Fun Friday: Doing Good

Tyrone suggested this fun friday theme to me. He was inspired by Scott Harrison's talk at LeWeb.

The question in Tyrone's words is "what is everyone doing this Holiday for someone else, probably best if its not family or friends. Just helping out someone in need."

These fun fridays always start with me weighing in on the topic. So the thing I care most about right now is doing what I can to change education in our city, our country, and our world. The Gotham Gal and I have a bunch of initiatives going on that front.

When I think about helping someone in need, this chinese proverb comes to mind:

Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. 

Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime

So my favorite form of giving back is to do for others what society did for me. Which is giving them the skills to succeed and build a rich and fullfilling life for themselves and their loved ones.

Now it is your turn.

#hacking education

Comments (Archived):

  1. pointsnfigures

    I work(volunteer!) for the National World War Two Museum in New Orleans on their Board of Trustees. (http://www.nationalww2museu…) We are not only cataloguing and archiving the history of the war, but retelling it through STEM projects designed to educate younger people so a war like that never happens again. Things like the Normandy Academy, http://www.ww2museumtours.o…, Robotics and Victory Gardens, http://www.nationalww2museu…. I’d encourage you to make a special trip down to NOLA to see it. It is in the process of becoming a national treasure. If you can support the museum at all, we’d appreciate it. All of our top line revenue covers our operating costs-donations go to building out the rest of the museum. We don’t get a lot of government money.Fred is right, education is the “civil rights” of our lifetimes. As I have traversed the country, I have found public school education lacking not only in our inner cities, but in our rural countrysides as well.America is the greatest country the world has ever seen. A great educational system will keep it that way.

    1. fredwilson

      i agree with you. but these are not simple problems to solve. our education system is a mess.

      1. pointsnfigures

        It is, and only entrepreneurs can fix it if we let them. The tools are there, the problem is government bureaucracy is in the way.

        1. Dave W Baldwin

          Good job! I, for one am proud of the work you guys/gals have done along the Gulf. Do show the technological advances that happened- 1) we need to enable a picture of what we could do with multiple Manhattan size projects to truly disrupt, and 2) Espionage, showing the labour performed tying that to tech today. Kids think the machine is smart and need a clearer picture of what the world can be… We need more labour.

          1. pointsnfigures

            as I learn more and more about it, I learn about the massive technological advances that took place, or were optimized during that time. Atomic energy, powdered eggs, radar, SPAM(!) etc.

          2. Dave W Baldwin

            It is amazing, even the code breakers. πŸ˜‰

          3. pointsnfigures

            especially the code breakers!


          Maybe we can do something that will bring “the people” together and make it happen?

      2. Richard

        Whats the countable metric for you when it comes to the educational system. Is it college attendance? With about 40% of 18-24 year olds attending college in the US, is this a right number?

        1. fredwilson

          the jobless rate. too many people in the US don’t have the education and skills for the jobs we are creating here (and elsewhere around the world)

          1. JLM

            .Great insight — the nexus of politics and education. Like many things there is no single overwhelming driver.The test of education should be in some small measure — will this course of instruction result in a taxpayer, a contributor to our society?.

          2. Richard

            Ok, How do we measure contributions? Does it differ in primary and secondary education?

          3. JLM

            .I am not knowledgeable enough about primary education though I can say anecdotally that middle school is where students really begin to learn how to study and think critically.I sent my two to a very, very good private school for middle and high school. Middle school was the eureka moment for both of them as to learning to write, think and study.High school was just college-lite.As to contributions, I think you just have to run some brutal metrics.At VMI, they track jobs held by recent graduates — running at 100% 120 days from graduation. Remember, some go into the military and it is at its core an engineering school.Funny observation — the students who get into Harvard do not apparently do appreciably better than the same cohorts who did not suggesting that to be the second, third, fourth cohort is still a pretty damn strong screen particularly if their fall back position was say — MIT or Stanford.On another note, I think that vocational training and re-training is as important to the American economy as college..

          4. Anne Libby

            Middle school is key. I’m involved with the NYC branch of a young not-for-profit organization called CFY, which puts digital learning tools into the homes of middle schoolers who attend low income public schools. They work with the schools to integrate digital learning and curriculum, and train kids, teachers and parents to use the tools. Here’s more on CFY via the NY Times:http://opinionator.blogs.ny…(One of their compelling recent findings is that TV consumption in the homes of their clients to goes down.)They’ve created an awesome (free) home learning tool that aggregates “best-of” digital learning tools. Anyone can find and access Power My Learning at AVC readers will recognize some of PML offerings.(Shameless plug. I’m working to figure out ways to build some bridges for action between the CFY and the NY tech community, so if this appeals to anyone who’s reading, and you want to learn more, let me know!)

          5. JLM

            .Great stuff. Real stuff.Well played.Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.Balaclava..

          6. Anne Libby

            Outdoor gear for your inner Bourne, or Bond.Merry Christmas!


            True, people keep pestering me to take a job. They drive ya’ nuts with that shit. Businesses seem to be stuck right now. They can’t find people with the skills and they can’t pay to train people.

