Rock band U2 frontman and philanthropist Bono has joined Zipline, the largest drone delivery service as a director. The company transports life-saving medicines to Rwanda and Ghana.
For Bono, the plight of HIV patients he witnessed in Malawi, Africa 20 years ago, made him take the decision to support Zipline. “I was in Malawi, in Lilongwe, and I was watching people be diagnosed HIV positive and then being told that there was no treatment for that. The drugs that they needed existed, but they couldn’t get them. I can still visualise the look in the eyes of those people in that queue as they were told that there was no treatment for their disease or they couldn’t access these antiretroviral therapies.”
He further added, “The strange thing about it was this unusual look – there was no anger, there was no rage, there was this strange sort of acquiescence. And I remember feeling -nauseous. Then I remember my own anger. And I used it: I let that anger motivate me.”
As an activist, a few years later, he co-founded One, an organisation that advocates for the Sustainable Development Goals and pressures global governments to fight preventable disease and extreme poverty, successfully lobbying for new government policies and programs that have helped save tens of millions of lives. He also cofounded Product Red in 2006, which partners with brands to raise funds to fight AIDS, raising more than $600 million to date. In 2016, he co-founded The Rise Fund, a $2 billion impact investing fund that looks for companies creating what the fund calls “complete returns”-measurable positive social and environmental change along with financial returns. This May, The Rise Fund became one of Zipline’s investors, helping fund the company’s expansion as it works to solve the problem of getting medical supplies to remote and underfunded health centres.
“They’re making distance disappear. And they put people at the centre of their commercial model, which I think is also something we think about a lot in The Rise Fund – that commerce should serve people and not the other way around,” said Bono about his association with Zipline.
Zipline’s technology is designed and tested in Half Moon Bay, California. They conduct extensive flight testing in Davis, California, and have teams of local operators all over the world. Zipline’s other investors include Sequoia, A16Z, GV, Temasek, TPG, Baillie Gifford, and Katalyst Ventures.
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