The Trillion Dollar Problems

By editor on January 28, 2018 — 1 min read

Bill Gates has saved 7.5 million people’s lives. That’s incredible. I haven’t saved one life. Practically saying, “I gave someone a polio vaccine that allowed them to live.” I can’t say that, so I have no idea what that feels like. Even one life is amazing.

Another person, Bill Clinton. One of my heroes. That guy’s unbelievable. The amount of money that he’s generated and then given away, to these problems that, frankly, had no solution until he got there. Practical programs to distribute retroviral drugs in sub-Saharan Africa. Figuring out how to increase yield for farmers in Africa. These are very practical real world problems.

You can say very cynically, “You’re saving these people’s lives, but now what life can they live? Can they have a job? Can they be educated? Can they actually achieve wealth?”

Clinton’s now solving this next phase: let’s give them a path to productivity. These sorts of things were part of what precipitated me leaving and starting the fund is that I think these are the broad problems that need to get solved. They’re the problems that, when they are solved, two things happen:

One is, you can actually make immense amounts of money, because these are the trillion dollar categories of the world. But it’s also the areas where you have massive societal change and impact. There are very few things that combine the two.

These problems get solved via technology. In order to attract the best technologists, we fundamentally are for-profit animals. This is what the beautiful thing is about the generation below us. They really innately feel this coupling of value creation and impact, moreso than any generation I’ve ever seen…

That’s a practical reality, which wasn’t a reality before. The way that you could do good before was purely through non-profit. Now, there is a really meaningful way to drive systemic change in a for-profit manner. (30:30)

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Editor's Note

These are Chamath Palihapitiya's words. They are probably some of the best thoughts on VC, business, and life, but were scattered around the Internet. They live now in this archive.