          8. kidmercury

            corporations are sitting on tons of cash and they’re not going to hire anyone regardless of how educated they are. outside of bubbles characteristic of the internet economy, businesses hire as a last resort — when demand necessitates it and there is no other recourse. no demand = no jobs, regardless of education.


            I was thinking more about small business. But, I see it like you do. Corporations have cash *but* can’t (won’t) hire or train without need. Small business doesn’t have tons of cash *so* can’t hire or train..Thx for the help.

          10. pointsnfigures

            I guess fixing education goes hand in hand with fixing immigration!

          11. Richard

            Great answer. I don’t think it is shared by all.

          12. Cam MacRae

            Interesting perspective. I suspect the skills gap is somewhat overplayed given the incredibly high correlation between the annual change in private debt and the jobless rate.


          That’s only important for the bean counters. Education is such a wonderful thing that we need to *get it out* to the masses.

          1. Richard

            This is my point. Is education a means to an end or an ends to itself. Note how the differences between freds reply and yours.


            Good question. I think education (as an institution) is a means to an end. But, education as a human need is much more..I know I hear it said:Educated people are less violent.Educated people are less prone to drug and alcohol addiction.Educated people make better financial decisions.etc.etc.etc..All those things help our society. But, then we make it so that education costs enough to choke an alligator. I’m a software developer by trade so I know how cost effective it can be to provide “education to all” via virtual classes through the internet. It just makes me wonder.

        3. kidmercury

          i don’t think there is a number.

          1. Richard

            If there isn’t a metric, how do we know we have a poor educational system?

          2. kidmercury

            i don’t think numbers are needed to know everything. how do you know if youre happy or not? if your friends/family care about you? if you can trust someone? if a given course of action is righteous or immoral?i think it is a great mistake to try to quantify everything, and i think this mistake is extremely prevalent in silicon valley and its minor league division (aka new york city).but i understand the appeal of metrics, and there are some metrics i think are useful. for instance we can clearly see the cost of school has risen significantly, more than almost anything else. outside of metrics, i think if we talk to parents, we can see that many of them need to send their kids to school because it takes 2 parents working full-time to make ends meet for many families. we also see family formation being delayed and declining. i think these are meaningful data points to consider in assessing problems and building solutions.

          3. Drew Meyers

            agree with you that metrics are not the end all, be all. They are important, but those that use them as an end all be all often miss the bigger picture.


            I’m thinking it’s because educated people can see they once thought like the uneducated. But, now they can see the uneducated’s mistakes and know the world would be better if everyone was educated. So, its not a quantifiable judgement, I guess.

      3. JLM

        .American education is like a Las Vegas buffet — stocked to overflowing with stuff that is unhealthy and yet there is a core of powerful nutrition there.Too many choices obscure the basic necessities. And way overpriced.The system may be flawed but there are individual nodes of brilliance out there..

        1. fredwilson



          I’ve taken an online MBA course. It worked well but there wasn’t anything available *next*. I would have like to see a *lifelong* offering so that I could continue to take more classes online.

          1. JLM

            .I routinely get MIT/Stanford/Harvard podcasts of courses. Free, online. No college credit.I have become the single most obnoxious cocktail party circuit bloviating expert in Austin, Texas on the Federal Reserve because I knew absolutely nothing about it. I took 5 podcasts on the subject and read about 10 books.The bibliographies from these courses are incredible.BTW, I am also the foremost expert in the US on the Russian-Finnish War of 1939 — can I answer any questions for you?Merry Christmas!.


            Now you’re talking. Did you get assigned any work with the free courses? The MBA course had work to perform. The one thing I didn’t like was they wanted me to talk to the other students online. Problem was the students all wanted to talk at other websites because the school site sucked!.The whole system was basically crap and made it difficult to get things done..I know what you’re saying. Universites all want to provide courses that no one wants to take. That’s a plus for free education. Maybe people would be willing to take some of those boring subjects if they are free..Yes, you can answer one question. Why is it so difficult to get people to see we need to build businesses and not just start software projects that are labeled “a business”? Why is it the first thing I’m asked to do is “show my software” instead of “tell us how you plan to build a business”?

          3. JLM

            .No formal class structure though I did have a wonderful chat with an MIT prof who was clearly flattered that I was interested not because I was taking his class but because I was genuinely interested in the subject.The web delivery system for education is very important. The UNC MBA program uses Adobe Connect which is a great system.The gig v business is one of the most fundamental rub points in the startup ethos. The product (gig) attracts the attention but it must be born into a family — the business.Running a startup business is as important today as it ever has been but it seems like it is often an afterthought.Mediocre products, great management – MicrosoftGreat products, mediocre management – AppleUsed to be a common truism, not sure it is fair today..


            “The product (gig) attracts the attention but it must be born into a family — the business.”.Nice!

          5. takingpitches

            I have a thing for college syllabi that i keep on the down-low:)


        I’m with you on that but don’t tell any teachers. Everytime I do they want to start throwing punches..What do you have going on with that front? I’d like to see *free* education for all via the internet. But it would have to be expert creation and not just a half-baked implementation. I’m thinking a big cloud system with proactive professional administration.

