What is the Day One Fund? World's Richest Man Jeff Bezos Pledges $2 Billion to Schools and Homelessness

Amazon chief Jeff Bezos has pledged $2 billion to a new philanthropic fund, Bezos Day One Fund, which will assist charities in helping the homeless and aim to build a new network of preschools in lower-income communities.

Bezos, the world's richest man, unveiled the fund on Thursday via a statement posted on Twitter. The announcement comes little more than a week after the news that Amazon has become, after Apple, only the second company in history to reach a trillion-dollar evaluation.

"If our great grandchildren don't have lives better than ours, something has gone very wrong," Bezos wrote. "Where's the good in the world, and how can we spread it? Where are the opportunities to make things better? These are exciting questions."

Bezos, who is reportedly worth more than $164 billion, has received concerted criticism over his lack of philanthropic work, particularly compared to other prominent multibillionaires like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. He is the only American among the world's five richest people to not have signed the pair's "Giving Pledge," which asks the ultrarich to give away at least half of their wealth. Until now, Bezos had no major philanthropic projects.

In June 2017, however, there were early signs his attitude was shifting. He shared a "request for ideas" on Twitter as he declared, "I'm thinking about a philanthropy strategy that is the opposite of how I mostly spend my time—working on the long term. For philanthropy, I find I'm drawn to the other end of the spectrum: the right now."

Bezos's message received over 10,000 retweets and over 48,000 replies. (A substantial number of these were people telling him to improve pay and working conditions at Amazon's factories, where conditions are notoriously harsh.)

The Bezos Day One Fund will finally lift some of the pressure on Bezos' charitable contribution, but it is not without controversy. As Bezos detailed plans for the new schools he intended to build, he vowed to "use the same set of principles that have driven Amazon. Most important among those will be genuine, intense customer obsession. The child will be the customer." It's not clear how the student-as-customer ethic will work in the preschool education system.

Bezos's philanthropy is still a long way behind Gates, who has donated tens of billions to his foundation, and Zuckerberg, who, partly inspired by Gates, has pledged to donate 99 percent of his shares to charity.

In Thursday's announcement, however, Bezos chronicled the other ways he already "serves others." "In addition to Amazon," he listed his ownership of the Washington Post and "the support for American democracy" his stewardship brings, his other business venture Blue Origin, which will explore space, and his financial contributions to causes such as cancer research and marriage equality.