Bill Gates rallied his fellow billionaires on the eve of the Paris World Climate Summit by committing $1 billion of his own money to seed his Energy Breakthrough Coalition (EBC) to spur faster implementation and commercialization of new technologies. The initiative won Gates more applause for his philanthropy. But Fortune magazine says the warm reception leaves many questions begging.
Gate’s initiative has support from some of the world’s most influential companies, including Facebook, Salesforce, and Alibaba, as well hedge fund managers and venture capitalists. But Fortune quotes Gates’ Foundation spokesman Jonah Goldman as acknowledging that the Coalition has yet to populate its good intentions with professionals or investment staff who could turn the headline dollars into functioning funds.
And while Gates’ contribution is known, that of other donors is hazier. His spokesman assures Fortune however that they are “good for more than US$1 billion” —plausible enough, considering the financial stature of many.
Fortune also questioned how the new fund will be structured and administered. It anticipates something modeled on Gates’ last big project, his Mission Innovation clean energy research and development incubator fund, with the addition of developing country governments as partners in the EBC. But its analysis is sceptical that the slow response time typical of governments will meet the fast-paced timetables of the EBC’s other anticipated partner group, venture capitalists.
All in all, Forbes doesn’t expect funds to flow from Gate’s latest big give for at least a year.