Sergey Brin, Google’s cofounder and the eighth-richest person, has a secret disaster-response team, according to The Daily Beast.
The Daily Beast’s investigation found Brin was the sole donor to a disaster charity called Global Support and Development (GSD). The Daily Beast identified Brin as the company’s sole donor through a California court filing.
The company’s staff, almost half of whom are ex-military, arrives at disaster areas on a superyacht called Dragonfly to clear debris and use high-tech solutions to assist victims. GSD is headed up by Grant Dawson, an ex-naval lieutenant who was on Brin’s personal security detail for years.
The idea for GSD was apparently sparked in 2015 when the yacht’s captain was sailing past Vanuatu, which had just been hit by Cyclone Pam. The captain contacted Brin to ask if anything could be done to help, and Brin then got in touch with Dawson.
Dawson said in a speech in 2019 about GSD: “So I grabbed a number of Air Force para-rescue guys I’d been affiliated with from the security world, and a couple of corpsmen out of the Seal teams … We raided every Home Depot and pharmacy we could find and on about 18 hours’ notice, we launched.”
The Daily Beast reported that GSD now has 20 full-time staffers, plus about 100 contractors working for it.
The Daily Beast said that like at Google, GSD’s employees enjoy perks, including strawberry ice cream and fresh laundry aboard the superyacht while working in disaster areas. In addition to military-trained staff, the charity has access to sophisticated technology including drones and sonar mapping.
Since 2015, GSD has assisted during several disasters, including hurricanes, earthquakes, and volcanic activity. Now the company says it is lending a hand during the coronavirus pandemic by helping set up testing in California.
“GSD provided operational support to stand up the first two drive-through test centers in California and planning and logistic support for other test centers as they opened across the state,” GSD says on its website. “Our paramedics and support staff also partnered with the Hayward, California Fire Department to perform more than 8,000 swab tests at their drive-through test site and local eldercare facilities.”
Rob Reich, the codirector of Stanford University’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, told The Daily Beast that disaster relief is good work, but it shouldn’t be secretive.
“There should be an expectation of transparency to understand how his charity interacts with existing efforts at disaster relief, and so we citizens can examine whether it’s consistent with what democratic institutions want to accomplish,” Reich said.
GSD did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment, and the news organization was unsuccessful in trying to contact Brin personally. GSD did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.