Vote in Google's $10M Do-Gooder Ideas Contest

Is it possible that the best ideas to fight global warming will come from the garages of the masses, not cultivated in universities or by elite venture capitalists? Google thinks so, and the search engine giant is asking the public to start voting on Tuesday for the do-gooder ideas that have been submitted to its contest “Project 10 to the 100th.” [Update: Bummer, Google just pushed back the date of the public voting until March 17th]

Google asked inventors to start submitting ideas via YouTube video clip to the contest back in October, and after receiving over 100,000 submissions, tomorrow Google will release 100 of the top ideas — things like a new wind turbine and energy-efficient buildings materials. It’s our job to whittle those ideas down to 20, and then a Google advisory board will select five semi-finalists that will split $10 million to get the ideas implemented.

The inventions don’t necessarily have to do with fighting climate change, but looking through the submissions, many of them do. Google has divided the submissions into a variety of categories: community, opportunity, energy, environment, health, education, shelter and “every else.” The best ideas will be selected based on how many people the invention can help, and how quick and easy it is to implement the idea.

Google has spent more than its fair share on philanthropy with Google.org, as well as investing in clean energy projects — in one quarter Google was the second most active investor in cleantech after funding five startups.

But it’s also particularly interesting that Google is using its massive search engine and YouTube user base to deliver a new way of finding entrepreneurs, and the submissions are meant to be from individuals, not organizations. While contests, like the Auto X prize, are becoming increasingly common, Google is in the unique position of already having a network that can deliver a cheap and efficient way to connect with budding entrepreneurs. And the voting process is cheap too: us.

As Google says:

Never in history have so many people had so much information, so many tools at their disposal, so many ways of making good ideas come to life.

So the upside of this method is a greater access to ideas and entrepreneurs across the globe, as well as the project being pretty cheap. The downside is the quality of the ideas. These are basically everyday people submitting inventions, like Uncle Larry’s big idea that he won’t stop talking about during the holidays. But ultimately Google is hoping that with over 100,000 submissions, there’ll find at least five elegant, simple ideas that can help people. (For more on how/if the web can effect social change to fight global warming, come to our Green:Net conference in San Francisco in March).

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