Returning from my first trip to Africa has been eye-opening. I spent two weeks visiting six locations in Kenya, both on Safari as well as in rural areas and small towns. In one small town, two young girls playing in the street waved at me saying “Jambo”, and I took this photo. Exploring these areas has made me think a lot more about culture, development and infrastructure. And what really matters in life overall.
This was my first time visiting small towns in a developing country, and meeting people who struggle just to find clean water or enough to eat. Most of the population in developing nations live in rural areas, which often lack access to basic services. And solutions or systems that make sense in the US or Europe might be impractical or ineffective in the developing world where simpler infrastructure to provide food, water, or electricity is higher priority.
After turning 39 last month I began thinking about where I should focus my time, across Expa and the companies I’ve started. I’ve now spent 15 years focused mostly on startups, and while I’m still passionate about creating useful products, I also realized I shouldn’t wait to start giving back. Philanthropy isn’t just about donating money, but also sharing your advice or spending time solving important problems.
When I first met Bill Gates earlier this year, I was impressed that he started his foundation while still in his 40s, and is taking a very active and analytical approach to making an impact. My trip to Kenya made me realize that beyond just making charitable donations, I should also begin spending part of my time on projects where hands-on systems design can create more efficient solutions, and help people who need it most.
So I’ve decided to join the Giving Pledge where I will be leaving half of my assets to charity, and gradually deploy them in the most impactful way I can. I’ll start soon by setting up a foundation and spending some time researching where I can be most helpful. My goal is to find a few areas of interest where I can work with others to create systems and products that will make a widespread positive impact.
Thanks to everyone over the last few months who has helped me put things in perspective. If you have suggestions on the best research to read on effective philanthropy, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.