10 Amazing People — My Reply To Yesterday’s School Shootings

Yes, there is evil in the world. Yes, there is death — unfair, untimely death. There is apathy, there is greed, there is awfulness. But, there is also goodness in this world. Real goodness.

Yesterday, someone tried to steal that from us.

Well, fuck that. I refuse. There is goodness, I know this. There is kindness, I know this too. There is courage, genuineness, raw messy inner human beauty — all of this I know.

I know this because, over the past five years of building Vittana, I’ve had the genuine honor (pleasure!) of getting to know some of the most amazing people in the world.

My 2012 Annual Letter for Vittana

Thanks to you, Vittana grew 4X, expanded in Africa, reached 8,000 students in 12 countries & had our first $1 million month!

Even this past week has been incredible!

  • We fully deployed our $500,0000 Vittana/MCE Education Opportunity Fund in the Philippines, helping more than 1,340 youth escape poverty.
  • We announced Vinod Khosla and Rich Barton, two of technology’s biggest names, joined as lead donors on Vittana’s League of Extraordinary Tech Superheroes”.
  • My blog post, “Why I Walked Away from $1 Million”, became a viral hit: 1,000+ likes & tweets, Huffington Post, Nick Kristof, Vinod Khosla, Tim O’Reilly & others.
  • To cap it all off, last Thursday we celebrated with Seattle (nearly 1,000 people!) at the GeekWire Gala, raising $32,000+ to fight youth poverty!
  • And just yesterday, Google’s employees raised $102,541 $120,000+ (one day!) for Vittana’s fight against youth poverty!

Hard-Headed Idealism

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about Vittana’s values. What do we stand for? What kind of organization are we trying to build?

Hard-Headed Idealism — Vittana Values #1

There is one quote that was on our first business plan, strategic plan & every other document since founding:

Ridiculing idealism is shortsighted, but idealism without the rigors of pessimism is misleading.

We need very hard-headed idealists who can look into the worst and best of humanity and can create and implement strategies of success.

State of the Future 2007, Millennium Project

Rwanda: Country of Contradictions

These days, I spend a lot of my time traveling. Fundraising, speaking, sure — but the best kind of travel is visiting Vittana youth in countries all around the world.

I always ask what we’re doing right, how we’ve screwed up, and whether we’re living up to their hopes and dreams. Trust me, they don’t hold back — I’ve gotten an earful a few times!

In the past few months, I’ve been through Rwanda, Jordan and the Philippines. They always remind me of growing up in India — countries of deep contradiction, with pockets of very real opportunity amidst extreme, palpable poverty.

Take Rwanda for instance. What do you think of first when you hear Rwanda? The genocide, right?

Stop Building Dumb Stuff

We don’t need a Facebook for dogs and we don’t need a 300th link shortener.

Non-profit folks sometimes tease me about techies building useless stuff. (I’m the token techie at a lot of conferences.) But really, non-profits aren’t much better. So often, we just put in bandaids.

How long did it take us to find a malaria vaccine? We’re so close. Mosquito nets are great, but what if we’d really taken a chance and thrown our weight behind a vaccine earlier?