CORONADO, Calif.--The secret to tech industry success might just be Larry Brilliant's favorite ashram in India.
The director of Google's philanthropic efforts told attendees of the Future in Review conference here that during the 10 years he spent in India, he lived in an ashram that has hosted some of the tech industry's luminaries.
Apple's Steve Jobs heads the list, but in recent years, Brilliant has taken Larry Page, eBay founder Jeff Skoll, and the most recent visitor, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, to the ashram.
While he took many interesting detours in a 30-minute session, Brilliant spent the largest chunk of his wide-ranging discussion with Kamran Elahian of Global Catalyst Partners talking about the recent natural disasters in Myanmar and China.
Google set up a link from its home page to a landing page where visitors could donate proceeds to relief efforts, collecting $1 million in two days and even more from Google employees. The company also tried to get the money directly to relief organizations in the field as soon as possible, rather than waiting for it to cycle through traditional channels.
That was especially needed in Myanmar, where the ruling junta has frustrated relief efforts.
"I can't recall a time when the greatest obstacle to getting food in was the very people who were empowered to support that process," Brilliant said.
Brilliant is also working on longer-term problems, such as detecting the emergence of the next epidemic. His group is currently funding a program in Africa, where blood-testing kits are distributed to hunters in equatorial Africa.
After a kill, the hunters are directed to take a drop of blood from the animal and a drop of blood from themselves, and send the samples back to a lab for testing. The idea is to detect new viruses in animals before they jump to humans, which is a serious problem in rural areas where humans live in close contact with livestock, he said.