Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page are prime examples of the newly minted billionaires who also believe entrepreneurship can drive social good.
Both 32, their wealth has soared to $14 billion each in little more than a year. At the launch of the online giant's initial public offering last year, they said the Google Foundation might someday "eclipse Google itself" in world impact.
Last month, they poured $90 million into the newly launched foundation to be given to groups such as TechnoServe in Norwalk, Conn. Among its ventures, TechnoServe will sponsor a contest in Ghana whose winners will get start-up financing.
Microsoft's Gates is taking a different approach, investing money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation into partnerships with pharmaceutical firms that otherwise might not pursue cures with little profit potential. This week's $258 million in grants follow $3.6 billion for global research and development and other efforts since the foundation's launch in 2000.
Social entrepreneurship is also taking place in smaller ways.
Ben & Jerry's co-founder Ben Cohen launched a $5 million venture philanthropy arm in 2000 that's financing New England start-ups to boost the state's rural economy. The Barred Rock Fund's investments include Vermont Mystic Pie in Chester, Vt., a baker creating a market for Vermont apples, and jobs producing them.
[Excerpted from an article by Jim Hopkins, USA TODAY]