Extreme Poverty Should Be Scared (Or The Hungriest Foundation Executive Ever)
"How can I top this?" was perhaps the only big question left on Bill Gates's mind after his tremendous success with Microsoft. Venture capitalist Bart Schachter wrote in a hilarious PE Week Wire column that his colleagues should thank God (or Gates for that matter) that Bill did not decide to become a VC as many successful entrepreneurs do.
Lucky for Bart and all other VCs (and unlucky for entrepreneurs who hoped to have Bill on their board for a change rather than be crushed by Microsoft), Bill's focusing his entrepreneurial prowess on fighting poverty though the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
"Huh?" was the question on most of our minds when we heard Warren Buffett decided to give most of his wealth to Bill's foundation. Why not have a business school, sports stadium, or, in Warren's case, country, named after you instead? He could have even started his own foundation to immortalize himself through PBS and NPR sponsorship messages till the end of time.
So why did Warren (who focused his whole career on business unlike Bill) give his money to someone else's foundation rather than his own? Because of the management!
Foundations are rarely managed by extremely aggressive and competitive people at the top of their game. Presidents of foundations are often former corporate or political types looking for a nice and honorable way to transition into retirement, or by non-profit professionals who are passionate but have not grown up in high competitive and accountable jobs.
Bill, on the other hand, succeeded in one of the most highly competitive industries and led a highly accountable public company.
Warren Buffet might have just hired the best money manager in the world. Lucky for VCs, this money manager is focused on decreasing the amount of money in his fund.
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Great point! After a year in the development sector I can talk by experience when I say that a healthy dose of tough managerial experience could make a big difference.
But there's an other problem: Business Models in the development field are terribly mis-shaped. The "customers" are the donors rather than the those "in need". Value is thus created in the wrong place: to please donors rather than communities etc.
Before improving management a strong dose of social entrepreneurship VC money should invest in the right businessm models!
Cheers from Lausanne, Switzerland, Alex
Posted by: Alex Osterwalder at July 4, 2006 12:16 PM