Creating More Room For Kids To Read
M.R. Rangaswami, Managing Director, Sand Hill Group
M.R. Rangaswami discovered a passion outside the world of software venture capital when he met John Wood, who quit Microsoft China as business development director to launch a nonprofit organization dedicated to building schools and libraries in some of the world's poorest communities. To date, the San Francisco-based charity Room to Read has opened more than 100 schools and over 1,000 school libraries in impoverished villages across Asia, enriching the lives of more than 300,000 underprivileged children.
To date, the San Francisco-based charity Room to Read (R2R) has opened more than 100 schools and over 1,000 school libraries in impoverished villages across Asia, enriching the lives of more than 300,000 underprivileged children.
Even before M.R. actually met John, he created the SHG Foundation to enable the surplus from the annual Enterprise Conferences to be donated to charity. He says, "The goal is to build a $1-million endowment."
The SHG Foundation awards grants annually to U.S.-based non-profit organizations helping to improve the lives of low-income women and children. It funds specific projects with either a local (Bay Area) or international focus. The awards are given at Sand Hill's Enterprise Conference.
Connecting with Software Leaders
When M.R. learned of John's organization, it quickly became apparent he had a desire to embrace this cause. "I have been involved with Room to Read for the last year. I am on the organization's Advisory Board, speak frequently at Room to Read events, and have introduced R2R to numerous people within our network. Through our SHG Foundation, I have supported their cause."
The next logical step was to have John present at the Software 2004 conference to the 1000 executives in attendance. "The audience responded with a standing ovation and over $50,000 of donations. I was amazed at how people connected with John's mission!" says M.R.
See the video at http://www.sandhill.com/enterprise_software_video.htm
What M.R. likes about R2R is that John and his team run the organization like a business. John spent most of his career at Microsoft, and did his MBA at the Kellogg School, and it shows in the way he runs the organization. "They have an intense focus on results, and have established a network of over 1,300 new schools and libraries in less than five years. Not even Andrew Carnegie did libraries that quickly! The organization is also very efficient - for just $2,000 they can establish a new bi-lingual library, and for about $8,000 they can build a new school in Nepal. They keep their overhead to single digits - in fact, it's been under 6% during the charity's lifetime," says M.R.
Room to Read's belief is that "World Change Starts with Educated Children", and that if we can educate the 850 million people in the developing world who lack basic literacy, they can take charge of their own lives and escape poverty through the lifelong gift of education.
Room to Read works in India, Nepal, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos - all countries with a desperate lack of resources to educate their children.
"I can't think of anything more important than education. If you can get a good education, starting from a young age, then the sky is the only limit. But nearly a billion people in the developing world lack access to education, and I don't see how we can solve the problems of the world if we don't help them to develop their minds from a young age," he says.
The R2R goal is simple yet audacious - to make an impact on 10 million children! M.R. and John believe that it can be done.
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M.R. co-founded Sand Hill Group LLC, and has been a strategic advisor to fast-growing companies such as Aspect Development and i2 Technologies. He has held global VP marketing positions at Baan Company, Avalon Software, and Oracle Corporation. M.R. was profiled on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and was recently named in Forbes' "Midas 100 List" as one of the most influential investors in technology. M.R. can be reached for article feedback at: email@example.com
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