    2. takingpitches

      I look forward to visiting.The farther we get away from WWII, it gets easier to forget (or to ever even truly know) the amount of human loss and sacrifice expended and how much in terms of our freedom and values was at stake then.

      1. pointsnfigures

        we lose 800 vets per day.

    3. JLM

      .Not only is this a worthwhile endeavor, it is one hell of a museum. World class and equal to the Imperial War Museum in London.I first heard about this through Stephen Ambrose who I met through the Marshall Foundation at VMI in Lexington, Virginia. What a treat to listen to this guy who could tell a military story like none other. Band of Brothers, etcThe Nation’s memory has begun to wane as it relates to WWII. Father Time, a merciless bastard, is slowly but surely creeping up and doing what Japanese and German bullets could not — killing the generation who hitched up their pants, beat our enemies and then came home and built our modern Nation.Every year that goes by, fewer and fewer folks remember things like Pearl Harbor Day. If you have never seen any vintage file of the attack, the declaration of war and the Japanese surrender on the USS Missouri, you have missed a piece of our Nation’s strongest moments.See it here – http://themusingsofthebigre…It is worth seeing..

      1. pointsnfigures

        thanks for your support. Since getting involved, I have become good friends with Walt Ehlers, met 4/5 of the living Doolittle Raiders, become friendly with Woody Williams, and started a project with Todd Ricketts to memorialize the Tuskegee Airman. (Hanging one of their P-51s in our new pavilion). The Monuments Men (George Clooney is making a movie) We can never forget them, just like we can never forget the sacrifice made by civilians, and of course the ultimate sacrifice of Holocaust victims. Remembering also includes remembering our mistakes (Japanese internment camps and bad war strategy)

        1. JLM

          .Years ago I became completely fascinated by the role that the Swiss had played in supporting and financing Hitler. This is a reprehensible chapter in Switzerland’s history.The reason I mention this is the connection with the wealth of art that was stolen by the Nazis.The recovery of this art to the rightful heirs is a worthy and righteous endeavor..

      2. awaldstein

        Next time through I will check this out.Honestly, my entire relationship to WW2 is holocaust related.My dad was overseas for four years but being brought up in a fairly religious Jewish family, that was the focus, and still is when I think about.Broadening my view would be good. Seeing past this personal piece of it is a challenge though.

  2. In His Footsteps Doc

    I lost my adult son and only child 4 years ago, so this week I have concentrated on finding moms who have lost their only children and offering them support and phone calls through the holidays. This is not a happy time for people who have lost their children. I am also trying to explain to the people I come in contact during this period how they can be of support to people like this who SEEM to be OK on the outside, but have been physically and emotionally traumatized by their losses. I hope if any of you know parents like this that you will make a special effort to offer support.

    1. Humberto

      that is very nice of you. πŸ™‚

    2. fredwilson

      wow. that is so great. support groups/programs are so important.

    3. kirklove

      wonderful, and very sorry for your loss.

      1. Dave Pinsen


    4. Jan Schultink

      Thinking of my parents in law who lost their son (my wife’s brother). Keep up the good work

    5. takingpitches

      That is truly beautiful.I clicked over through your twitter handle to find the trailer for the film you have made about dealing with your loss. I hope you have or find the distribution to tell your story to a wider audience with the film. Best of luck.

    6. JLM

      .This is real life and my heart hurts for your loss. No parent is supposed to have to bury their child and yet it happens with alarming regularity.There are some things one never, ever gets over — rightfully so. They are too big a part of life.God bless you and keep you.I cannot say “Merry Christmas” but wish for you the peace of the season. You deserve it. Be kind to yourself..

    7. matthughes


    8. Teren Botham

      Very touched hearing this. You are my hero today

    9. Donna Brewington White

      This is really wonderful. In a similar vein, in recent years, I have been sensitized to older adults who do not have families and are alone in the world. This makes me very sad. We have been blessed to adopt a disabled octogenarian as a family member and this is a great gift to us — even though from the outside it looks like we are the ones helping her!I think that some of the most admirable people in the world are those who take their own personal tragedies and turn this into a launching place to help others who have experienced similar trauma, rather than channeling that grief in destructive ways. No one really understands like someone who has been there. I learned this when I lost a parent. As heart-wrenching as that was, I can’t imagine a worse pain than losing a child. What a blessing to have someone who not only understands but who also takes the initiative to reach out personally, to offer comfort.

  3. Humberto

    i find it very very hard to give back in a meaningful way, as in a “tech them how to fish” way.mostly i love to walk around my city and find lost tourists, walking up to them and giving them the local advice. that also taught me the difference between being a “first user” and a “since-the-first-moment” user

    1. Brandon Burns

      a french couple stopped me on the street last night to ask for directions to a “hot area,” and i gave them a recommendation for a bar, walked them there, and had a drink with them. they mentioned how they thought new yorkers were mean, and americans not culturally sensitive, but that i helped show them that’s not entirely true.helping a tourist can give back to them, in terms of a good experience, and your homeland, in terms of representing it well.

      1. takingpitches

        that’s excellent, and it sounds like it was enriching to you as well. I know everytime we travel abroad, we always encounter people who show us similar kindness as we wander around not quite knowing what is where and where is what.

