MENLO PARK, Calif.— Eric and Wendy Schmidt announced today a $1 billion philanthropic commitment to identify and support talent across disciplines and around the world to serve others and help address the world’s most pressing problems.
Building on the last 13 years of their family’s philanthropy, led by Wendy Schmidt, the couple has steadily increased their philanthropic giving—more than $1 billion to date through The Schmidt Family Foundation, The 11th Hour Project, Schmidt Ocean Institute, 11th Hour Racing, and Schmidt Marine Technology Partners. In 2017, Eric and Wendy Schmidt also created Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic initiative and venture facility for public benefit that focuses on finding exceptional people and helping them do more for others. Today, the couple is deepening their philanthropic work with a new, $1 billion talent commitment to these initiatives. They also announced the flagship program for Schmidt Futures and anchor to this new commitment—Rise, a partnership with the Rhodes Trust.
“We believe that when we harness the human power of great ideas and support them with resources, tools and a network to leverage that raw talent and potential, only then will we solve the environmental, societal and health problems that threaten our very existence,” said Wendy Schmidt. “We’ve learned so much over these past years, and across all initiatives and every issue, we know that people are the critical foundation for success. We’re excited to increase our philanthropic commitment to have an even greater impact on our communities and world.”
“My life’s work has been to build tools that empower people at scale,” said Eric Schmidt. “This $1 billion for talent serving others, including the work of Schmidt Futures and our flagship program Rise, is part of our ongoing commitment to help lift people up who can change the world at scale in their lifetimes.”
Rise, an initiative of Schmidt Futures and the Rhodes Trust, will find and connect exceptional people around the world who could do more to serve others in their communities throughout their lives if they had more opportunity. The program, which will seek young people between the ages of 15 and 17, will be designed to encourage a lifetime of service and learning by providing support that could include scholarships, career services, and funding opportunities to help these leaders serve others for decades to come. The first annual competition for Rise in 2020 will build a global community of students, teachers and others—including finalists and ultimately at least 100 extraordinary young people who could have a unique impact on their communities with more connection and support.
Over the past 13 years, Eric and Wendy Schmidt have established a number of philanthropic organizations and initiatives, and people have been the central drivers of their work and areas of focus.
They created The Schmidt Family Foundation in 2006 to address the global crisis of climate change through grants and impact investments in renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, human rights and marine technology. The grant-making arm of the foundation, The 11th Hour Project, focuses on supporting local organizations and solutions that protect human rights and build resilient food and energy systems. Among The 11th Hour Project’s most notable work is the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the organization has supported local park officials in protecting one of the world’s largest natural parks and the communities living in and around the park from illegal fossil fuel extraction. Grant support has helped develop micro-hydropower that has for the first time brought electricity to more than 1 million residents and sparked the creation of a local economy through new businesses like a rice mill and factories that produce chia seed, chocolate and soap.
Additionally, Schmidt Marine Technology Partners, another program of The Schmidt Family Foundation started in 2015, supports the development of innovative technologies that solve complex ocean health problems and have strong commercialization potential. To date, 42 funded projects from five countries have worked to combat illegal fishing and plastic pollution and have advanced habitat health and ocean research. Among the successful technologies developed is Saildrone, a global fleet of unmanned wind- and solar-powered ocean drones that monitors climate and sea conditions, among other things, in real-time.
The Schmidt Ocean Institute was established in 2009 to advance oceanographic research through the development of innovative technologies, open sharing of information, and broad communication about ocean health. The institute operates the research vessel Falkor and the 4500m remotely operated underwater robotic vehicle, SuBastain, and is made available to the international science community at no cost. To date, more than 850 scientists have worked on the ship conducting research on 63 expeditions. As a result, more than 400 underwater robotic dives have taken place and more than 1 million square miles of the ocean floor have been mapped, leading to the discovery of dozens of new species and expanded protection of marine protected areas.
11th Hour Racing, founded in 2010, works with the sailing community and maritime industry to advance solutions and practices that protect and restore the health of the oceans. The organization leverages grants, sponsorships and its sailing ambassador program to reach and engage as many people as possible in promoting collaborative, systemic change benefitting ocean health. It has awarded grants in more than 25 countries through its programs. With its partners and sailing teams, 11th Hour Racing has sailed more than 45,000 miles around the world, rounded Cape Horn, detected micro-plastics in the most remote parts of the ocean, contributing to critical scientific research, and removed more than 60 tons of debris from the sea. ReMain Nantucket and ReMain Ventures are the charitable and entrepreneurial organizations that support the economic, social and environmental vitality of the island of Nantucket. In addition to providing grants and sponsorships to support sustainable and cultural initiatives across the island, the organizations have revitalized the downtown district year-round through the preservation of historic buildings that are home to a mix of nonprofit and commercial businesses. They include a transportation center for a fleet of clean-fuel buses, culinary center and sustainable coffee shop, bakery, independent bookstore, community school for continuing adult education and community music center.
Schmidt Futures is a philanthropic initiative founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt in 2017 to find exceptional people and help them do more for others together. Schmidt Futures knits talent into networks, bets on the most promising ideas through diverse forms of competition and support, and equips people to scale through partners and modern tools. To realize this vision, Schmidt Futures uses a broad set of tools—including gifts, grants, investments and startup activity—for charitable, educational and commercial efforts with a public purpose. One of Schmidt Futures’ major programs, the Schmidt Science Fellows, in partnership with the Rhodes Trust, aims to create a new generation of scientific leaders by giving the world’s best aspiring scientific minds a broader perspective, exposure to interdisciplinary approaches, and the opportunity to make a lasting impact on society. The year-long postdoctoral research fellowship immediately after the fellows’ completion of their PhD in the natural sciences, computing, engineering or mathematics places them with global scientific leaders and internationally renowned labs in a scientific discipline different than their core area of study. The third cohort of fellows will be announced in 2020.
“Philanthropy’s biggest challenge is time,” said Wendy Schmidt. “What we’ve learned over the last dozen years is it takes time to get results. You have to allow time for failure and recalibration so you can adjust your approach, apply what you’ve learned and deepen and refine your work.”
Added Eric Schmidt, “Just imagine the possibilities as we bring talent together into networks, bet on their most promising ideas to help others, and equip them to scale through partners and thoughtful application of modern science and technology. This $1 billion commitment is only a starting point for the many ways we look to help others in the coming years.”
Wendy Schmidt is president of The Schmidt Family Foundation. Eric Schmidt is technical advisor and former chairman of Alphabet Inc. and the former CEO of Google.