The foundation focuses its cash on innovations that might otherwise go unfunded, such as those aimed at the poor, and looks for projects that have a low cost to maintain so individuals or governments will want to keep them going after the foundation is no longer involved. Major projects include funding the development of new vaccines for a range of diseases, including malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis, as well as new seeds for crops including corn, rice, wheat and sorghum. The foundation is also active in education, putting PCs in public libraries, and finances for the poor.
Some parts of Gates' 2010 annual letter show he's still struggling with the change to working at a nonprofit foundation compared to Microsoft, where he remains chairman. His 2009 annual letter notes that it might take time to get used to working with developing countries after spending so much time managing a company focused on the industrialized world. The 2010 letter notes incredulity over the fact many countries have not approved a new vaccine for children in over 20 years and other countries don't even have a process to decide on vaccines, despite their life-saving capabilities.
But overall he says working full-time at the foundation is a welcome change. Getting out to meet people working directly in areas the foundation is funding, from teachers in North Carolina to dairy farmers in Kenya, has been rewarding.
"Seeing the work firsthand reminds me of how urgent the needs are as well as how challenging it is to get all the right pieces to come together," he says. "I love my new job and feel lucky to get to focus my time on these problems."