      2. Humberto

        yep, that has happened to me a couple of times, but mostly people are just appalled that Portuguese people (as me) can speak a decent english.

      3. Humberto

        yep, that has happened to me a couple of times, but mostly people are just appalled that Portuguese people (as me) can speak a decent english. sometimes i have to fake a worst accent – which is fun

    2. Richard

      Whats the 5 most common things they are looking for?

      1. Humberto

        1. someone that doesn’t fool them. Tourists seem to be very insecure (understandable). when i’m suited up, they think i wanna sell them something. when i’m casual they think i’ll ask them for something2. get directions: its wierd but maps are very very poorly designed. looking at a map in any city other than NY grid-tidiness is hard, even for a local. i have to take several minutes to point things out in a map.. (btw i’m not retarded)3. small inns, hostels. these are usually off the main streets, and poorly signaled.4. a nice place to eat. they come in and outside many places and try to judge the quality by the affluence.. when i step up to them and take them to a specialty place they do appreciate the trouble.5. NOT the insiders stories, etc. they don’t want that from some guy on the street.

  4. Roger Ellman

    Nick and I give Thankly to everyone this and every Christmas and New Year! Happy! ( by the way!)

  5. kidmercury

    Extreme poverty is the only issue I care about from a charity perspective and is perhaps the only issue I believe cannot be solved by the free market. Nuru international is my favorite charity here since they focus on going into areas of extreme poverty and giving people skills they need to survive and become entrepreneurs. Basically, they set up the foundation for a self-sustaining free market. The founder is a stanford alum and is pretty internet savvy. Super smart guy, has the attributes of a great entrepreneur.

    1. fredwilson

      thanks for the tip on this non profit. i like the sound of this one.

    2. Dave Pinsen

      This charity does something similar, with a focus on supporting entrepreneurs and job creation in regions scared by war:

      1. kidmercury

        yup the nuru international guy is a veteran, and the horrors he saw in war originated largely from extreme poverty — which was his inspiration to get involved in addressing that problem. bpeace and nuru sound very similar.

    3. kidmercury

      here is a great hour long lecture on extreme poverty from hte founder of nuru international, jake harriman. it tells his story. this is from a talk he gave at google who invited him over for one of their google talks sessions.

      1. Drew Meyers

        Watching this video now..

    4. James Ferguson @kWIQly

      Kidmercury – I certainly also care about poverty – but your claim that it alone cannot be solved by the free market is not well thought..There is as yet no sign that the free market can solve education , water or sanitation, deforestation. In fact I cannot think of an apparent;y sustainable harvest of any “wild resource” where the free market does not drive species to or near extinction:Buffalo, Fish (Quite a big class Salmon, Tuna, Cod, Shark…), Shrimp, Whales,Hardwoods, Cacti, Rhino, Elephant (Ivory)All of the above are protected (inadequately) by trade barriers. CITES prevents trade in 5,000 endangered species of animals and 29,000 endangered species of plants. The list goes on. and on.Sadly keeping healthy and resources abundant simply doesn’t pay

      1. kidmercury

        free market can solve all that stuff. there is a book called aguanomics that talks about solving the water problem and how making water prices more closely tied to supply and demand would help greatly. the environmental stuff is largely a function of energy. species instinction can be solved by making them in labs.

        1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

          I dont know if that is meant to be a joke, if so – sorry I bit .On the other hand…Curating a few designer species is not creating the vast complexity of habitats.If your idea is we can recreate the diversity of the Amazon or Oceans in a lab then you are not being interesting or contrarian or even childish- you are being just bloody silly.I do however agree energy is an issue, and the very fact that almost all wars have been fought around issues peripheral to this subject in the last sixty years suggests it is not the walk in the park you suggest.And Good Will to all mankind – really – but sometimes you do have to say bah humbug to utter nonsense!

          1. kidmercury

            assuming the goal is to create diversity of the oceans, there are two approaches we can take to achieving this:1. a state approach in which government tries to control the process2. a market appraoch in which lots of entrepreneurs and customers collaborate in a chaotic environmenti think the market approach yields greater diversity, than the state approach you are advocating.i am not sure what point you are trying to make about war and energy, although war is an initiative strongly advocated by the state, as the market has less incentive to pursue war. so if reduced war is the objective i believe a market appraoch will yield greater returns there as well.

          2. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Good luck explaining to the chaotic fishing industry how a “grab as much as you can before it runs out” deregulated approach works sustainably.Or perhaps next gold rush you should ask those dear passive mining folk to share their resources and opportunities nicely.Er – regard war – Just pricisely which industrial giants don;t like it maybe Haliburton or some oil companies or maybe the global arms trade – Nope y’oure right – in fact I wonder where the word warmongering even comes from.Oooh what’s that brewing – coffee – maybe it would be good if we all woke up and smelled it !

    5. kidmercury

      another great charity is give directly. google’s charity arm just made a big donation to them. here is an article on them:…it is instructive to see what give directly, nuru, and others are doing in the area of mobile money and extreme poverty. i believe that is where the real payments disruption begins. true to theory disruptions begin in markets too small to be of interest to incumbents.

