Stanford University’s business school has received a $150-million gift to establish an institute that will help entrepreneurs in developing countries build their businesses.
The money came from Robert King, a partner at the investment firm Peninsula Capital, in Menlo Park, Calif., and his wife, Dorothy, who hope the donation will help curb poverty in the world’s hardest-hit regions.
The gift will start the Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies, which will conduct research on entrepreneurship and then teach people how to apply the findings. As part of the agreement, the university must raise $50-million more from other sources.
Mr. King is an alumnus of the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
The Stanford gift is the fourth biggest private donation announced this year, according to The Chronicle’s tally. All of the biggest donations so far have gone to universities, topped by a $265-million gift to Carnegie Mellon University from the industrialist William S. Dietrich II.
The Kings decided to make the gift because of what they learned over the past 50 years of providing housing to international students who arrived in the United States to attend Stanford.
Kim Jonker, a philanthropy consultant who advises the Kings, says the connections the couple has made through the years have been very personal.
“They’ve loved these students like their own children. You name a country in the world and the Kings have probably hosted someone from that country,” she says. “The Kings have a very deep and heartfelt love for people from the developing world and it’s very much on the top of their minds that there are a billion people living on $1.25 a day, and that was absolutely one of the motivations for creating this institute.”
One student they hosted, Xiangmin Cui, who earned a doctorate from Stanford in 1997, led Mr. King to invest in a friend’s venture to start a Chinese-language search engine. The company, now known as Baidu, made its debut on the Nasdaq Stock Market in 2005 and is now the leading search engine in China with a value of more than $15-billion.
Another student, Andreata Muforo, who came from Zimbabwe to attend Stanford’s business school, brought friends from a study trip to Africa to dine at home with the Kings. After the Kings heard about students returning to Africa for internships, the idea for the institute began to take shape. Over the past eight to ten months, the Kings met with Garth Saloner, the dean of the business school, to discuss their vision of what the institute’s mission would be.
In 1995, the Kings founded their own charity, the Thrive Foundation for Youth, which works with social scientists and nonprofit leaders to promote research and approaches that help parents, teachers, and mentors improve their skills. Ms. Jonker says the Stanford gift mirrors the approach they used to create Thrive by focusing on producing research and then helping people apply the findings to improving their lives.