How Stanford Almost Expanded To New York City

Posted Apr 29, 2012

Ken Auletta of The New Yorker wrote a hard-hitting piece about how there are no walls between Stanford and Silicon Valley. Many of Stanford’s alumni have built some of the largest technology companies in the world and the pressure to live up to that amount of success is high.

“Innovation comes from myriad sources, including the bastions of East Coast learning, but Stanford has established itself as the intellectual nexus of the information economy. In early April, Facebook acquired the photo-sharing service Instagram, for a billion dollars; naturally, the co-founders of the two-year-old company are Stanford graduates in their late twenties. The initial investor was a Stanford alumnus,” wrote Auletta.

Peter C. Wendell, the founder of Sierra Ventures, has been teaching Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital part time at the school for the past 21 years. He invites 16 venture capitalists to his class to work with his students including Google chairman Eric Schmidt and Intuit co-founder Scott Cook.

Stanford’s Office of Technology Licensing has licensed 8,000 campus-inspired inventions and generated $1.3 billion in royalties for Stanford. There are five thousand companies that “trace their origins to Stanford ideas or to Stanford faculty and students” including EA, Intuit, eBay, Sun, HP, Netflix, Google, Yahoo! and E*Trade.

The article written by Auletta also pointed out that Stanford was close to opening a branch in New York City, but ended up changing their minds. He wrote: “This was not to be a satellite campus. It would be solely an engineering and applied-science school. Hennessy proposed that each department base three-quarters of its faculty in Palo Alto and a quarter on Roosevelt Island. Nor was it to be solely a research facility. (Stanford has one at Peking University, in Beijing.) Faculty members across the country would share videoconference screens, and students in New York would be able to take online classes based in Palo Alto.”

In December 2011, Stanford withdrew their bid to expand because the city had changed the terms of the deal. They wanted a fully operational campus with a complement of faculty sooner than Stanford thought was feasible. Demands from New York City would result in millions of dollars in fines if they project was delayed. The demands came from city lawyers instead of the office of Mayor Bloomberg.