“We admire Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of an interconnected world where all people have a chance to make the most of their talents,” Melinda and Bill Gates wrote in praise of the couple’s appearance on Time’s list of the 100 most influential people.
“They have inspired people around the world by creating the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and committing 99% of their wealth to taking on challenges like improving education, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities,” the Gateses wrote.
Those are strong words of praise and a sharp turnaround from some comments Gates made back in 2013, when Zuckerberg first started talking about his latest philanthropic mission, Internet.org. That’s an initiative to bring some free internet services (including Facebook) to the worlds’ poorest and still-unconnected people.
Back then, Gates said, “Hmm, which is more important, connectivity or malaria vaccine? If you think connectivity is the key thing, that’s great. I don’t.”
It wasn’t the only time a fellow billionaire had criticized Zuckerberg’s earlier attempts at philanthropy. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has done the same. Benioff is a vocal philanthropist and always urging other wealthy people and companies to give more, and to follow his model of giving, via a corporate foundation baked into the company’s DNA as a startup.
- Getty Images/Justin Sullivan
Benioff criticized Zuckerberg’s 2014 donation of $1 billion worth of stock to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, implying it was more of a tax write-off:
“Silicon Valley Community Foundation is a bunch of DAFs: donor-advised funds. You give your money to SVCF and you get your tax write-off for the year, but [the foundation] has no obligation to administer that money.”
But last year, after the Zuckerbergs welcomed their daughter into the world, they set up their own foundation. and funded it by donating 99% of their Facebook stock worth about $45 billion to the foundation’s mission.
With that, the Zuckerberg’s officially entered the realm of some of the most generous philanthropists in the world. And the Gateses have officially acknowledged that Zuck isn’t an amateur philanthropist anymore.
It probably feels pretty good to Zuckerberg, too. He once called Bill Gates “his hero.”