Celebrating Founders

Memorial Auditorium

From inspiration to idea to impact…What does it take to create something new?

Stanford alumni with firsthand experience of this journey came together in Memorial Auditorium on February 24, 2016, to share their thoughts and learning as founders of businesses and nonprofit organizations.

With opening remarks by Stanford President John Hennessy, the symposium was moderated by alum and board member Ron Johnson and drew more than 1,200 attendees plus a streaming online audience. Panelists Reed Hastings, Netflix; Jessica Jackley, Kiva; Mike Krieger, Instagram; Tristan Walker, Walker & Company; and Kiah Williams, SIRUM, spoke about their experience and learning on turning goals and dreams into reality, the role of failure, inspiring others to join in, and deciding when to persevere and when to let go.

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  • reed

    Reed Hastings,

    Co-founder and CEO, Netflix

  • jessica

    Jessica Jackley

    Co-founder, Kiva

  • mike

    Mike Krieger

    Co-founder, Instagram

  • tristan

    Tristan Walker

    Founder, Walker & Company

  • kiah

    Kiah Williams

    Co-founder, SIRUM


  • hennessy

    John Hennessy

    President, Stanford University

  • ron

    Ron Johnson

    Founder and CEO, Enjoy

Talking About Founders

Panelists & Exhibitors

  • Panelists & Hosts

    Stanford University President John L. Hennessy has led the university’s extraordinary growth and impact on technology, business and human potential in the 21st century.

    Hennessy, a pioneer in computer architecture, joined Stanford’s faculty in 1977 as an assistant professor of electrical engineering. In 1981, he drew together researchers to focus on a technology known as RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer), which revolutionized computing by increasing performance while reducing costs. Hennessy helped transfer this technology to industry. In 1984, he cofounded MIPS Computer Systems, now MIPS Technologies, which designs microprocessors. He rose to full professorship in 1986 and was the inaugural Willard R. and Inez Kerr Bell Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (1987-2004). He has been director of Stanford’s Computer Systems Laboratory (1983-1993); dean of the School of Engineering (1996-2000), and university provost (1999-2000). In October 2000, he was inaugurated as Stanford’s 10th president. Throughout his career, Hennessy has multiplied the impact of Stanford’s great minds by fostering interdisciplinary collaborations, initially in the biosciences and bioengineering and now among 18 interdisciplinary centers drawing from Stanford’s seven schools.

    His honors include the 2012 Medal of Honor of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, its highest award; the 2000 Benjamin Garver Lamme Award of the American Society of Electrical Engineers; the 2001 Eckert-Mauchly Award of the Association for Computing Machinery; the 2001 Seymour Cray Computer Engineering Award; a 2004 NEC C&C Prize for lifetime achievement in computer science and engineering, and a 2005 Founders Award from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Hennessy earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Villanova University and his master’s and doctoral degrees in computer science from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.


    As founder of personal commerce platform Enjoy and founding partner of venture firm Johnson + Partners, Ron Johnson, ’80, brings new ideas to market and changes how we buy things that matter.

    Enjoy, Nasty Gal, Philz Coffee and the Melt are among Johnson + Partners’ vibrant and pathbreaking investments. Johnson has been CEO of J.C. Penney; executive team member at Apple, where he founded and led Apple’s retail strategy; and a merchant leader at Target Corporation. He serves on Stanford’s Board of Trustees and its committees on development, the Medical Center, alumni affairs, athletics and globalization. He is vice chairman of Stanford Hospitals and Clinics and co-chairman of the $1 billion-plus Campaign for Stanford Medicine to build a new hospital and generate breakthroughs in health research and care. Johnson is also a member of Stanford’s Arts and Humanities Advisory Council. He earned a BA from Stanford in 1980 and an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1984.


    Netflix cofounder and CEO Reed Hastings, MS ’88, aims to extend the innovative thinking that reshaped home entertainment to help transform education.

    In 1991, Hastings founded Pure Software, which made tools for software developers. After a 1995 IPO and several acquisitions, Pure was acquired by Rational Software in 1997. In that year he cofounded Netflix, which today boasts award-winning original programming and 74 million subscribers. Hastings is an educational philanthropist and served on the California State Board of Education from 2000 to 2004. He is on the boards of several educational organizations including CCSA, Dreambox Learning, KIPP, Pahara and the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley. Hastings is also a board member of Facebook, and was on Microsoft’s board from 2007 to 2012. He received a bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College in 1983 and a master’s in artificial intelligence from Stanford in 1988. Hastings served in the Peace Corps as a high school math teacher in Swaziland.


    Entrepreneur Jessica Jackley, MBA ’07, combines altruism with technology to promote financial inclusion, the sharing economy and social justice.

    Jackley co-founded Kiva, the world’s first peer-to-peer microlending website, which has facilitated more than $800 million in loans since its founding in 2005. She has been a Venture Partner with the Collaborative Fund, a founder and CEO of ProFounder, a pioneering crowdfunding platform for U.S. entrepreneurs, and Walt Disney Imagineering’s first Entrepreneur in Residence. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a 2011 Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum, and a board member of several nonprofits including Habitat for Humanity. Jackley holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, a certificate in global leadership and public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School, and a bachelor’s degree from Bucknell University. She is author of Clay Water Brick: Finding Inspiration from Entrepreneurs Who Do the Most with the Least (Random House, 2015).


