Web2 Conversations: Larry Brilliant

Larry Brilliant, the Executive Director of Google.org, is the face and mind behind Google's philanthropic entity. Here's a snip from his bio: Larry is an M.D. and M.P.H., board-certified in preventive medicine and public health. He is a founder and director of The Seva Foundation, which works in dozens…

Larry Brill

Larry Brilliant, the Executive Director of Google.org, is the face and mind behind Google’s philanthropic entity. Here’s a snip from his bio:

Larry is an M.D. and M.P.H., board-certified in preventive medicine and public health. He is a founder and director of The Seva Foundation, which works in dozens of countries around the world, primarily to eliminate preventable and curable blindness. He serves as a member of the strategic advisory committee for Kleiner Perkins (KPCB) Venture Capital and also sits on the boards of The Skoll Foundation, Health Metrics Network, Omidyar Networks Humanity United, and InSTEDD, an organization bringing technological tools to improve disaster response.

In addition to his medical career, Larry co-founded The Well, a pioneering virtual community, with Stewart Brand in 1985. He also holds a telecommunications technology patent and has served as CEO of two public companies and other venture-backed start-ups.

Talk about web meets world!

Google.org has already invested in scores of projects and companies (a full list is here). It’s a varied, impressive, and extremely ambitious list that includes goals like finding renewable energy that costs less than coal, changing the face of global health care, developing country IT infrastructure and entrepreneurs, and much ore.

I am kicking off Web 2 by interviewing Larry. So what you you ask him?

23 thoughts on “Web2 Conversations: Larry Brilliant”

  1. I’ll ask him about:

    what are the challenges associated with evaluating projects where ROI is not (apparently) the goal?

    how do they evaluate the projects?

    how difficult is it to decide between investing on the ones with low investment footprint and hence creating a gigantic portfolio difficult to manage or investing on projects with high investment necessities creating at the end a high risk portfolio (investing in projects which never attain the intended goal).

    it will also be interesting to glimpse a little around their investment decision processes.

    Pd. I am looking forward to be at the summit (hope I can rise my sponsorship for the travel 🙂 )

  2. As an oil analyst, and energy sector investor (including alternative energy) I would like to know if google.org is aware of how correct they were to identify the cost of coal as the true challenge, when looking forward to creating electricity from a green source. There are many people in the field who probably would have missed that coal was the denominator, by which alternative electricity would become viable, in the world. Essentially, imo, because it is coal that has been the fossil fuel of choice for the developing world, the past decade. Many would have identified coal because of its CO2 implications. Well, that’s true too. But it’s the cheap BTU content of coal that makes it a tyrant, and therefore google.org imo correctly identified it as the opponent.

    In addition, I’d like to know what challenges they see right now as thermal coal prices fall.


  3. With such a broad mandate, and a seemingly large amount to invest in making the world a better place, how on earth do projects get ranked?

    What factors are considered… essentially, what is the scoresheet that is used to determine project worthiness of support, and what kind of score qualifies an organization for support from Google.org?

    Then, how do you evaluate return on investment?

    ~ looking forward to being in SF for the event.

  4. What are your views on the use of multiple bottom lines which include social responsibility or other measures of citizenship? If you do see such measures as valuable then in what proportions?

  5. How have virtual communities, social networks, online communication (whatever historical name you give) changed since The Well, since the online services and BBS communities of the 1980s? Similarities and differences?

  6. If Google is investing all this money in various areas of philanthropy, what does it see as it’s ‘major project’? ie. What is the most important philanthropic project that Google.org is either working on, or would like to see accomplished? and what time frame would Google like to achieve this in?


  7. Would the Internet (or the Web) be any different if Google.ORG didn’t exist?

    For example, if the Google search engine didn’t exist, people might use a search engine in which the top result for “miserable failure” is George Bush’s profile.

    If Google.ORG didn’t exist, what would you do?

  8. Is your name really Brilliant
    i mean your email address is brilliant@google.org – now thats an email address!

    What was the hardest project you ever had to turn away. So almost all that come to your teams can save lives , so if you dont use your money and influence to promote each one its like , shit maybe that one would have saved a million people- do u toss around in bed at night saying what if i got behind that one?? all it needs is us , but you cant do it all!!!

  9. In many ways the mobile web has the greatest potential to use technology to impact people’s lives with the greatest context. As a founder of The Well, what services on the mobile web do you see that are as visionary and innovative?

  10. The names of the Robber barons of the 19th century are philanthropic enterprises today. I want to believe in the better angels of our nature, but injustice and inequality appeare to be insurmountable. How do we make our world a better place for everyone?

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