David Warnock, venture capitalist, foundation head, art collector, doesn’t want your money. He wants your mind.
There’s a new non-profit in town – one with an interesting mission. The Warnock Foundation wants to be a “platform for innovation,” sifting through the sands of social entrepreneurship for truly great ideas – large and small — that have potential to help the economically disadvantaged and move Baltimore forward.
“Our goal is to connect the people with influence and the people with ideas” says founder David Warnock. “We want to create an environment where entrepreneurism can thrive.”
Ok, sounds great, but how does it actually happen? Recently, the Warnock Foundation conducted a survey asking Baltimoreans what they love about the city, what their concerns are, and ideas for how to make it better. We recently spoke with David in his Inner Harbor offices at Camden Partners, a Baltimore-based private equity firm, to find out the results of the survey, how it impacts the mission of the Warnock Foundation, and how he thinks it can make a difference to Baltimore.
You grew up during difficult economic times in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and attended the University of Delaware and University of Wisconsin. You came to Baltimore in 1983 to work for T. Rowe Price. Soon after you took your first steps into community involvement. What was that experience like?
Through a group called Project Raise, which was sponsored by the Abell Foundation, I became a mentor to a young African-American boy named Winzell Hinton. He was 12 years old at the time, a great kid. We were close for several years, but eventually he drifted away, drawn into the drug culture of East Baltimore. One day when he was 15, I got a call from his mother saying Winzell was at the hospital — he’d been shot, and he had shot another boy. Eventually he was sentenced to a long prison term. I felt then, and still do sometimes, that I had let him down.
Did you stay in touch?
No, we lost touch completely. But 22 years later, he called me up out of the blue. He was out of prison, had a good job, and he simply called to thank me and say he’d never forgotten me. It’s something I will always remember, both seeing him lost to the streets and getting that call to hear I’d made some difference after all.