FUNDING AREAS: Education, especially Early Childhood Education, healthcare, humanitarian, and civic needs.
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Venture capitalist
NET WORTH: $3 billion
CONTACT: Managing Partner, The Pritzker Group, 111 S. Wacker Drive, Suite 4000, Chicago, IL 60606, 312-447-6000, email@example.com
INSIDE TAKE: Pritzjker funds education work, especially in the area of early childhood education and development.
PROFILE: Jay Robert (J.B.) Pritzker is one of the largest venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and private business investors in the United States. Forbes estimates his current net worth to be $3 billion, making him the 150th richest person in the nation.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Don Pritzker who built Hyatt Hotels into a nationwide chain, J.B. has an entrepreneurial spirit with a civic focus.
J.B. serves as president of the Pritzker Family Foundation, where he created the Children’s Initiative, which funds research and programing for poverty-stricken children. He’s also one of the founding supporters of the First Five Years Fund, which is a national organization dedicated to early care and learning programs. Due to J.B.'s leadership, the Pritzker Family Foundation is at the top of the giving list for early childhood philanthropy.
He’s also chairman of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center and the principal funder of the Cambodia Tribunal Monitor, which was a significant source for online news about the international criminal tribunal in the region. He gave $5 million to the University of South Dakota to honor his wife’s parents and was the lead funder for the Pritzker Science Center at his boyhood boarding school, Milton Academy.
J.B. and his brother, Tony, run the Pritzer Group, which is a private equity and venture capital firm based in Chicago and Los Angeles. In recent years, he’s been busy creating digital, clean technology, and life science jobs in Chicago. J.B. got his start studying political science at Duke University and getting his J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law. He lost the bid for U.S. Congress in 1998, with a focus on education and gun control. A lifelong Democrat, J.B. served as national co-chairman for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and also as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2008.
Despite his political background, he’s had his hand in IT since forming New World Ventures in 1996, which develops enterprise software, IT infrastructure, and IT managed services. Thanks to J.B.’s interest in IT, many early-stage companies have succeeded, including online educator eCollege, web ticket seller TicketsNow, and data storage provider Lefthand Networks.
More recently, he was put in charge of a Chicago council to create work space partnerships and entrepreneurial exchange programs to attract university students to pursue their startup dreams in the city. In a Sun Times interview, Pritzker explained, “Chicago has made huge strides in building an entrepreneurial ecosystem, but it could be better. The city needs more engineers and software developers to support its growing digital economy.” In a Crain’s Chicago Business interview, he elaborated to say,” “It is very, very hard to be an entrepreneur, because unlike going into the corporate world, there's no safety net. I have tremendous admiration for them.”
When it comes to his biggest philanthropic passion, early education, J.B. believes that a child’s first three years will determine the quality of each year that follows. In a Forbes interview, J.B. stated, “Waiting until third grade to detect actual deficits in at-risk children is far too late. For the most vulnerable children — the ones who have never had a book read to them or held a crayon — it’s not impossible to catch up. But it’s far less costly and more prudent to provide quality early learning programs.”
Although J.B’s philanthropy page doesn’t include any specific grant application deadlines or procedures, it would certainly be worth a try to contact him directly with a proposal in the fields he’s passionate about. The Pritzker Group’s philanthropic focus areas include education, healthcare, humanitarian, and civic needs. J.B. regularly shells out grant dollars to everything from art museums to Holocaust remembrance to neuroscience and zoos. Since he’s the managing partner of The Pritzker Group, your best bet is to contact him directly via mail, phone, fax, or email.