Eric and Wendy Schmidt

 NET WORTH: $13.4 billion


FUNDING AREAS: Environment, Education, Science and Technology

OVERVIEW: Eric Schmidt takes a leadership approach to grantmaking and seeks to use his technological expertise and vision to solve many of the world's problems. Along with his wife, Wendy, Schmidt founded the Schmidt Family Foundation, which prioritizes the environment, education, and sustainable development.

BACKGROUND: Eric Schmidt grew up outside Washington, D.C., and studied electrical engineering at Princeton University and the University of California at Berkeley. After receiving a Ph.D., he held technical positions at companies including Bell Labs, Xerox, Sun Microsystems and Novell, before becoming the CEO of Google in 2001. He has also served on the board of Apple.


ENVIRONMENT: One of the foundation's signature programs is the 11th Hour Project. Run by Wendy Schmidt, this program works on "connecting organizations with good information on how to develop a more responsible relationship with the world's water, energy, and food resources."  The 11th Hour Project has three programs under it: 1. The Energy Program seeks to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and accelerate the production and adoption of renewable energy. 2. The Ecological Agriculture Program prioritizes "reforming animal agriculture, building regional food systems and long-term movement building." 3. The Human Rights Program seeks to protect communities’ access to and enjoyment of the natural resources they rely on for their survival, and to promote “development that is socially and environmentally sustainable."

In addition, Wendy established the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Challenge after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The couple also runs a separate entity called the Schmidt Ocean Institute, which works to preserve reef habitats and study pollution. In 2015, Schmidt's family foundation made grants of around $10 million to the Monterey Bay Aquarium to promote sustainable seafood consumption.

EDUCATION: Schmidt has served on the board of trustees of his alma mater Princeton, and also Carnegie Mellon University, donating substantial amounts to these institutions. He is currently on the board of Khan Academy, which provides online educational resources. He is also a strong supporter of environmental education. Schmidt helped to establish the 11th Hour Food & Farming Journalism Fellowship at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism which gives awards to students writing about environmental issues. 

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: The couple recently launched Schmidt Futures, which aims to "advance society through technology, inspiring breakthroughs in scientific knowledge, and promoting shared prosperity." The couple announced the Schmidt Science Fellows, a postdoc program with an initial commitment of $25 million. The fellowship was launched as part of a $100 million effort to build up new scientific leaders and interdisciplinary research. Schmidt Futures is also funding a postdoctoral award for women studying mathematical or computational sciences or engineering in Israel. One recent grant supports MIT’s Intelligence Quest, a new initiative studying human and machine intelligence. And one of its science research goals is to support “a new scientific paradigm based on data science and machine learning.” 

LOOKING FORWARD: Expect the Schmidts to continue to heavily dig into environmental issues.