He’s the technology guru, the Silicon Valley wunderkind who built two billion-dollar companies. She’s the philanthropy academic, who created one of the country’s most successful venture philanthropy partnerships. Together, Marc Andreessen and Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen are making their first major philanthropic commitment as a married couple, a $27.5 million gift to Stanford Hospital & Clinics to build a state-of-the-art Emergency Department for both adults and children in the community. The facility will be called the Marc and Laura Andreessen Emergency Department. The couple, who began discussing their first major gift literally the day they got engaged in 2006, say they chose to support emergency services because these programs are essential and often life-saving, yet are traditionally under-funded.
“Everybody walks into the Emergency Department at some point, and it may be 2 a.m. It could be you or someone in your family,” said Andreessen, who has been there himself. “This means we could have a big impact. The opportunity to build a new emergency services department that is world-class is enormous.”
The gift will enable the hospital to build a department more than double the size of current facilities and expand its services and technologies to meet rapidly growing demand from patients. Stanford Hospital provides the only level-1 trauma center between San Francisco and San Jose. The hospital is planning to build an entirely new emergency facility to be located within Stanford Medical Center near the existing site.
“This extraordinary leadership gift assures that our Emergency Department will have the capacity to care for our community when they need us most,” said Stanford Hospital President and CEO Martha Marsh. “We know that having access to Stanford specialists when every minute counts can make a life-saving or life-changing difference to patients and we are tremendously appreciative of Marc and Laura’s generous support.”
Andreessen, 36, who grew up in Wisconsin, is a software engineer and entrepreneur best known for developing Mosaic, the first widely used Web browser. In 1994, at age 23, he co-founded Netscape Communications Corp., which was bought out four years later by America Online for $4.2 billion in stock. He also founded Opsware, a data center automation company, which was acquired in 2007 by Hewlett-Packard Corp. for more than $1.6 billion in cash. He’s now onto his latest venture, Ning, a next-generation platform for social networking.
Andreessen made his first foray into community service when he joined the Stanford Hospital & Clinics board of directors a year ago. He said he routinely works 90-hour weeks and, like many of Silicon Valley’s newly minted millionaires, has had little time to give careful thought to how best to give back to a community that has been so good to him and his wife.
Arrillaga-Andreessen, 37, has helped in that regard, making a career of practicing venture philanthropy and creating an academic field of philanthropy. Laura is a graduate of Stanford with master’s degrees in business (1997), education (1998) and art history (1999). Since 2000, she has been a faculty member at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and at the university, where she has created and teaches Stanford’s first courses on strategic philanthropy. She is writing two books on the philanthropic sector and living a giving life, and is the founder and chairman of SV2: Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund, which invests financial, intellectual and human capital into nonprofit organizational capacity building.
“Both of us feel so strongly that, being part of the new generation in Silicon Valley, we have a responsibility to hopefully inspire other people in our age range to make significant philanthropic commitments,” said Arrillaga-Andreessen, who grew up in Palo Alto. “We are both deeply committed to this amazing community, and we saw a key market need for this particular social change.”
In making the gift, she said she and Andreessen are taking their first step in following the example of her father, real estate developer John Arrillaga, who has provided significant support for many buildings on the Stanford University campus.
The couple’s gift will fund the upgrading of the Emergency Department facility in the current hospital, plus the building of the Emergency Department planned for the new Stanford Hospital. The new hospital project is now making its way through the City of Palo Alto review process. If approved, the hospital would break ground in 2010, with estimated completion in 2015.
With the support from Andreessen and Arrillaga-Andreessen, the Emergency Department will be equipped with a wide array of new technologies, including digital X-rays, ultrasound and other equipment for bedside diagnosis, new cardiac monitors and advanced methods for freeing up blocked airways. In addition, the department will acquire systems that will allow the medical team to rapidly communicate on critical patient issues and make it possible to track patients as they progress through the Emergency Department.
“Marc and Laura’s extraordinary support will allow us to provide state-of-the-art as well as cutting-edge technology for the benefit of our patients,” said Paul Auerbach, MD, clinical professor of surgery and director of special projects for emergency medicine.
The gift also will support new staffing for programs to improve efficiency and customer service. These include patient advocates to assist patients and families through the care process, a nurse call-back program to follow up with patients after discharge and an expansion of the residency program to boost physician coverage at all times. In addition, it will support injury and illness prevention programs in the community, such as the Farewell to Falls program, which has a goal of preventing dangerous falls among older adults.
“I look to this gift as being a means for us to usher in a time when we provide absolutely the best emergency care in the entire region, as we should be,” said Bob Norris, chief of emergency services and an associate professor of surgery in the School of Medicine.
The gift also will support research in such key areas as wound care, heart attack and stroke, as well additional staff in major programs such as bioterrorism and disaster preparedness. Through the gift, the department will create a newly endowed position of Medical Director for Disaster Preparedness.
“If someone has bird flu, the hospital needs to have the capability to handle that,” Andreessen said. “Or what happens in a major earthquake? What if the hospital has 10,000 or 30,000 people coming in? We need to be able to deal with that.”
Arrillaga-Andreessen adds, “Stanford can provide leading-edge research and practice in emergency services, and the knowledge and experiential capital that this enhanced department creates can be a model and resource for emergency medicine provision nationally.”