Do you ever think about what you’d do with a billion dollars?
I’m not talking about what you’d choose to buy. Instead, which of the world’s problems would you try to solve? You could start entire companies, hire people, conduct mass-scale research, and maybe — just maybe — even influence Governments 🤯.
Pretty fun to think about, right?
Bill Gates over the last couple decades has focused on the eradication of malaria, low cost toilets, safe nuclear power, and more. After seeing some of the media around these innovations a while back, I became curious: what are all the other billionaires up to?
Hours and hours of boring research commenced — tax forms, foundation websites, news articles, and even lawsuits. Although major donations were happening every week, building my personal research spreadsheet became an absolute nightmare… and I was still on my 2nd billionaire!
There are ~2,200 billionaires in the world, by the way.
My plan for research had totally failed, but my questions still felt important:
- Who is donating & impact investing into what? How much?
- Are they giving a lot? What about compared to their lifetime giving, or their net worth?
- What are these projects, exactly? Are they going well, and is the money being spent well?
How can the public help?
As I was thinking about these questions, some tweets rolled into my feed — Mark Zuckerberg had just donated a couple hundred million dollars to medical research. What did people do? They mostly took the opportunity to yell at him.
While many people understandably default to anger in our age of mass inequality, it’s also true that Mark has a lifetime goal to “cure all diseases” and has pledged to donate 99% of his wealth to take on the challenge.
Billionaires don’t always have all the answers themselves. They contract with research institutes, think tanks, and other institutions to help them answer their fundamental question: “How do I spend this money effectively?”
In 2016, Jeff Bezos famously posted a “request for ideas” on twitter. Thousands of ideas were submitted and afterwards Jeff dramatically increased his rate of giving. Through an open competition, the public also helped Bill Gates discover a $350 toilet design for developing countries.
Perhaps the public can help foundations identify more opportunities?
Launching BillionaireBoard with COVID-19
With the help of 15 researchers, BillionaireBoard launches today as:
- The first open dataset on billionaires’ donations & impact investments.
- A monthly leaderboard to see who has been contributing the most recently.
- An interactive movement where we, the public, can attempt to improve philanthropy.
And it all starts with a focus on COVID-19.
As the first pieces of the site were coming together, the coronavirus began to spread across the globe. While Governments proved too slow to solve the problem ahead of time, the first reports of Billionaires buying masks for hospitals came out. Then, as federal relief responses were stuck in Congress, some Billionaires began funding ventilator manufacturing and vaccine development. Lastly, as of today, it’s incredible to say that the world’s Billionaires have funded as much COVID-19 scientific research as the federal grant system.
This is not to say that Billionaires are “the solution” — just that they are already a major part of it, and clearly want to help. I believe that’s worth embracing and amplifying.
Thus far, BillionaireBoard researchers have tracked that 17 billionaires have given or pledged about ~$1.88 billion dollars around the world to mitigate the pandemic, provide PPE to front-line health workers, and work on disease research. We’re still in the early days and expect more giving as the pandemic evolves.
Take a look at https://billionaireboard.com and join today! You can click on each billionaire, learn about their focus areas, and encourage them to provide more funding. Each month the theme of the website will change so we, together, can encourage more types of philanthropy and investment.
I’ll say it now: my background isn’t in philanthropy, and I know achieving results is far more complex than putting a bit of data on a website.
BillionaireBoard is an experiment.
- Can we gather all of the data for all 2,200 billionaires?
- Can we actually accelerate philanthropy through transparency & helping identify new projects?
- Can we engage with billionaires and their foundations in a useful way?
I hope so. All we know so far is that Billionaires can make a difference with their wealth. They can help save lives, create innovation, and muster resources. They can convince local Governments to prevent outbreaks and jumpstart scientific advancement. Their immense power comes with great responsibility, and I hope we can all help them use it well.
We need help with more important research! Today, BillionaireBoard partially covers ~30 billionaires, so there’s a lot of remaining ground to cover. Anyone can be a researcher by joining our Facebook Group and contributing sourced data via “propose edit” buttons on Billionaire’s profiles. All data is verified for accuracy before being posted onto the live website.
If you’re a software developer, we have an API for submitting data, and if you work for a billionaire or at a foundation, we’d be happy to give you access to ensure the accuracy of your data.
Send me a tweet or personal message to get in touch.