John Chambers, a West Virginia native and West Virginia University alumni, was announced last week as a major supporter behind WVU’s efforts to promote entrepreneurship and business growth in the state.
Along with his knowledge, Chambers will share substantial financial resources with the university, which has renamed their College of Business and Economics in his honor.
“I’ve always believed in the power of education, but we need to reinvent our schools for a new, digital era. I’m betting on the Mountaineers and believe my home state can become a startup state if the university, business and public sectors come together to support transformative innovation,” said Chambers in a news release.
A native of Charleston, Chambers is most noted for his time with Cisco Systems a California-based technology conglomerate.
Chambers became CEO of that company, which between 1991 and 2015 grew from a $70 million company to a $47 billion company. Cisco acquired 180 companies and grew to more than 70,000 employees.
Since stepping down as CEO in 2015, Chambers has founded JC2 Ventures, a venture capital firm with worldwide reach.
“This is an incredible opportunity,” Javier Reyes, the dean of the College of Business and Economics said in the release.
“John Chambers is personally investing his talent and resources to transform how we think, how we work and how we improve our economy. He is helping us define our identity as a college and a university that will be invested in the digital age and we will lead with a startup mindset in the heartland of America. I am humbled to work alongside John, and many others across the institution and the state, to develop meaningful change.”
Chambers’ financial support will include helping with the build out and operation of a startup engine, the creation of a venture capital fund and the creation of a Center for Artificial Intelligence Management.
The former CEO will also volunteer 5 percent of his time as a mentor to the university.
In a recently published book, “Connecting the Dots: Lessons for Leadership in a Startup World,” Chambers argues for the creation of an entrepreneurial culture and shares his hopes for the state.
“If we come together to invest in start-ups, innovations, skills training and digitization, there’s no reason why West Virginia can’t rise again,” the book reads. “The key to this will be strong leadership from the public and private sectors and from educational institutions like West Virginia University, where I am sharing my time, money and ideas to help develop the programs, partnerships and people we need to nurture a startup culture.”