Entrepreneurship can drive Social Good

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]

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