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Jeff Bezos is going to create schools where ‘the child is the customer’

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Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

A year after asking for suggestions on philanthropy, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is unveiling his first projects. The highlight will be the creation of a network for nonprofit preschools that are to be built in low-income communities and accept students at no charge.

Bezos also intends to fund existing nonprofits that help homeless families by providing access to housing and food. Both initiatives will be overseen by something he’s calling the Bezos Day One Fund, which he’s committing $2 billion toward.

Each of the initiatives will have a specific group behind it: the Day 1 Families Fund and the Day 1 Academies Fund. The Families Fund will issue grants on a yearly basis to organizations doing “needle-moving work.” The Academies Fund will be in charge of launching and operating a network of schools entirely on its own. Bezos says they’ll be “high-quality” Montessori-inspired schools that offer “full scholarship,” seemingly to all students.

Bezos says he wants to directly control the schools’ operation so that they can be run like Amazon and adopt Amazon’s principles. “Most important among those will be genuine, intense customer obsession,” he writes. “The child will be the customer.”

The initiative was announced in a note posted on Twitter. In the note, Bezos didn’t say how far along any of this was or when either initiative would get started. “Day One” is supposed to be a phrase about staying in a startup mindset, but it also seems like it may literally be day one for these ventures.