Leading technology firms Airbnb.org, Flexport.org and Spotify announced on April 28, 2022, that they would be joining the Breakthrough Prize Foundation established by billionaire Yuri Milner and his wife, Julia. The initiative is launching a variety of services to assist refugees throughout the world.
The Breakthrough Prize Foundation is initially committing $100 million towards these efforts, with the majority of this funding supporting civilians fleeing from Ukraine. This action will be the first step in expanding humanitarian initiatives to other regions affected by this historic refugee crisis. Yuri Milner has also engaged in other philanthropic endeavors related to the Ukrainian refugee crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Crisis in Ukraine
The United Nations Refugee Agency reports that the number of people who have been forced to leave their homes has more than doubled since 1990, reaching at least 84 million. Over 26 million of those are seeking refuge in a foreign country, including five million from Ukraine, since the Russian invasion began in late February 2022.
The resulting mass exodus from Ukraine is the fastest and largest displacement of people in Europe since World War II. In addition to the emotional trauma caused by the death of loved ones, many refugees must also cope with the need for food and shelter, among other necessities.
Tech for Refugees
Tech for Refugees is a donation campaign inspired by Stand With Ukraine, a GoFundMe campaign launched by celebrities Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis in March. Stand With Ukraine has raised almost $36 million for refugees fleeing Ukraine as of the end of April, including $5.5 million from DST Global and the Breakthrough Prize Foundation. Tech For Refugees will support existing humanitarian programs and new ones that assist refugees. This initiative is open to firms in the tech sector with new ideas about addressing the global crisis. Companies that have joined Tech for Refugees include Airbnb.org, Flexport.org, and Spotify.
Airbnb is an online marketplace for lodging that has established Airbnb.org, an independent nonprofit organization. Airbnb.org is offering short-term housing at no cost for up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees by leveraging Airbnb’s extensive network of hosts and technological infrastructure.
Flexport.org is the impact arm of Flexport, a leading forwarder of digital freight. It has already delivered over 440 tons of humanitarian aid to Ukrainian refugees. These supplies primarily consist of hospital beds and other medical equipment.
Spotify, a major media services provider, is offering Spotify Premium, its audio streaming service, to Ukrainian refugees at no cost. This company is also embarking on an independent effort to support children affected by the war through the power of music.
Breakthrough Prize Foundation
Yuri Milner is a technology investor, scientist, and philanthropist considered by Forbes to have one of the top business minds in the world today. He and his wife Julia established the Breakthrough Prize Foundation to improve people’s lives by advancing fundamental knowledge and using technological innovations.
The Milners have stated that they are devastated by the suffering of the Ukrainian people and believe that the Foundation can provide practical assistance for refugees living outside their homeland. They add that they plan to form partnerships between their Foundation and creative technology firms to accomplish these goals.
The Breakthrough Prize is the Foundation’s most notable program, which recognizes the world’s best scientists in life sciences, physics, and mathematics. It also offers the annual Breakthrough Junior Challenge, a competition for students designed to inspire creative thinking. The Breakthrough Initiatives are a group of space science programs to investigate extraterrestrial life.