  6. Tyrone Rubin

    Thanks Fred & Gotham Gal! (Enjoy Japan) I believe education is going to be the key disruptor in the continent I am from, Africa. I dream of a screen and the web helping to educate the millions in need here.As for me, there are many homeless people, unfortunately, so usually do sandwich drives in the holiday. Also am working on a couple online projects to help people here, tba next year.Thanks Fred for a very educational 2012 through AVC’s daily content and thanks to the amazing Community!

  7. AlexBangash

    Fred, thanks for giving back and inspiring. I was at a private event recently where one of the top GP’s commented how he would never buy a sport team. It was not in his DNA. It seems many of today’s best tech entrepreneurs and VC’s want to give back and continue funding the innovation that has been the source of their success, instead of mostly spending on toys and trappings of the rich or legislation to build monopolies. I love your blog because it is so genuine and authentic.

    1. fredwilson

      if i could participate in a group that would buy the Jets and fix them, i might consider it!

      1. takingpitches

        woody Johnson is an embarrassment and not worthy of the NFL shield or the Jets Green. Who is going to take Sanchez with that contract?

      2. matthughes

        The NFL certainly has a large network of engaged users – would love to see you get involved in the sports realm.

      3. kidmercury

        i don’t think the jets are broken. the buttfumble has brought great joy to millions around the world. people have cast aside their differences to unite in laughing at the buttfumble. for the sake of world peace and happiness, i hope the jets don’t change a thing.

  8. jason wright

    the darkest day. bring a little light to someone’s life.

  9. Scott Barnett

    The day after 9/11 I was doing what pretty much everybody else was doing – looking for a way to help. I was in the car with my then 5 year old and passed our local First Aid Squad, so I did what I had been meaning to do for years – stopped in and signed up. They offered me free training, and I became an EMT-B.I have been volunteering with them ever since – I have ridden more than 500 calls and volunteered thousands of hours helping people in one of their greatest times of need – when they call 9-1-1. Both my daughters became “cadets” – volunteers once they turned 16, and they have both ridden on 9-1-1 calls as well.I volunteer with some amazing people who give one of the most precious things they can – their time and expertise – to help others in need. The number of volunteers squads in NJ are dwindling due to reduced membership, and I hope we can figure out a way to change that.

    1. fredwilson

      that is great

    2. takingpitches

      is there a reason or hypothesis as to why that type of volunteering is dwindling?

      1. Scott Barnett

        I don’t have hard data, but the (a) time commitment and (b) training tend to be reasons people don’t or stop volunteering. It’s a large effort – and while some calls are basic, some are stressful, which is not a typical “benefit” when people think about reasons for volunteering.

  10. falicon

    Speaking of your proverb…I tweeted this awhile back:”If you teach an entrepreneur to fish…he’ll open up a bait shop, a restaurant, bed & breakfast, & lease out all the water front property…”[tweet…]

    1. fredwilson

      i love it

    2. William Mougayar


    3. JLM

      .Haha, you forgot that he will go into the internet based mail order sushi business..Merry Christmas!Well played, fishmonger..

      1. falicon

        I blame that damn 140 character limit…Happy Holidays to you (and all others here) as well!

      2. Teren Botham

        and what revenue model does this fall under πŸ™‚ ??

    4. Abdallah Al-Hakim

      good one!

  11. Jim Peterson

    You’re off to a good start Fred. Fabulous education that you facilitate right on this blog.

  12. hungrygardener

    We have three daughters (9, 11 and 13). This year we started a tradition of doing a family holiday project. There is a young child (9) in our community that you may have heard of in the news. Her name is Gabriella Miller and a few short weeks ago she was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. She was granted a wish by Make-A-Wish Foundation to go to Paris in early 2013. Gabriella is a irrepressible young lady, that likes to give back so when she read about Macys’ letters to Santa program where Macys will donate $1 million dollars to Make-A-Wish Foundation IF they receive 1 million letters to Santa by Dec, 23rd she decided to collect 10,000 letters to Santa and give to Macy’s so another child’s wish could be granted. Our family has taken on this project and gathered 200 letters directly (and many more indirectly through school) and gave to Gabriella. Families, schools, business and others have rallied to Gabriella spirit and so far Gabriella has received over 100,000 letters to Santa! Gabriella will be delivering her letters to Santa at our local Macys store tomorrow Saturday at 2:00. If there are any corporations or individuals that would like to match Gabriella’s $1 per letter from Macys’ they are welcome to do so. By the way, in closing, the Millers are Jewish and understand that the holiday spirit is not just about faith but about humanity and, blessings and giving back and caring for each other — especially the young, the weak and the poor. You can read more about this amazing young child and her family on Facebook at

    1. fredwilson


    2. takingpitches

      My goodness – what an amazing young girl who’s kept her mailman very very busy!

  13. Aztennis

    I also attended Scott’s presentation at Leweb in Paris this month and was blown away by his journey as a person and as an entrepreneur to do good and help change the world. He’s an amazing guy. He has inspired me and those who I’ve now spoken to about his charity work to bring clean water to millions in Africa. His charity makes it incredibly easy to get involved and puts 100% of your donation (no fluff) to work in projects that help those most in need, women and children. Africans spend 40 billion hours a year (more than the entire work force of France) in the pursuit of obtaining clean drinking water which often times ends up being dirty and very toxic, causing horrific medical problems. Check it out.

