Google seems to be taking its philanthropic efforts in an interesting direction. This story today reveals that Google.org will be a for-profit venture, and one of its first projects will fund work on a fuel-efficient car engine.
At first glance, the effort seems a bit haphazard, and certainly not very Warren Buffett-like. Besides developing the plug-in hybrid car engine, Google wants to fund its own work on water in Africa, have its own microfinance charity, do its own education project.
Google.org's Executive Director Larry Brilliant, both a physician and a former CEO, works with company co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to "define the mission and strategic goals of Google's philanthropy."
The for-profit status requires Google.org to pay taxes but also gives it more flexibility to fund start-up companies and other projects as an investor, Brilliant said.
The trend is for philanthropic organizations to act much more like a business, being more entrepreneurial, setting goals and measuring results. Google.org takes that notion to a new level.