We've been keeping a close eye on the philanthropy of Ray Dalio and his family. Dalio is the founder of Bridgewater Associates, which currently holds the title of the world’s largest hedge fund company. The foundation he runs with his wife, Barbara, has been growing fast in recent years. Among other things, the couple's foundation has supported work by their son, Matt, to help children in China.
As it turns out, though, Matt has other interesting things going on, and we wanted to take a moment to highlight his push to get affordable PC access into the homes and businesses of people in developing countries—a project the younger Dalio has been quietly working on for the past five years.
Matt Dalio established Endless, which doesn't make PCs, but rather a computer device which can plug into any television and turn it into a computer screen. The device itself, which looks like the combination of an egg and the faceless Snapchat logo, isn’t remarkable in and of itself. What is considered to be the real innovation here is Endless’s operating system, which was built from the ground up and designed for those who have little to no computing experience.
From the company’s perspective, around 75 percent of the world’s population live outside of the benefits the computer revolution offers. If that were to change, and people in developing countries had access to fully functioning PCs and user-friendly software, Endless surmises that “The sum of human knowledge would be at their fingertips. Education, job opportunities, health information, all accessible to everyone. That world is possible. Our mission is to build it.”
So where does a scrappy startup with big global development dreams go for its funding? Kickstarter, of course. Endless launched its Kickstarter campaign with the goal of getting 100,000 people to donate $1 each. So far, the campaign (which is set to be funding on May 15, 2015) has garnered over $111,000 through 635 backers. Bigger backers will receive an Endless device, which the company acknowledges may be the only time it is offered in the developed world.
At a cost of around $170, Endless isn’t marketing its device to low-income countries, at least not in these early stages. Instead, the device is aimed at middle-income countries, where overall incomes may continue to be relatively low, but where the $170 price tag isn’t out of reach.
As Endless works toward its goals, it plans to address issues that are inextricably entwined with offering new technology in resource-poor countries. Namely, electricity and connectivity shortcomings. As Endless gains steam (and media attention) we wouldn't be surprised to see big tech's impact investors open their checkbooks in the near future.
We should note that Dalio’s Endless team isn’t a group of young do-gooders with little global development experience. Matt Dalio himself founded the China Care Foundation when he was 16 (which, as we said, receives a good amount of Dalio Foundation support). Since then, China Care has raised over $14 million to pay for the surgical costs of special-needs children. The foundation has also provided around 300 grants to area NGOs and placed 600 children in foster care.
So even though Matt Dalio is only 30-something, he has a bit of history when it comes to philanthropy and the developing world. And he’s pretty connected as well. Grameen Bank founder and Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, philanthropist Tony Robbins, and Bill Meehan, head of the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies, also serve as advisors at Endless.