Chairman Bill says let a hundred projects bloom

Let 100 projects bloom, says Chairman Bill.

Chairman Bill Gates, from WiredThe Gates Foundation is putting $100,000 into each of 104 small medical projects, as part of its Grand Challenge for Global Health.

Let 100 projects bloom, says Chairman Bill. (The illustration to the right appeared in a 2007 profile of Gates from Wired.)

Most recipients describe these as planning grants, and you can probably think of them as angel investments.

Many of the projects are aimed at reducing drug resistance, something that came home to Cleveland Browns fans when tight end Kellen Winslow was hospitalized for a staph infection.

Other major topics include HIV, finding new strategies against infectious diseases, and fighting tuberculosis.

Over time these will be whittled down, and the foundation will likely make bigger investments in a few projects, bigger still in a small number, acting just like a venture capital firm. And they will start the whole small project process over again.

That's not all. One of the foundation's grander experiments, backed by $5.6 million, is in the area of micro-financing. The idea is that healthier people make better bank risks.

In this case, the money comes back. Money is loaned, repaid, the capital base expands and you make new loans.

This application of standard Silicon Valley business techniques to the health problems of the world is a revolution. It's just as important as the development of the great industrial age philanthropies like the Rockefeller and Carnegie Foundations.

The difference is that the Gates' efforts are designed to be self-sufficient. This is reflected best on the home page of the foundation itself, which now includes the word "beta" next to the foundation's name.

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