UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business announced today a gift of up to $25 million from alumnus Kevin Chou, founding CEO of mobile gaming firm Kabam, and his wife, Dr. Connie Chen.
It is the largest personal gift to UC Berkeley by an alumnus under the age of 40. In recognition of the gift, the school will name its new state-of-the-art academic building Connie & Kevin Chou Hall. The building will open later this year.
Photo: Kevin Chou, BS 02, and his wife, Connie
Chou, 36, received his bachelor’s degree from Berkeley-Haas in 2002. After graduation, he co-founded San Francisco-based mobile game company Kabam along with two fellow Berkeley alumni. Late last year, he sold the majority of Kabam’s assets to South Korea’s Netmarble Games Corp. in an $800 million deal, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Chou says it is important to him to give back to the school early in his career to inspire current and future Haas students to become entrepreneurs.
“Beyond Yourself is a principle that really resonates with me today,” says Chou, referring to one of the four Haas Defining Principles. “I’m excited to be able to do this at this point in my career because I get to spend time with students and with Haas professors and other administrators, collaborating and helping them think about the new student space and the program.”
The couple says their gift is also a testament to their support for UC Berkeley’s role in providing world-class public education to students of all backgrounds.
“We believe that diversity is so important in terms of shaping future leaders. We’re excited about bringing together students of all backgrounds—not just business students—to formulate ideas that will improve the world,” says Chen, 29, a practicing physician and co-founder of Vida Health, a venture-backed startup providing health coaching and programming.
The Chou and Chen gift will be transformative for Berkeley-Haas, Dean Rich Lyons says. “What makes this gift so special is that these are two people in their 30s—an extraordinary time in life to be making a commitment to an institution that Kevin says has had so much of an impact on his life. Their donation is going to have a catalytic effect on generations of donors to come.”
The couple pledged $15 million, with two potential step-ups of $5 million or $10 million at the end of 5 years.
The new $60 million building, funded entirely by private donations from alumni and friends, comes at a critical time. Over the past 20 years, enrollment at Berkeley-Haas has nearly doubled to more than 2,200 undergraduate and graduate students in six degree programs.
Connie & Kevin Chou Hall will increase the school’s space by a third. The 80,000-square-foot space will be devoted entirely to student learning and interaction, featuring cutting-edge technology in classrooms and study spaces. It will not contain any offices for faculty or staff
Chou said Berkeley made a deep impression on him when he arrived from his hometown of Moorpark, Calif., a Ventura County city of 35,000. “The diversity and academic challenges at Berkeley instilled in me the tenacity that has sustained me through the highs and lows of my entrepreneurial career,” he says.
Chou co-founded Kabam in 2006 with fellow Berkeley alumni Mike Li, a 2001 electrical engineering and computer science graduate, and Holly Liu, who earned a master’s in information management & systems in 2003.
The three founders have been strong supporters of their alma mater. In 2013, Kabam signed an $18 million contract with UC Berkeley which included the naming rights to Kabam Field at California Memorial Stadium.
Chou is one of 176 Berkeley entrepreneurs who have signed the Berkeley Founders’ Pledge, a personal, non-binding pledge to give a portion of the value of their venture to support the university’s schools and programs, if and when they have a liquidity event.