Politics

Group run by former Google CEO to hold meeting with VCs, philanthropists about ways to fight coronavirus

Key Points
  • A group backed by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt is holding a conference call with venture capitalists and philanthropists about how they can best use their money to help take on the coronavirus. 
  • The call is the latest of many moves being made by Silicon Valley as an extra deterrent against the virus. 
  • Still, beyond the giant tech companies, venture capital firms, often a key source of funding for start-ups, have become capital hubs for businesses that are trying to take on the virus.
Eric Schmidt at Village Global VC in San Francisco.
Village Global VC

A group founded by the former CEO and executive chairman of Google is huddling with venture capitalists to discuss how they can quickly use their resources to help fight the coronavirus. 

Seth Bannon, a founding partner of venture capital firm Fifty Years, told CNBC in an interview that the group, Schmidt Futures, is hosting a conference call on Wednesday with philanthropists, including leaders of firms like Bannon's, to discuss groups they can start funding that are looking to combat COVID-19. 

Eric Braverman, CEO of Schmidt Futures, will lead the call along with and Kumar Garg, head of partnerships at Schmidt Futures, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter. The call will also include representatives of Google.org, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Sergey Brin Family Foundation, the Bridgespan Group, the Science Philanthropy Alliance, the National Science Foundation and many others, the people said.

The Schmidt group, Schmidt Futures, which also lists Schmidt's wife Wendy as a co-founder on its website, describes itself as a group that  "invests in and makes grants to for-profit and nonprofit organizations in order to support the most talented people and most promising ideas," including those focused on scientific breakthroughs. 

"This call is particularly for smaller, and more nimble funders," Bannon said. "It's for people who can write checks from $100,000 to up to $1 million, but people who can do it quickly," he added. 

The call is the latest of many moves being made by Silicon Valley as an extra deterrent against a virus that has led to over 5,700 cases in the United States with at least 94 deaths. 

Last week, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins held a call with tech leaders about the best ways they can help and invest into organizations on the front lines. Executives at the behemoths of Facebook, Apple, Alphabet and Salesforce were all invited to attend. 

A spokesman for Schmidt declined to comment. A Schmidt Futures representative did not return a request for comment. 

Still, beyond the giant tech companies, venture capital firms, often a key source of funding for startups, have become capital hubs for businesses that are trying to take on the virus.

Bannon's firm has a slew of health care companies in his portfolio, and he says they expect to spend millions in investments to help fund businesses such as HelixNano, a California based biotech company that is trying to create a vaccine strategy for the coronavirus. 

"In the last few weeks, they've developed a broad COVID-19 vaccine strategy -- essentially a plan to make a SARS-CoV-2  vaccine that will work as the virus mutates," Bannon said. "It really does feel like an all hands on deck situation—this response has been pretty inspiring." 

There are at least eight other organizations that are part of Bannon's partfolio that are looking to assist in the nationwide effort, such as a company called Nurx, that previously specialized in delivering birth control but now, according to its website, are preparing to launch home testing for the coronavirus. 

Outside of venture capital, there are Silicon Valley backed lobbying groups, such as FWD.us, that are calling on executives in the tech world for help. FWD is a bipartisan political organization that advocates for a better immigration and criminal justice system.

A note FWD sent potential investors calls on business leaders to help raise funds for Global Response Management, a nonprofit that assists in medical needs in low income areas. The group, according to the  memo, is looking to "immediately erect a triage operation and field hospital equivalent for care" in Mexico, close to the U.S. border. 

FWD's founder, Todd Schulte, told CNBC it helped raise over $400,000 so far.  The organizations founders include tech power players such as Schmidt, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Greylock partner Reid Hoffman, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. 

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