RIT graduate donating $50 million to alma mater

Austin McChord, a 2009 RIT graduate who started a business in his parents' basement, will now donate $50 million to Rochester Institute of Technology – the biggest donation in the school’s history. (WHAM photo)

Henrietta, N.Y. (WHAM) - A 2009 RIT graduate who started a business in his parents' basement will now donate $50 million to Rochester Institute of Technology – the biggest donation in the school’s history.

RIT had promised a “historic announcement…that would dramatically shape the future."

Austin McChord is the founder of Datto. He developed technology that helps companies with backup and disaster recovery services and focused his business on an underserved market of small and medium companies such as doctor’s offices and accounting firms.

RELATED: Tech company Datto to add 200 jobs in Rochester

McChord once said he borrowed $80,000 on a credit card to get the business up and running. It now has a net worth of over $1 billion.

“My goal with this gift is two-fold,” said McChord. “First is to help make more resources available to students, alumni and the community at-large to create, build and innovate for the future. But it’s also to help recognize those who helped you along the way. My success today would not have been possible without my time at RIT.”

McChord is on the Board of Trustees at RIT.

The $50 million will be allocated to two areas. First, $30 million will go toward fostering creativity and entrepreneurship at RIT, including $17.5 million to launch the Maker Library & Innovative Learning Complex of the Future. This will be a new facility connecting RIT’s Wallace Center and the Student Alumni Union. Funding for new equipment, faculty positions and student scholarships will also be a priority, with “Entrepreneurial Gap Year” fellowships to help students start to shift their concepts into businesses.

Another $20 million will go toward advancing the cybersecurity and artificial intelligence work at RIT. This funding will mainly be allocated to expanding the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences.

McChord once told a Connecticut reporter he was a “C” student studying gene sequencing and the use of computers to solve biological problems. He designed the first hard drive prototype of his product while still a student. Datto now employs more than 700 people with most based in Norwalk, Connecticut. In 2014, it opened a branch in Rochester with a commitment to create 77 jobs. The company now plans to employ 200.

Datto started working with Start-UP NY in July 2014. In July 2016, a report showed the firm created 50 new jobs and received $96,542 in total tax benefits from the program in 2015.


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