If Larry Brilliant’s life were a film, critics would pan the plot as implausible. Trained as a physician, he was studying in an Indian monastery in 1973 when a guru told him to join the UN smallpox vaccination effort. Brilliant helped eradicate the disease from India and eventually the planet. He returned to the US and founded a charity organization, Seva, that has saved millions of people in developing countries from blindness; cofounded the online community the Well; and served as CEO for four tech companies. Oh, and he also found time to march with Martin Luther King Jr. and moonlight as a physician for Jerry Garcia. Last October, Brilliant received a $100,000 TED Prize to further his idea for building a global early-warning system for disease and disaster. Four months later Google hired him to head its charitable arm, Google.org, with an initial bankroll of 3 million shares – worth about $1.15 billion – and 1 percent of annual profits. Brilliant recently suspended a self-imposed “quiet period” to talk about his plans for Google.org.
What’s your mandate?
We’ll have three big areas: climate crisis, global public heath, and global poverty, not necessarily in that order. I’m going to approach this the way a venture capitalist would – map out the industry to see what the gaps are. You fund an initiative, learn what works, and ask, “Will it scale?”
More big plans for global health funding…wonder how Focus on the Family will spin that one.