Nathan Myhrvold


Geekwire: The new chief of Nathan Myhrvold’s ‘Global Good’ project | 

Nathan Myhrvold
Nathan Myhrvold
Tom Paulson

My buddy Todd Bishop at Geekwire reports that Nathan Myhrvold, with support from Bill Gates, has appointed a new chief for their Global Good project.

Here’s a story Humanosphere did last fall on Myhrvold’s project entitled Patent Troll, Inventor and now Do-Gooder. Includes a podcast Q&A with Myhrvold in which we discuss the controversial polymath’s foray into philanthropy. Here’s what Todd says:

The position of “Vice President of Global Good” at Intellectual Ventures made news even before it was filled. The Bellevue company, with its massive patent holdings and controversial licensing practices, is a lightning rod in the tech industry. The very title of the job was viewed as highly dubious or at least ironic by the company’s many critics.

That resulted in a feisty response from IV chief Nathan Myhrvold, defending what he described as his aspirations to roll out life-changing technologies in the developing world, in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Asset Trust.


Maurizio Vecchione

So who got the job? It was filled by Maurizio Vecchione, a veteran entrepreneur and inventor with experience ranging from telemedicine to nanotechnology. A native of Switzerland who grew up in Italy before coming to the U.S., Vecchione has been involved in nine startups and some 50 product launches over the past three decades. He relocated from California to take the Global Good job.

Read the rest of Todd’s story at Geekwire.

Nathan Myhrvold: Patent Troll, Inventor and now Global Do-Gooder | 

When folks talk about Nathan Myhrvold, they seldom use muted terms.

Tom Paulson

Nathan Myhrvold, speaking at Social Innovations Fast Pitch 2012

The former chief technologist for Microsoft is a close associate of Bill Gates and now CEO of a business, Intellectual Ventures, which some say holds more patents (about 40,000) than any other company in the United States.

I wanted to talk to Myhrvold about his recent ventures into philanthropy, into humanitarianism, which his firm has dubbed its “Global Good” project.

But first, I should disclose that I once worked for Nathan as one of a number of assisting writers on his mega-cookbook Modernist Cuisine. I helped write the meat chapter. (We sometimes argued over the words. He was difficult, I would say. He might say the same about me. But I think we’re all happy with the book.)

I should also note Myhrvold is frequently accused of being a patent troll — meaning he and his firm buy up patents and then use them to, uh, encourage (some use different words) other companies to pay them royalties or licensing fees. Here’s one such recent news post on GigaOm that talks about the Bellevue-based firm “bleeding billions from creative companies” using threats of litigation and disguised “shell companies.”

The writer goes on to say Myhrvold runs a ‘dark empire’ that stalks its victims! Is this Lord of the Rings or something? Like I said, he does tend to provoke strong feelings.

Myhrvold also provokes strong praise. He is frequently described as a master inventor in his own right, a brilliant polymath, an accomplished paleontologist (as this New Yorker profile noted) and, of course, a gourmet chef.

But the Nathan Myhrvold I’m most interested in is a fairly new one — Nathan the humanitarian technologist. Continue reading

Seattle pitches ‘social enterprise’ | 

2012 Social Innovation Fast Pitch

Whatever is precisely meant by the term “social enterprise” — and I would contend it’s not at all clear — Seattle clearly has a lot of it.

On Thursday evening, at the Seattle Center’s Fisher Pavilion some 700 or so enterprising people from high school age, to college age, established ventures and all the way up to a world-renowned global ‘master of invention’ — former Microsoft chief technologist Nathan Myhrvold – gathered to celebrate (and invest in) new ideas aimed at making the world a better place.

Watching a pitch at SIFP 2012

“I have had food allergies for years,” said Grant Mitchell, a high schooler who was pitching a mobile app and his organization, Food Allergy Freedom, aimed at giving Seattle residents more immediate control over their food choices. Most information online, Mitchell said, is advocacy or general information. What’s needed, he said, is an app to help you make local choices on the go.

“It’s about keeping people safe,” he said.

Jack Kim, another high school age contestant at the 2012 Social Innovation Fast Pitch, was looking for investors for his team’s idea of linking consumer purchasing online with small donations to good causes. Kim and his colleagues call it Project Firedove and the aim, he said, is to make it so easy and free for people to donate that it should be called “freelanthropy.”

Lots of applause for that one. Continue reading

Bill Gates says key to beating climate change is energy innovation. Is it? | 

By Thomas Hawk

Bill Gates

Bill Gates was the keynote speaker for Seattle-based Climate Solutions‘ annual fund-raising breakfast today.

The gist of Gates’ message: The best way to fight climate change is to create forms of energy production that significantly reduce carbon emissions and are cheap enough to be of value to poor people worldwide.

“We need a breakthrough,” said the Microsoft co-founder and world’s leading philanthropist.

Continue reading