Founders Circle Campaign Supports Entrepreneurship at Dartmouth

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Tech and finance leaders commit $26 million to expand entrepreneurial opportunities.

Jeff Crowe '78, right, and Brian Moon '12 welcome Dartmouth community members to a workshop for pre-launch and seed stage start-ups as part of the 2019 San Francisco Dartmouth Entrepreneurs Forum, hosted last week by the Magnuson Center for Entrepreneursh
Jeff Crowe ’78, right, and Brian Moon ’12 welcome Dartmouth community members to a workshop for pre-launch and seed stage start-ups as part of the 2019 San Francisco Dartmouth Entrepreneurs Forum, hosted last week by the Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship.

Through the Dartmouth Founders Circle, the Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship will offer even more vibrant, expansive learning experiences for future entrepreneurs.

More than two dozen alumni leaders in technology, social enterprise, venture capital, small business, and private equity have joined together to strengthen all elements of the entrepreneurship ecosystem at Dartmouth.

These 26 generous donors—each pledging $1 million and collectively known as the Dartmouth Founders Circle—are investing in Dartmouth’s growing entrepreneurship program, and they’re also advising the program, making internships available, and mentoring students.

The Magnuson Center, established in 2018 with a lead commitment of $20 million from Allison and Rick Magnuson ’79, provides comprehensive support to Dartmouth undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and alumni on their entrepreneurial journey, from visionary idea to successful startup. The center offers a robust mix of cocurricular programs, funding opportunities, and mentoring and internship experiences made possible through Dartmouth’s world-class alumni network—all with a goal of helping future entrepreneurs from across the Dartmouth community clear the many hurdles they’ll face as they strive to launch their ventures.

Between the Magnusons’ gift, the $26 million from circle members, and other gifts Dartmouth has received to advance entrepreneurship—for a combined total of nearly $50 million—the Magnuson Center will expand all facets of its operations.

Circle members include alumni leaders from many fields, including John Donahoe ’82, president and CEO of ServiceNow; Steve Hafner ’91, cofounder and CEO of; Andrea Johnson ’91, principal of Envelo Properties; and Geoff Ralston ’82, president of Y Combinator.

“Entrepreneurs create the future,” says Hafner. “Weaving entrepreneurial thinking into the Dartmouth experience should help students turn their business ideas into reality. I’m proud to be part of the alumni group that endowed the Magnuson Center, and I’m eager to see the new creations it will support.”

In 2021, the Magnuson Center will move into a state-of-the-art building, currently under construction, at the west end of campus, the nexus of technology and business education at Dartmouth. The 160,000-square-foot building—adjacent to the Tuck School of Business and the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society— will also house the Department of Computer Science and a large portion of Thayer School of Engineering. Inviting students and faculty from all five of Dartmouth’s schools to explore entrepreneurial opportunities, the new building will be ground zero for interdisciplinary ventures and creative collaborations at Dartmouth.

Unlike many higher education entrepreneurship programs, the Magnuson Center’s programmatic scope is broad and deep, built to deliver a multifaceted experience along the entrepreneurial spectrum, from ideation to new-venture creation.

“Entrepreneurial thinking and skills are a foundation to the future of our economy,” says Rick Magnuson, founder and executive managing director of GI Partners, a San Francisco-based private equity firm. “Integrating entrepreneurship into their Dartmouth experience will prepare our students for uncharted paths and inspirational careers. For a group of 26 alumni and families to come together and help endow a center for entrepreneurship at Dartmouth speaks to the importance and passion of the topic and creates a legacy that will benefit generations of students to come.”

The Magnuson Center is organized around four distinct areas of excellence—experiential learning, startup support, alumni engagement, and community development—and provides more than 20 unique programs annually. Now with a talented roster of professional staff, a 20-member board of advisers, and a sense of permanency, the center is poised to expand its reach, says Jamie Coughlin, the center’s director.

“Every prospective student should know that Dartmouth has a dynamic, sustainable commitment to entrepreneurship that is comprehensive in its offerings and extends across all its schools,” says Coughlin. “That dynamism flows directly from the members of the Dartmouth Founders Circle. In addition to their generous financial support, they’re volunteering their valuable time to mentor our startups, providing access to people and capital, and to offer exciting, new-economy internship opportunities to our students.”

Creation of the Magnuson Center followed a four-year pilot program, the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network (DEN) Innovation Center, also funded by donors, including seven alumni who continued their support for entrepreneurship at Dartmouth by joining the Founders Circle.

Entrepreneurial activity at Dartmouth has steadily grown since DEN’s creation. During the past six months alone, more than 3,000 members of the Dartmouth community have participated in Magnuson Center programs and events, and the center has supported more than 300 business concepts and startups at various stages of development.

“It has been a privilege to support DEN and its evolution into the Magnuson Center,” says Andrea Johnson. “Entrepreneurship is about ingenuity, pluck, and perseverance—all central tenets of the Dartmouth culture.”

The successful completion of the circle’s fundraising was announced Friday at the Dartmouth Entrepreneurs Forum in San Francisco, which drew more than 500 members of the Dartmouth entrepreneurial community.

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