Mark Stevens: A Man Who Gives Back

by Josh Biggs in News, Tips on 30th March 2020

Mark Stevens is a well-known venture capitalist who is currently a managing partner for S-Cubed Capital. He received a B.A. in Economics and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Southern California. He continued on to receive an M.S. in Computer Engineering. His career began at Intel in 1982 as a technical salesperson but he eventually left in order to complete an MBA in Business Administration at Harvard Business School. In 1989, Stevens joined Sequoia Capital as a partner and began investing in software-related technology. Through the years, he served as director to 12 different companies and eventually landed 10th place on the Forbes Midas List which names the top 100 venture capitalists. In 2013 Stevens invested in the Golden State Warriors, buying out shares previously held by Vivek Ranadive.

A Pledge to Give

Stevens was always the type of man who enjoyed giving back. In relation to wealth, he was quoted as saying “There were four options: 1) give it to your kids…, 2) let the government take it from you and redistribute it, 3) spend with reckless abandon, or 4) donate virtually all of it to causes and organizations that we feel could make a difference in the world. The first option would inhibit our children’s dreams and motivations; the second option is very inefficient; the third option is not part of our DNA.” In 2010 Mark and Mary Stevens took the Giving Pledge which is a promise made by the world’s wealthiest individuals to donate a large portion of their money as a way of giving back. Stevens has since given to many causes throughout his career, some of which are identified and listed below.

Academic Philanthropy

Stevens began major philanthropic pursuits in 2004 by giving $22 million to his alma mater. This money was used to form the USC Stevens Institute for Technology Commercialization which directly helped the Viterbi School of Engineering. Eventually, the organization grew to include other disciplines and the institution was renamed the USC Stevens Center for Innovation. In 2015 Stevens gave the school another $50 million which was used to create the USC Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute. This donation was far more personal as Mark Steven’s father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and his son was dyslexic. Stevens believed neuroscience was one of the last great frontiers in medicine and also donated to neuroscience research at Stanford. The institute they created at USC made a lot of breakthroughs in brain science through the use of imaging and information technologies. It also focused on Parkinson’s research and in 2019, more than 108 terabytes of RNA sequencing data were added to an open-access portal connected to the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative. Santa Clara University, Mary Stevens’ alma mater, has also received millions of dollars from the couple to be used for scholarships and student activities. The Palo Alto Medical Foundation has received funding for cancer research in memory of the Stevens’ friend, Father Paul Locatelli, S.J.

Olympic Giving

In 2019, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) began looking to venture capitalists for funding. This funding would keep the USOC up to date on technological advancements that would allow future champions to train more efficiently. In their search for backing, the USOC came into contact with Mark Stevens. He and Geoff Yang, co-founder of Redpoint Ventures, paired up to create the USOC Technology and Innovation Fund. This fund allowed the USOC to implement new projects and companies made to support U.S. athletes in future Olympic seasons starting with the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Without the aid of Stevens and Yang, the USOC would have fallen behind technologically in relation to other countries.

A Career Made for Giving

Stevens’s career revolves around investment in small start-up companies that have great ideas but little funding. By providing these companies with money, Stevens allows for technological advancement and the fulfillment of dreams. The risks that he takes in day-to-day life fuel success that would not otherwise come to be. His investment in academics allows students to dream big as well and provides them with the resources to turn those dreams into realities. Every advancement begins as a thought and becomes an idea. Whether that idea is made into something tangible depends on whether someone is willing to provide the resources that allow it to be tested.  

Though new to the world of philanthropy, Mark and Mary Stevens have given millions of dollars to various scientific and technological efforts. Their gifts were given out of personal interest and effectively changed the lives of countless people. As technology continues to advance and the Olympics return each season, these donations will be incredibly important to the state and health of athletes. Advancements in neuroscience will hopefully provide a cure to diseases such as Alzheimer’s and if they do, much gratitude will go to Mark Stevens for his generous donations.

Categories: News Tips