  14. Richard

    If there are any history buffs out there, has private sector charity become more or less effective over the last 200 years?

  15. Allen Lau

    United Nations tweeted this awhile back: “Basic reading skills can lift millions out of poverty”I feel extremely lucky that I don’t have to do the “doing good” after work. I am already helping every minute when I am awake. And I am extremely grateful for this opportunity.

    1. fredwilson

      yes you are

    2. Abdallah Al-Hakim

      A very good point. Also, the availability of ultra cheap tablets in countries such as India is huge to making it easier for people to find content

      1. fredwilson

        $49 7″ tablets running Wattpad is a huge deal for many parts of the world

  16. greg spektor

    Give a man fire and you will keep him warm all night. Set a man on fire and he’ll be warm for the rest of his life. πŸ™‚

    1. William Mougayar

      Wow. So good…Where is @fakegrimlock and JLM to chime in on that one.

    2. takingpitches

      Excellent! BE ON FIRE!

      1. Matt A. Myers

        This needs be made into a BE ON FIRE version of the NO ONE GOING TO EAT THIS CHICKEN graphic.

  17. Brandon Burns

    I think like most entrepreneurial minded folk, I’m giving back by working on products and initiatives that I believe will make the world a better place, 24/7.Like a lot of people on AVC, I believe the season for giving and sacrifice is everyday. Kudos to those who don’t wait until the end of the year for their annual charitable activity.But also kudos to those who do engage in a holiday time act of kindness, and may their stories encourage others to carry the torch into everyday of the new year, and all the others to come. :o)

    1. Richard

      I met Iyengar several years ago, this was the advice he gave.

  18. EmilSt

    I was a member of a Lions club (one of the biggest charitable organizations in the world) in my country before I moved in US. Now I’m starting initiative here in Manhattan to form new Lions club, with close friends and the community we are growing here. Our main focus will be education because that’s the only thing that can change, not only a whole life, but the following generations as well…We will also do monthly visits with our families (I have 4 year old son) to shelters, nursing homes, help blind people – which is the main focus of Lions club int, hospitals…If anyone from this community wants to join (and lives in NYC) is more then welcome…

  19. William Mougayar

    Getting involved in fixing education in the US is a tall order. The US is ranked 17th in the world according a recent global report, and it is “America’s most ignored crisis”. See this: http://www.huffingtonpost.c…I’m not doing anything nearly as significant, except showing-up here every day and being a part of this community. When I start doing something more significant , you will hear about it.

    1. JLM

      .In an elitist way of thinking of things — it is not the “average” it is the top 5%.Most international competition and leadership is not going to be waged by the average folks, it is going to be our top 5% v their top 5%.On that score, we are doing just fine given the excellence of our top institutions.Again, elitist view for which I apologize.I saw this repeatedly in the Army where elite units performed at extraordinary levels. Most units started with the same raw material. It was the standards, training and leadership — mostly the leadership which drove the other two.In many ways this is the story of this blog — the AVCers are the top 5% of some larger group. It is why the writing, commentary, comity and conversation is so high quality.Merry Christmas to all AVCers. Be kind to yourselves..

      1. PhilipSugar

        I agree with you more than you do yourself.

      2. William Mougayar

        I agree with you and Phil more than you agree with yourselves :)Very true that the system in the US ranges from the very best at the top into the sub-averages at the lower ends. So other countries are better at having higher averages, but that measure in of itself is not reflective of the entire system.That’s a very good observation! How is the snow treating you?

        1. JLM

          .Four feet of snow in the last 5 days. Bluebird day today. Heaven.Nobody up here just yet. Lap. Of. Luxury.I love taking long walks in the cold evenings just at dusk 0F.I got these wild YakTrax chains for my Sorrells and I am like a freakin’ mountain goat.I love the mountains.Merry Christmas to all..

          1. Cam MacRae

            YakTrax look brilliant.

    2. Donna Brewington White

      One of the most freeing concepts I’ve ever learned is that of “seasons” in life. Frees me from having to do everything all at once. Some of my most altruistic days are in my future and certainly part of the life plan. And this desire continues to help shape me as a person even though not yet fully realized. (Although much more so before having kids.)

  20. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    As a team we spend every day working on energy use and climate change, and have done some (limited) good work in the area of Fuel Poverty Did you know that 4.4 m households in the UK spend over 10% of their total disposable income on energy that’s about 1 in 5 housholds ?As a family we believe that education (particularly in third world) is the best form of aidPlease watch this video if you are thinking of giving and make sure what you are doing is doing more harm than good.…My wife was brought up in Zimbabwe – look at this image of food insecurity if that means little to you.…She tells of how cheap clothing as Aid flooded Southern Africa (picture all those happy kids in branded t-shirts) – It nearly destroyed the local cotton, linen and seamstressing industries overnight.That creates “aid reliance” which in turn forces a nation to move to cash crops. That encourages multi-national conglomerates and that brings forced child labour and other rights abuses. Cash crops are also far more volatile in terms of survival during drought and Hunger is a direct effect of cash crops displacing locally suitable food crops.http://thecnnfreedomproject…For those who think that’s crazy African politics – actually it can be nearer to home see for example the North Carolina experience…

    1. ShanaC

      this is an underdiscussed issue of global aid. Helping is one thing, but killing off industry long term is another. and we have a habit of doing that.

