Steve and Jean Case may best be known for their first revolution—but possibly not for long. With Steve as co-founder, chairman, and CEO of America Online, Inc. (AOL), and Jean as the marketing person who helped bring AOL into millions of homes, this visionary couple literally got America online.
But why stop there? The Cases found success in business by “betting on people and ideas that [could] change world.” When they shifted to philanthropy in their thirties, that much did not change; in fact Jean says that’s “what it’s all about, almost for any philanthropist.”
Since 1997, Jean has been pursuing this vision through her work as CEO of The Case Foundation. Meanwhile, Steve has been working from a different angle as Chairman and CEO of the aptly named company, Revolution, investing in companies like Zipcar and Living Social. But whether working with for- or non-profits – or building bridges between them – the Cases are all about placing big bets on good leaders and entrepreneurs.
In fact, the Cases see risk as so important to transformative change, they have launched a campaign calling on philanthropists to “Be Fearless”. Equally important, the Cases are all for starting philanthropy young, so one can leverage one’s network and take time to explore and learn.
For Jean, it took time to realize that she didn’t have to “be something different” as a philanthropist. Now, many of the same things that worked for Steve and Jean in business are working in philanthropy. Case in point: they have used the Internet to revolutionize philanthropy. One difference: “nothing comes close to the thrill” of doing philanthropy every day.