    Mike Krieger, ’08, MS ’09, is co-founder and chief technology officer of Instagram, a global photo-sharing community and one of Silicon Valley’s iconic success stories.

    As Instagram’s head of engineering, Krieger focuses on building products that bring out the creativity in everyone. Instagram was an instant hit when it launched in October 2010, and the firm had only 13 employees when it was acquired by Facebook in 2012 for $1 billion. By thinking audaciously, running lean, and selling big, Instagram epitomized the creative and economic potential of Silicon Valley. Today, Instagram shares more than 70 million photos every day. Before founding Instagram, Krieger worked at Meebo as a user experience designer and front-end engineer. A native of São Paulo, Brazil, he holds a master’s degree in symbolic systems from Stanford. As a student in 2008, he received the K. Jon Barwise Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Symbolic Systems Program.


    As founder and CEO of Walker & Co. Brands, Tristan Walker, MBA ’10, aims to simplify health and beauty for people of color.

    Walker & Co.’s flagship brand, Bevel, is the only shaving system clinically proven to reduce and prevent razor bumps and irritation. Walker has been entrepreneur-in-residence at Andreessen Horowitz and director of business development for Foursquare, where he oversaw strategic partnerships and monetization. As founder and chairman of CODE2040, he supports minority tech talent by facilitating summer internships at Silicon Valley startups for high-performing Latino and African-American undergraduate and graduate coders and software engineers. He has been a 2014 USA Today Person of the Year and one of Ebony magazine’s 100 Most Powerful People, Vanity Fair’s “Next Establishment,” Fortune’s 40 Under 40, AdAge’s Creative 50, and Black Enterprise’s 40 Next. Walker holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Stony Brook University, where he was valedictorian, and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.


    Kiah J. Williams, ’07, MA ’07, is committed to social-enterprise expansion as co-founder and director of SIRUM (Supporting Initiatives to Redistribute Unused Medicine).

    SIRUM cuts the amount of medicine going to waste in the United States by redistributing unused, unexpired drugs to safety-net clinics. Williams developed the startup’s national rollout strategy. Previously, Williams led negotiations on behalf of the William J. Clinton Foundation and American Heart Association to create the Alliance Healthcare Initiative against childhood obesity. Partnerships she fostered with such firms as Aetna and PepsiCo and such groups as the American Academy of Pediatrics and Weight Watchers enabled 50,000 doctors and dietitians to expand health care access to more than 2 million children. Williams has served as youth enrichment director for a Brooklyn-based nonprofit and as president of the Stanford chapter of the NAACP. Williams holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stanford, where she received the Tom Ford Fellowship in Philanthropy.


  • Exhibitors

    BASES (Business Association of Stanford Entrepreneurial Students)

    BASES is at the heart of entrepreneurship at Stanford. A student-run organization open to all interested Stanford students, BASES promotes entrepreneurship education at Stanford to empower the next generation. BASES works with exceptional students, professors and thought leaders to unite the worlds of innovation, academia and industry. Programs include the BASES $100K Startup Challenge, Startup Career Fair, Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders’ Seminar, Social Impact Week and Women in Entrepreneurship Summit.

    Center for Entrepreneurial Studies

    Founded in 1996 to enhance understanding of issues facing entrepreneurs, this Stanford Graduate School of Business center works to encourage collaboration among MBAs, engineers, lawyers, and medical students through joint classes, events and collaborations. The center promotes research that advances entrepreneurial thinking; supports creation and operation of courses on topics including innovation, entrepreneurship and early-stage investing; and supports students through experiential programs such as the Stanford Venture Studio and Startup Garage.


    At CodeX, researchers, lawyers, entrepreneurs and technologists work side-by-side to advance the frontier of legal technology, bringing new levels of legal efficiency, transparency, and access to legal systems around the world. CodeX’s emphasis is on the research and development of computational law, the branch of legal informatics concerned with the automation and mechanization of legal analysis.

    SEED (Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies)

    Stanford Seed is a Stanford Graduate School of Business-led initiative intent on ending poverty in developing economies by training and mentoring these regions’ business leaders. Seed Transformation Programs in East and West Africa train senior leaders who want to grow established businesses. Other Seed programs offer research or volunteer opportunities as well as structured engagement between Stanford students interested in global issues of poverty and African companies.

    Stanford Center for Professional Development

    Frederick Terman, dean of the School of Engineering, established the Honors Cooperative Program in 1954, making it possible for corporations to retain the best and brightest professionals and build a lasting foundation for Stanford and industry. Since then, the Stanford Center for Professional Development has made it possible for a global community of learners to enroll in School of Engineering courses and programs at work, at Stanford and online.

    Stanford Historical Society

    The Stanford Historical Society fosters the study, publication, dissemination, and preservation of Stanford University’s history. Founded in 1976 by Rosamond Clarke Bacon, ’32, and other faculty, staff, and alumni, the society marks its 40th year in 2016. The society publishes a journal, Sandstone & Tile, three times a year, and presents programs on aspects of Stanford’s history. It has a vibrant oral history program and sponsors historic home and garden tours.

    Worldview Stanford

    Worldview Stanford is an innovative university initiative that creates learning experiences for professionals to help them grow in their understanding of the complex issues and dynamics shaping the future. Worldview Stanford creates interdisciplinary learning experiences for curious leaders about the dynamics and discoveries that are shaping the future.