Thoughts from Mesh

by Saleem Khan, CBC News Online

I'm sitting in a session at the Mesh conference in Toronto listening to Austin Hill (Zero Knowledge - now Radialpoint - and now Akoha) and Tom Williams (Give Meaning). They're talking about what motivated them to start philanthropic social media sites after years as traditional tech entrepreneurs.

Williams disavowed accomplishing anything.

"I was committed to being a bum ... I still aspire to be," Williams said. His wake-up came after living in Silicon Valley and working at Apple starting at age 15, and more recently being a venture capitalist for Oracle's Larry Ellison and 1980s junk bond king Michael Milken.

"I was living my own Gordon Gekko/Bud Fox Life."

He was asked what he was passionate about but didn't know, setting him off on a personal journey to find that meaning.

Austin Hill was motivated by a death in the family. He said he had more money than he needed at 26, so he took time off to figure out what to do with the foundation he started.

"I left Radialpoint and had to do something that gives meaning," Hill said. "I'm interested in how you move people to change the world one little random act at a time."

A friend told him to celebrate the life of his relative who had died of cancer rather than focusing on his death.

Hill's charitable startup Akoha is still in pre-launch mode but will have news this fall. For now, they're researching ways to embed charitable acts in day-to-day activities.