We look at leaders and tech for good projects, including Sergey Brin and Ron Gutman of Intrivo
Discussion on tech leaders usually tends to focus on buzzword leadership traits such as “innovation”, “resilience”, or the ability to understand “the potential of big data”.
However, one of the most impressive and meaningful attributes of a senior technology leader is having the ability to utilise your organisations capabilities, products, services, and revenues to positively impact wider stakeholders and help those communities most in need via your tech solutions.
So, as we leave 2022 behind, it important to remember that tech firms (with their tools and often unlimited potential) can make a huge positive difference to humanity. In particular, we look at some tech founders and CEOs who have made a huge personal difference this year, as a reminder of the power of tech for good and the vast impact that purpose-driven philanthropic efforts from tech leaders can really have.
Sergey Brin of Google
Big tech often gets a bad rap. However, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who is now the world’s 12th richest person (net worth estimated at $78bn), has reportedly donated close $1.1.bn to fund research for Parkinson’s Disease. He is just one of a few people alive today who has donated over $1bn towards a specific disease.
Brin has quietly become the largest individual donor ever to Parkinson’s research. Specifically, Sergey is using his tech background to set up advanced science technology for Parkinson’s research. His philanthropic efforts have been directed towards funding basic research for Parkinson’s in a new, meaningful, and coordinated way according to Forbes.
Although Sergey has not publicly commented on his donations, he did say in an interview with Wired in 2010 that “I knew know early in my life that Parkinson’s was something to which I am substantially predisposed. I now have the opportunity to adjust my life to reduce those odds (e.g., there is evidence that exercise may be protective against Parkinson’s).
“I also have the opportunity to perform and support research into this disease long before it may affect me. And, regardless of my own health, it can help my family members as well as others.”
Ron Gutman of Intrivo Diagnostics
2022 will be remembered as the year we saw another large-scale war break out in Europe. Many international aid organisations and governments have donated significantly to support the humanitarian coordination in Ukraine. However, many private tech companies have also played their part from the very early days of the war breaking out.
One of these companies was Intrivo, a US health tech firm that donated more than $1m in COVID-19 tests and health management software to Ukrainian hospitals. The public health situation in Ukraine has become pretty dire — including infection breakouts in refugee camps, no sanitation products for women trapped in battle zones, and new-born babies stuck in underground bomb shelters.
In a somewhat heroic effort, Intrivo co-CEO Ron Gutman personally ensured that the COVID-19 tests were delivered safely to Ukrainian hospitals. Gutman also helped implement test-and-trace technology systems in under resourced Ukrainian hospitals. Ron personally joined the delivery of COVID-19 test supplies to Lviv (a city mostly without electricity), where he coordinated critical health aid with healthcare workers and patients on the ground.
Speaking on how important it is for technology companies like Intrivo to help with the effort in Ukraine, Ron Gutman said: “There’s a lot of movement of people either with injuries of war or with other issues, which could overwhelm the health system. Adding a COVID outbreak on top of that, especially with the country’s relatively low vaccination rate, can easily bring the entire healthcare system to its knees.”
Ron Gutman further said in a press release: “Sitting in the neonatal ward in the paediatric hospital in Lviv, seeing the premature babies, and talking with the doctors and nurses who delivered them, was both eye opening and heart-breaking. It hit me how imperative it was to keep all of them as safe and healthy as possible during these unprecedented, stressful times.”
From some online research, Ron Gutman was also interestingly the man behind the famous “Hidden Power of Smiling” TedTalk. The healthcare entrepreneur who also founded Silicon Valley TedX said that consciously trying to smile more can helps millions of people live healthier and happier lives.
Amanda Renteria of Code for America
When the US government passed the American Rescue Plan Act in early 2021, it was an opportunity for millions of American families to access expanded child tax credits. In some cases, some families were entitled to nearly double their tax benefit per child, which would be a much-needed additional relief for many parents during these times of economic hardship. Yet, limited technological capabilities and limited understanding of the new legislation meant that even though additional tax credits were available to a lot of families, they still had to navigate bureaucracy to receive them.
Foreseeing the difficulties ahead, Amanda Renteria, the CEO of non-profit tech firm Code of America, decided to take her company all-in on developing a solution to tackle the federal contract. Amanda knew a tech solution would be needed to help families access these expanded tax credits and worked to develop a proof-of-concept that she hoped would be adopted by the US government.
In a very short order, Amanda, and her engineering team (in the hope of preventing families reaching an administrative wall when trying to receive this extra financial support) put together a prototype of a free, simple online mobile application for families. The US government was suitably impressed and partnered with Code for America on the tech solution. The leap of faith paid off, and to date, Code for America have reportedly helped over 115,000 US families access $340m in tax benefits.
Amanda said: “During that period of time, we were still in transition to a new administration, so we knew that the federal government was still building up its digital talent. Everything was changing during a pandemic, and the only way we were going to reach [families] was through their phones, and trying to be as simplified and trustworthy as possible.”
As a non-profit, Code for America has also run multiple donation projects such as their $50,000 Social Safety Net Support Program, which further helped 2.8 million+ people access food benefits.
Peter Gassner of Veeva Systems Inc.
Despite being one of the world’s largest cloud computing companies, Veeva Systems recently implemented their innovative 1% Giving Program to significantly help hundreds of charities. Working with their workforce, Veeva decided to give every employee an extra 1 per cent of their salary to donate to a non-profit charity of their choice, which has impacted charities such as SickKids Foundation, Food Banks Canada, WWF, and Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Spearheading the charitable cause, Peter Gassner, founder and CEO of Veeva said: “Veeva’s support for charitable causes is entirely employee driven because we think giving is personal and should be directed by the individual.
“Each employee receives an amount equivalent to 1 per cent of their base salary annually to support the non-profit(s) of his or her choice. We don’t dictate favoured corporate causes or ask employees to donate to specific non-profits.”
According to Wikipedia, Peter Gassner is ranked in the top 500 billionaires worldwide and uses his wealth to support those in need. Gassner intends on converting over 1 million shares of the publicly listed company to charitable gift funds in 2023.
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