  21. Mario Bucolo

    I will photo shoot abandoned dogs in a refuge for a calendar to sell for food, medicine etc.

  22. matthughes

    I applaud broad efforts on education, poverty and other significant social issues.There are also many social outliers that need support, or simply need some kindness in their lives.And they are often closer to home than we realize.The holiday season is a great time to engage with those people – it’s the perfect “excuse”.

  23. leigh

    One of the things i’m the most excited about our company doing so well right now is that we can help support so many great causes and organizations as well as helping our Corporate clients embed social innovation in everything they do. When other’s ask me how we find the time, money and energy — to me it’s like having kids — there really is never a great time — it’s about commitment and a decision on how you want to live your life and what you want your legacy to be. I can’t wait for 2013. #brandswithpassion can change the world

  24. $27180517

    I do what I do every year around this time…try and help the homeless. Now that I’m in Chicago, I donate a lot of business attire twice a year to a men’s shelter that supports work and skills training for displaced individuals. If those items help one person back on their feet then I know its all worth it.

  25. John Clyman

    Some folks I know are involved with a neat non-profit called Ample Harvest. Not unlike how Airbnb realized there’s a market in connecting people who have excess space with people who are seeking space, Ample Harvest’s founder realized that backyard gardeners often grow more food than they can possibly consume or give to friends — yet food pantries have a chronic shortage of fresh produce. He’s using the Internet and mobile apps to help connect the two to feed people and reduce waste.

  26. Kirsten Lambertsen

    I’m so low-budget right now, I probably qualify for more charity than I can give out πŸ˜‰ But, our focus at the moment is on helping our community recover from Sandy. We live right next to Sea Bright, Point Pleasant, Keansburg. Areas that were very hard hit. We are giving everything we can spare, clothes, diapers, etc., to the cause.

    1. Richard

      Too bad you can’t crowdsource the summer crowd for help.

    2. ShanaC

      so am I when it comes to budget

    3. Donna Brewington White

      I feel low-budget in terms of time! Stretched so thin that when I first read this post, just the idea of taking on an altruistic project caused me to stop breathing for a moment — as much as I long to do so. Right now our charities seem like the schools to which we pay tuition for our four kids (although we manage to give some to “real” charities — just not as much as I would like). But at some point in the day I began thinking of relationships in my life that probably qualify as “charity” even though I don’t tend to think of them in that way. If you are a generous person, you are going to find a way give to others whether or not you have the time or the money, and even when you may not be fully conscious of doing so. I gather you are that type of person, Kirsten.

  27. Vinay Pai

    Okay, so I’ll admit this is a bit of a shameless plug of a website I’ve built (, that uses micropayments to keep people engaged with charitable giving on an ongoing basis. Most people tend to give money to charity either in response to disaster or towards the end of the year when enough guilt has racked up. DailyGiver lets you see a cause, and choose to make a small donation (even if it’s just a quarter) or skip to the next one, stumble-upon style.In the spirit of eating our own dogfood, everyone on the team has pledged to support at least one cause every day.

    1. ShanaC

      we’re ok with shameless plugs

    2. Richard

      I applaud you for being a 501(c). Too many .org domains running for-profit operations.

    3. Drew Meyers

      Very cool conceptHow do you turn that into engaged, repeat donors?

      1. Vinay Pai

        We are still experimenting with a bunch of ideas. For now we’re working on trying to get an e-mail to people at a time of day when they’re likely to open and immediately act on it, and getting co-registration or widgets on other sites with visitors who are already predisposed to being charitable.

  28. tyronerubin

    Thanks Fred & Gotham Gal for all the great work and the daily education you provide on avc, enjoy Japan.Africa could sure use any form of mass scale education, it could change the entire continent. It is the single most important thing our continent needs!I will be doing sandwich runs, lots of homeless here. And also working on a site to help things along in Africa which is tba.And thanks to all the community!

  29. Drew Meyers

    After a long text conversation with one of my closest friends two days ago, I spent all day yesterday organizing a fundraiser for the real estate community (Real Estate Doers Make a Difference) – http://www.geekestateblog.c…We’re 18% of the way to our goal of $2,500..

  30. ShanaC

    Helping friends write resumes. Economy sucking and all, and most people don’t write resumes that get responses

  31. Jeffrey Hartmann

    My wife had a party for our friends and invited everyone to bring hats, gloves, blankets, and coats for a local homeless shelter. I delivered the generous donations this afternoon, and will volunteer on Christmas eve to help them as well.My wife grew up poor in Brazil, and her mother is still poor. She clawed her way out of the situation and like you said Fred, teaching people to fish is powerful. She reminds me every day though, that even people in bad situations are wonderful people and a small gift from me who has so much really brightens their day. Even when she was poor she would volunteer visiting and caring for AIDS patients in her hometown. No matter where we are, or how much money we have, our effort makes a measurable difference in someones lives.I would love if her idea of having a little party and collecting for a local homeless shelter would catch on with all the people here. That would be a wonderful Christmas gift to all involved. Thank you Adriana for being so beautiful and inspiring me to make an impact in other peoples lives.

  32. Tom Labus

    We’ve put 4 kids (after our own) through grad school. That includes 2 MBAs, MD and DDS’

    1. Donna Brewington White

      That is really cool, Tom. How did you discover the need?

      1. Tom Labus

        It was more a plot hatched by my wife and various relatives and friends. Of course, I was the last to realize/know about it.Oh TomYesWe have this great idea.ButI was done before I even knew anything.

  33. panterosa,

    I spend all day fixing education. I will launch soon. I am over the moon for time off in the next two weeks.My give back this year is spending more time with my kid. She has a single parent startup mom and she is the one who needs the time from me (which is fortunately worth more than my money).

    1. Donna Brewington White

      As someone who has been an entrepreneur of sorts for most of my children’s lives I’ve wrestled with this tension. The business really is a child itself and a demanding (and enticing) one. As my human children begin to move through the teen years I am more acutely aware of how important it is to invest “time” in our kids. I am not sure you can make up for lost time. The teen years can be very revealing of the amount (or lack) of investment made in earlier years. So I applaud you Panterosa! Being a single parent is challenging enough –doing that well and ALSO getting a business off the ground requires a very special person.

  34. Aaron Klein

    We’re raising $300,000 for our Africa school project. It’s amazing to see what happens when you give orphans and desperately poor kids the chance for two meals a day and a great education.We’re on our way to building a transformation factory that can produce 140 new leaders every year…so they can build a future of self-sufficiency in their country and transform Ethiopia and Africa from the inside out.A generous donor put forward a $150K match donation, so we’ve got just 10 days left to raise another $75K in order for it to get doubled. We’re hoping to make it. :)For those curious, more on the project here:…And the #BlockbyBlock fundraising effort here:

  35. Donna Brewington White

    Fred — I wanted to wish you, GG and crew safe travels and a fun holiday adventure in Japan!

    1. fredwilson


  36. David Petersen

    My dad just sent me this email. Seems fitting for this conversation:This is really good…watch it all the way through!Ernesto Sirolli: Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!

  37. Donna Brewington White

    This is an inspiring post and comment thread. Thanks for all that you and GG do, Fred.I think about when my kids are further along and less needy — and hopefully less expensive — or I have a windfall — two needs that I feel compelled to become more involved in meeting are (a) feeding hungry children — as a mother it tears me up inside to think about mothers who can’t feed their kids — and (b) creating an environment where underprivileged kids can not only be educated, but socialized in such a way that they can gain entry into the world. I don’t know that people of privilege (or even middle class) have any idea how much a person has to overcome socially when they are raised in certain environments with a history of poverty where certain defeating ways of thinking and perceiving become ingrained. This causes a sense of foreignness in the world even though the borders are invisible. I’m thinking a residential school setting where kids do not completely lose touch with their families but are placed in a setting where they can receive the intensive social remediation that is often needed.. Academics are important, but not enough to foster success in life.

  38. Tyler Hayes

    A while back I wrote a post called Sickness Sucks, lamenting how lame cancer is, wherein I shared my primary life goal:If I could only accomplish one life goal, and it could be anything, it would be to give humankind the ability to live healthy forever.Then three weeks ago I gave up my birthday for charity:water and raised $800 to help give clean water to the people who need it most, people who have never had it:….I’ve started a number of projects over the past few years aiming to help people help others. All have been shuttered but it’s a learning process; it’s progress. was one.All a long way of saying: my way of teaching a man to fish is to start projects and products that help people do that on large scales.(Side note: charity is something I struggle with because it often borders on giving a man a fish rather than teaching. But charity: water solves a truly fundamental human need in a self-promoting way I respect.)

  39. JLM

    .Great stuff. When large institutions develop excellence from within — home grown excellence — it takes root because it comes from the roots itself.I reject the size notion also. Particularly today when almost every minute of instruction can be documented, archived and accessed. When the instructors can be accessed using technology.When you are looking at something on a computer monitor, the number of students in the original lecture is not a meaningful parameter.Much of education is the methodology of delivery. When I was on the VMI Foundation Board, I was impressed to learn the obvious — when the cadets are not allowed to miss class, when they must be on time about 15% additional education is delivered.In engineering this has shown up at the bottom line when a little school like VMI has a top 1-5 in the nation record of EIT passage.Much of the future of education is setting standards, teaching to those standards, objective assessment of performance, improvement of teaching methodology, the employment of technology as a delivery means and the methodology of delivery.I admire and applaud your involvement. Well played..

  40. Richard

    I like it. If every K12 graduate could answer the question What’s the difference between risk and uncertainty and show it mathematically, youll know you made it.

  41. Richard

    Great Stuff. Any food startups in the group?

  42. Richard

    The Functional Beverage Space.

  43. Richard

    Think packaged health oriented ready to drink high end juices, yogarts, smoothies etc that slowly replacing the soda space etc.