Google.org makes a Brilliant move

Dr. Larry Brilliant
Dr. Larry Brilliant, the head of Google's philanthropic arm Google.org, announced that he is leaving the day-to-day operations of the group to become Google's Chief Philanthropy Evangelist. As a result, Google.org will now be run by Megan Smith, Google's VP of New Business Development. The change is an interesting move. After a three-year experiment, Google has realized that solving world problems, like finding clean energy and fighting chronic diseases, are not only philanthropic endeavors, but they can also be money-making new lines of business, and they require the right profit-focused executive to lead the charge.

In his blog announcing the move, Brilliant said he was hoping to "focus more on the big picture, 'identifying "big ideas' and potential partners, as well as raising awareness about society's biggest challenges." And that means Smith will be there to ensure that each philanthropic endeavor he comes up with ties tightly into Google's core business--and profits. As Brilliant says:

"While we have been able to support some remarkable non-profit organizations over the past three years, our greatest impact has come when we've attacked problems in ways that make the most of Google's strengths in technology and information; examples of this approach include Flu Trends, RechargeIT, Clean Energy 2030, and PowerMeter. By aligning Google.org more closely with Google as a whole, Megan will ensure that we're better able to build innovative, scalable technology and information solutions.

And profitable solutions. His list is interesting because all of those initiatives rely on getting more and more consumers on the Internet--every day--in order to handle critical tasks, like tracking electricity usage or even the flu. And more Internet users mean more opportunities to serve up Internet ads and get people clicking on them.

Perhaps, in the long run, Google.org's charitable initiatives are actually more promising financial-wise than Google's more for-profit projects like Apps and YouTube. And with Dr. Brilliant free to identify new world-saving opportunities, the new Google.org structure means Google is now better positioned to capitalize on them. Brilliant.

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