9 Billionaires Who Are Stepping Up During the Pandemic
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
The headlines seem to be everywhere these days: billionaires running off to sequester themselves and their families in lavish bunkers, laying off hundreds of workers with little notice and generally removing themselves from the world community as the rest of us struggle to meet the challenges of the current pandemic.
The prevalence of these negative stories shouldn’t really surprise anyone. Dramatic news sells. Good news and more positive stories don’t seem to generate the same kind of buzz. This skewed perspective can lead to gloomy pessimism.
In fact, there are lots of people doing all they can to help others in this crisis. That includes everyday heroes such as doctors and nurses who put their lives on the line to treat victims. It includes grocery store workers and pharmacists who put themselves at risk to make sure their communities are fed and receive medicine, as well as parents who are figuring out how to work and educate their kids from home at the same time.
It also includes some billionaires who aren’t running away but rather are choosing to do what they can to pitch in and help fight the pandemic.
Here are a few privileged folks who are making a real difference in this time of crisis by putting their money where their mouths are and stepping up with much-needed support for their companies, communities and the world.
James Dyson, British inventor and chairman of Dyson, is well-known for his development of improved versions of some popular consumer products. Some of his company’s products include sleekly designed hair dryers, air purifiers and vacuum cleaners.
Now Dyson has committed his company’s facilities and staff to the UK’s pandemic response. They’ll be creating 15,000 ventilators on order from the British government. Ventilators are among the most critical needs across the globe as COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, causes pneumonia and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome in some patients. Dyson’s company will be manufacturing these ventilators based on his new design.
Jack Ma is China’s richest man and the founder of the Alibaba Group, an international technology conglomerate. In the wake of Russia’s February donation of supplies to China, Ma returned the favor by sending over $1 million masks and 200,000 test kits to the Russian military.
Ma has also donated masks and test kits to other countries, including Rwanda, Japan, South Korea, Iran and the U.S., among others.
Tesla shuttered its production factories in Buffalo, N.Y., and Fremont, Calif., for all but critical supply chain parts in mid-March in an effort to reduce transmission of the disease and keep its employees safe. A week later, CEO Elon Musk publicly committed to reopening the Buffalo gigafactory for the production of ventilators.
Steve & Connie Ballmer
Former Microsoft CEO and owner of the Los Angeles Clippers Steve Ballmer and his wife will donate $25 million to help offset the already devastating socioeconomic impact of the pandemic. The money will be donated through the Ballmer Group, the couple’s philanthropic foundation, and will be allocated to various communities and organizations in Seattle, Los Angeles and Michigan. The total sum includes $10 million earmarked for the University of Washington to help its vaccine development program.
8 step to address this crisis:— Marc Benioff (@Benioff) March 25, 2020
1. Stay home. All citizens stay home for 20 day national lockdown, review every 5 days for extension.
2. Buy masks. Establish supply chain management system and hierarchy for PPE and make a direct nation state request.
On March 24, 2020, Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, proposed an eight-point plan for addressing the pandemic on Twitter. His recommendations included addressing the critical shortage of personal protective equipment and ventilators, accelerating production of therapeutic drugs and vaccines, and ramping up testing. It also included a call to all CEOs to take a 90-day “no layoff” pledge.
The next day, Benioff made it clear he was intent on practicing what he preached and stated that Salesforce would make no “significant” layoffs of its 50,000 global employees over the next three months. He also stated that the company will continue to pay all of its hourly workers while its offices remain shuttered.
Bill Gates, through his foundation, has committed $50 million to its COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator to explore potential antiviral drugs that might help fight the disease and its spread. Recipients will include 12 pharmaceutical and biotech companies that are pursuing vaccine development, but there’s a catch: The recipients must agree to keep any resulting vaccine affordable and available for all.
Mark Zuckerberg & Priscilla Chen
Instead of creating his own coronavirus-targeted group, the founder and CEO of Facebook and wife Priscilla Chen are adding $25 million of their own to Gates’ COVID-19 Accelerator program in search of a working vaccine and effective treatment modalities. This gift is in addition to the corporate fund established by Facebook for small businesses.
Obstacle or Opportunity
There’s no question that the current public health crisis has wreaked havoc on an increasingly chaotic world. Business and economic concerns aren’t as critical as people’s lives, of course, but the business world can and is stepping up to the plate to address both livelihoods and lives.
Keeping workers employed and paid means that they retain access to healthcare and the necessities of life, making it more feasible for all of us to shelter in place in our homes, flatten that curve and hang on until the pandemic’s grip on the globe eases up. By backing up their words with their assets, these billionaires are proving that it’s possible to do well and do good at the same time.