Support to Emergencies, Diseases and Disaster project — essentially a Web 2.0-fueled emergency broadcast system that will spread disaster-related tidings. With so many people friending and tracking strangers, it only seems logical that you'd base an early warning system on Twitter and Facebook. Instead of inane ramblings, InSTEDD would track text messages between humanitarian workers to help track down resources in the event of an outbreak, and it will help people track down nearby friends. Hopefully InSTEDD's Twitterlike bot will be a bit more reliable than the original.
Google.org, Google's for-profit charity, announced all kinds of new initiatives today. The short version: health, climate change, good government. The basic idea, as MarketWatch notes in a video report about the project, is to approach "giving" like a venture capitalist. Thing is, Google's only "investing" about 3 percent as much as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. No matter, says Google's Larry Brilliant in this clip.
Mary Lou Jespen, founding CTO of the One Laptop Per Child project, recently walked off her job at Nicholas Negroponte's charity case. And now she wants to build a $75 version of the laptop that OLPC has struggled to build for $200. But Jespen may be crazy like a fox. She's actually building a business — the insanity! — called Pixel Qi to further her goals.
John Lilly, the new CEO of Mozilla Corporation, doesn't want you to pay attention to his new charge. The for-profit arm of the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation produces the Firefox browser and makes money largely by partnering with search engines — that's why the Firefox browser comes with a Google or Yahoo search box built in. "The most successful case for [Mozilla Corporation] will be when the corporation itself is sort of invisible," Lilly writes. Now, why would Lilly want you not to pay attention to his very profitable business — $66.8 million in revenues for the foundation, $56 million of which came from the corporation, in 2006, the most recent year for which it reported results? Perhaps it's because there are questions he'd rather you not ask.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's efforts to fight AIDS, malaria and measles in Africa is working. Millions of vaccinated children are now safe from malaria and measles. In many parts of the continent, AIDS deaths are no longer on the rise. But now Africa has other problems, thanks to the charity's focused generosity. A recent Los Angeles Times exposé. It's all Bill's fault: