Bill Gates, as one can expect of someone worth $79.6 billion, has some powerful friends. This week, he corralled quite the A-list to tackle climate change. He’s calling the group the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, and it’s founded on the principal that we desperately need some new technology if we’re going to keep the planet from burning to a crisp.
The 30-person group, which is loaded with tech luminaries and venture capitalists, plans to focus on seed-stage and Series A investments in companies that want to change the way we produce and consume electricity, farm, and move around. Breakthrough’s formation was the highlight of COP21‘s first day. It’s still up to the nearly 200 participating nations to strike a climate deal that won’t leave poor nations high and dry (or, more accurately, low and drenched), but Gates sent a clear message that the private sector is on board.
Spurring private investment is critical in developing new energy technologies. Gates’ group doesn’t include representatives from any energy-industry powerhouses, but it’s likely that groundbreaking new technologies that provide zero-carbon power will come from somebody other than Shell or BP. The environmental community widely hailed the announcement, though there is concern the group will focus too greatly on moonshots that are decades away from practicality.
Thanks for the crummy inheritance
Two members of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition are Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, the First Family of Facebook who this week announced the birth of daughter Max in a doozy of a Facebook post.
Max’s birth got Chan and Zuckerberg feeling philanthropic — Zuckerberg’s letter to Max also served as the announcement of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The couple doesn’t just want their baby’s life to be good; they want all babies’ lives to be good. After all, as the letter pointed out, some 4 billion people still don’t have Internet access (no Facebook?!). The new foundation notably will be an LLC instead of a nonprofit, a decision with interesting implications for philanthropy as a whole.
Chan’s and Zuckerberg’s charity definitely sucks for little Max, though. The couple pledged to give away 99 percent of their Facebook stock — today, that’s worth a cool $45 billion. So long, inheritance.
Apologies for the rough transition, but there’s no smooth segue from a birth to a mass shooting. This newsletter typically focuses on business topics, but two attacks in the same week is something that can’t be ignored, particularly since we know the feeling.
Three people were killed last Friday in Colorado Springs. Fourteen were killed on Wednesday in San Bernardino. Plenty has been written about these attacks and the numerous other shootings that have taken place in the U.S. Here’s what I’ve found most interesting in the reports:
- As Vox details, there is no consistent method of measuring the prevalence of mass shootings. The Mass Shooting Tracker says there have been 353 of them in 2015, while Mother Jones says there has been four.
- Whatever the number, mass shootings are common enough that media coverage of them has become formulaic.
- Waqas Syed, director of the Islamic Circle of North America, delivered the most poignant quote I’ve read in some time: “We are not able to grieve with our fellow Americans when tragedies like this happen. We have to think about defending ourselves and praying that the perpetrators are not Muslim.”
A nice week for Boeing
Washington exports a lot of goods; through October, only Texas and California had exported more. Many of those transactions were financed by the federal Export-Import Bank, the authorization of which lapsed back in July. Exporters predictably were upset.
But today, the Ex-Im is back on track, much to the delight of major exporters such as Boeing. The bank’s authorization was included in a huge transportation bill, and the far right is pissed about it.
It sounds like Boeing planes will export some goods into space, too: It was announced this week that Virgin Galactic will sling its rockets into orbit via a 747-400.
Elsewhere on the Web
It remains to be seen how REI does this holiday season, but it’s #OptOutside campaign was a social media success.
New York-based Shake Shack shows that higher wages don’t necessarily mean correspondingly higher prices for customers. That’s good news for us in Washington, where the minimum wage is high and climbing.
This awesome graphic from Madrona Venture Group and the Washington Technology Industry Association shows the origins of Seattle-area tech companies. As you’d guess, most spun out from Microsoft, Amazon, and the University of Washington.
When H-1B visas were created, nations such as India were concerned about the smartest citizens fleeing the country for the U.S. As The Seattle Times reports, some of those workers are now returning home.