Google's Schmidt offers $1M in grants, talks WhatsApp and Motorola

Google's exec chairman wants to support big ideas for big problems

Got great ideas to solve world problems? Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt just might give you a lot of money for them.

Schmidt made the announcement today in an interview on CBS This Morning to promote his new book, The New Digital Age, which he co-authored with Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas.

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt (Photo: Bobby Yip/Reuters file photo)

Google Ideas, an organization inside of Google, focuses on how technology can enable people to handle global problems like violent extremism, counterterrorism and fragile governments.

When asked why he is donating so much money, Schmidt, "I should put my money where my mouth is."

He and Cohen, who appeared with Schmidt on the morning show, noted that their book is about bringing attention to global problems.

"The book is about the problems," said Schmidt. "We've identified a whole bunch of companies in different parts of the world trying to solve different kinds of problems."

Schmidt, who is donating his own money for the grants, is already vetting the contenders. The grants will be awarded on March 10.

Cohen turned the conversation to talking about the power that people who are just gaining access to the Internet through smartphones will have.

"As new people come online, what happens to dictators and autocrats?" he asked, specifically referring to the political turmoil in Ukraine and Venezuela. "They are going to be significantly outnumbered... As billions of people come online they are doing it in parts of the world with autocratic governments. They're going to be the largest demographic in the world armed with mobile devices and savvy young populations."

Schmidt jumped in, adding, "We forget how many billions of people in the world don't have the liberties of America and they're going to want that too."

Further into the interview, Schmidt declined to comment on whether the company had attempted to buy WhatsApp , the messaging company that Facebook recently acquired for $19 billion.

However, when asked about the steep price Facebook paid for the company, Schmidt said, "The price was low if they make gazillions of dollars off their customers. The price is too high if they can't monetize it. We like WhatsApp, and we like our own products too."

He also said that buying Motorola in 2011, and then recently selling the company were both great moves for Google.

" Motorola is a huge deal for Google because we got all the patents we needed," Schmidt said " Android got stronger because of the Motorola deal. It was a very good deal for Google. I'm very proud of it."

He also took on the question of how to get a job at Google.

"What you need most is intellectual flexibility," said Schmidt. "I don't know what the future holds, but I have the right people to help me figure it out... Nobody is a solo actor at Google anymore. The quality of the work at Google is the best we've ever seen because we look not just for intelligence but this ability to create and deal with new ideas. Here's a new fact, change your opinion."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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This story, "Google's Schmidt offers $1M in grants, talks WhatsApp and Motorola" was originally published by Computerworld .

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