The Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) has received a $100 million dollar gift and a promise of $50 million dollars in matching funds if others donate to start a new initiative aimed at alleviating global poverty.
The Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies (SIIDE), pronounced and known informally as “SEED,” was funded by a gift from Robert “Bob” King ’60 and his wife, Dorothy “Dottie” King.
The institute will have three main areas of focus: research the major problems facing the developing world and creating solutions; educating both Stanford students and local business leaders in developing countries about in business skills and problem solving; and providing on-the-ground support to entrepreneurs in developing countries through advice, training and technical support. SIIDE is set to host its first research forum in March 2012.
Bob and Dottie King have hosted Stanford international students for more than 50 years, an experience they say inspired this gift. Xiangmin Cui ’97 was one such international student. Cui introduced Mr. King, a Silicon Valley angel investor, to his friend Eric Xu. With the help of a seed investment from King, Xu went on to co-found the Chinese search engine “Baidu,” which now posts revenue upwards of $1 billion and is the sixth most visited site on the Internet.
Another student who stayed with the Kings, Zimbabwe native Andreata Muforo ’09, invited fellow Stanford students who took part in a global study trip to Africa for dinner at the King’s house.
“We heard how those first-hand experiences compelled some of the MBAs to return for internships in Africa,” said Dorothy King in a press release. “We saw the direct connection between the learning experience and the motivation to make change.”
“This initiative is an enormous opportunity for Stanford students, faculty and on-the-ground entrepreneurs to collaborate on the design and incubation of new enterprises and solutions,” said Garth Saloner, dean of the GSB, in a press release.
Hau Lee, a GSB professor who will serve as the director of the institute, hopes that the program will help foster that attitude and provide a way for Stanford students to engage in business that also promotes social good.
“[SEED] will help create training, materials, curriculum and designs to educate aspiring entrepreneurs in these developing countries,” Lee said in an interview with The Daily.
Through supporting and interacting with entrepreneurs in developing countries, Lee hopes that students matriculate with a desire to make money in ways that promote public good.
While SEED’s resources will primarily be available to students at the GSB, it will also be available to Ph.D. students in any department, as well as graduate students in various departments. The institute will seek to fund and support student projects designed to improve the developing world, and will encourage graduate students in different departments to take advantage of SEED’s resources.
This multi-school interaction is one of the reasons Lee says this initiative rivals similar programs at sister institutions. With SEED’s “huge, significant” endowment, Lee said that other schools within Stanford, such as the School of Medicine and the Graduate School of Engineering, would be enthusiastic about partnering with the GSB on projects.
SEED will not directly fund any foreign businesses and will not operate as a venture capital firm, but instead will fund student trips and projects that seek to improve economic conditions in developing countries.
“Students who have the heart will not be limited by capacity or because the course requires funding,” Lee said. The program will also allow students to go abroad and get first-hand experience tackling problems in the developing world.
With faculty support, undergraduates will be able to take advantage of these resources by applying for funding or support for student-created projects. However, Lee said that SEED would not replace any undergraduate department’s requirements or responsibilities.
In addition to Lee, who will serve as the overall director of the program and the head of the research arm, Jesper Sørensen, a professor and director of the Center for Social Innovation at the GSB, will lead the education and dissemination portions of the institute. Jim Patell and Bill Meehan, both professors at the GSB, will head up the on-the-ground activity and help provide support to startups and NGOs in developing countries.