Building Companies and Giving Back: The Singular Career of Eric Lefkofsky

Eric Lefkofsky

Eric Lefkofsky has said the secret of his success is that he focuses on solutions. He figures out the precise problem he wants to solve, and he finds that ideas are borne from that process. Over the years, he’s concentrated on many issues in the realms of e-commerce, medicine, and charity. Many viable new concepts have emerged from those deliberations.


A Business Mind Is Unleashed


From almost the moment he earned his law degree from the University of Michigan in 1993, Detroit native Eric Lefkofsky has been creating businesses. First, he and one of his friends from college bought a clothing company. They sold that brand soon afterwards, and Eric used the profits to fund his startups.


In quick succession, Eric founded a series of high-tech companies and venture capital funds. Among them, Groupon is one of the most recognizable names. It’s a website that lets its subscribers find coupons for just about any product or service that they’re looking for.


Making Medicine More Data-Driven


Many of Eric’s companies have pushed the technological envelope. Lately, however, this entrepreneur has turned his entrepreneurial attention toward medicine.


Eric sees data as a key to providing effective medical care. In fact, he launched his startup Tempus so that oncologists could use data on the job. Eric was frustrated when he discovered that doctors rarely have tools at their fingertips to make data-driven decisions. He found it especially odd given that so many other professionals depend on statistics every day.


Tempus is working to change this situation. It’s collecting reams of data about tumors and treatments, and it’s incorporating machine learning features into its operating system to make that information as accessible and serviceable as it could be. As a result, cancer doctors will be able to see which forms of treatment would make the most potent weapons against various types of tumors. In short, more oncologists will give their patients individualized care.



Widespread Success and Equality: The Missions of Rise of the Rest


Over the years, Eric Lefkofsky has probably made as many contributions to philanthropic causes as he has to the corporate world. A recent example is his investment in Rise of the Rest, a fund that currently has tens of millions of dollars in assets. One of its founders is Steve Case, an entrepreneur who helped launch America Online. The other is venture capitalist J.D. Vance, the author of the nonfiction bestseller “Hillbilly Elegy.” Major investors include Jeff Bezos and Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.


Certain regions of the U.S. — Seattle and the San Francisco Bay Area are good examples — have booming technology sectors. Other parts of the country, meanwhile, have just as much raw talent and potential, but they aren’t home to as many flourishing high-tech startups. The Rust Belt is one such area. Rise of the Rest’s leaders are convinced that the reason for this disparity is that so much of the seed money for new companies is concentrated in places like Silicon Valley.


When startups do well all over the country, more people get a chance to share in the American dream. Moreover, it’s likely that the nation will feel less divided socially, culturally, and politically. And, when those gulfs are bridged, politicians may become less partisan and more interested in cooperative problem solving.



Even More Philanthropic Efforts


Rise of the Rest represents just one of Eric’s civic-minded pursuits. He is also a trustee of several notable organizations in his hometown, including the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and the Museum of Science and Industry and World Business Chicago.


Eric’s most far-reaching charitable project to date is the organization he created with his wife. In 2006, Eric and Liz Lefkofsky launched the Lefkofsky Family Foundation.


The main mission of the Lefkofsky Family Foundation is to support the work of other humanitarian groups. The foundation locates organizations that are truly making a positive and lasting impact on people, and it provides them with funding. They could be charter schools, political PACs, community medical centers, museums, or theaters, just to name some examples.


The groups that the Lefkofsky Family Foundation finances tend to be focused on health, human rights, education, the fine arts, or performing arts.


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