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Home arrow Blog arrow 1/18/ announces $26 million in grants, investments

1/18/ announces $26 million in grants, investments PDF Print E-mail
Written by Verne Kopytoff   
Wednesday, 23 January 2008

(01-17) 11:11 PST MOUNTAIN VIEW -- As part of its save-the-world mission, Google Inc.'s philanthropic arm announced more than $26 million in grants and investments Thursday in what is the organization's biggest round of funding to date.

Eight companies and organizations will share the money, which comes from, the umbrella for the Internet titan's do-good initiatives. Recipients include a company that develops solar power technology, an organization hoping to predict global epidemics and humanitarian disasters, and a group that helps support small and midsize businesses in developing countries.

The grants reflect stepped-up activity at, which until recently kept a low profile while getting organized. With Thursday's announcement, Google is finally getting around to writing some big checks and narrowing its focus to five areas.

"We're brand-new, we're young, we're really just coming to the starting line," said Larry Brilliant, who leads

The most lucrative of the payouts is a $10 million investment in eSolar, a Pasadena company that designs solar thermal power plants. The money follows through on a high-profile initiative unveiled by Google two months ago to spend hundreds of million of dollars to spur the development of renewable energy that is cheaper than power from coal-burning plants.

InSTEDD, a group devoted to improving the early detection of global epidemics by creating technology for governments and humanitarian organizations so that they can respond more quickly to emergencies, got $5 million. TechnoServe, a nonprofit that helps support small and midsize businesses in poor countries, got $4.7 million. was created by Google's founders, who said in prelude to their company's initial public offering that they hoped Google's philanthropy "may eclipse Google itself in terms of overall world impact." They endowed the initiative with a commitment of 1 percent of Google's shares at the time of its initial public offering, plus 1 percent of Google's profits.

Google, in Mountain View, doesn't provide a dollar figure for's finances. But the amount is sizable.

The 3 million shares committed, which are to be distributed over 20 years, would be worth around $1.8 billion today at Google's current stock price. Google's profit in 2007 could contribute another $40 million, if the year's final quarter comes in as expected.'s spending includes charitable giving from a foundation along with private investment. Google representatives insist that backing companies isn't aimed at generating profit for Google, but rather to help jump-start innovation that can bring social change.

In creating a philanthropic arm, Google joined a long list of Silicon Valley companies including eBay, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard. A number of technology moguls have also set up private foundations, such as the Skoll Foundation and the Omidyar Network.

Brilliant is an epidemiologist who helped eradicate smallpox in the developing world while at the World Health Organization. Until recently, his group focused largely on hiring staff, crystallizing its focus and making small grants to learn the ropes.

Some of the recipients of Google's $25 million announced had previously received some of those smaller grants. Google nevertheless included that money in the totals it provided Thursday, making them higher than they otherwise would be. started ratcheting up its operations publicly six months ago, when it pledged $10 million to fund research and development in hybrid cars. Then it offered to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to fund projects and research for the development of clean energy, naming eSolar as a partner without offering more details.

Also Thursday, laid out its focus over the next five to 10 years for its philanthropic efforts. In addition to hybrid cars and clean energy, plans to fund projects related to predicting and preventing disease and environmental emergencies; helping people in poor countries get information about public services such as education so that they can push for improvements; and fueling the growth of small and midsize businesses.

Brilliant said his team sifted through thousands, if not tens of thousands, of ideas about what projects to fund and had to make agonizing decisions. The areas he ultimately chose to focus on, he said, aren't necessarily the biggest problems, but rather those that dovetail with Google's strengths in technology and ferreting out information.

Sheryl Sandberg, a Google vice president who also sits on's board, said Google's philanthropy is not a publicity stunt, given the small size of the grants compared with the company's $190 billion market value.

"You should hold us accountable for real spending and real results," she said.

And the Google dollars go to ...

-- ESolar, solar thermal power: $10 million

-- InSTEDD, technology for improving detection and response to global health threats: $5 million

-- TechnoServe, business development in poor countries: $4.7 million

-- Global Health and Security Initiative, improve surveillance of biological threats in Southeast Asia: $2.5 million

-- Pratham, create annual report on education in India: $2 million

-- Center for Budget and Policy Studies, improve local planning in India: $765,000

-- Center for Policy Research, improve public debate on urban planning in India: $660,000

-- Clark University, development of system to improve monitoring of impact of climate variability: $600,000


Last Updated ( Wednesday, 23 January 2008 )
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