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Acer America Corp. is a computer manufacturer of business and consumer PCs, notebooks, ultrabooks, projectors, servers, and storage products.

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December 13, 2017 |

Datto’s Austin McChord Shares the Wealth with Alma Mater Through $50 Million Gift

Two days after announcing that the company he founded has completed its acquisition by a private equity firm and officially merged with Autotask, the Datto CEO has now made the largest donation in the history of the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Two days after the company he founded officially closed its acquisition by private investor Vista Equity Partners and merger with IT management software maker Autotask, Datto CEO Austin McChord has made a $50 million donation to the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), the university he graduated from in 2009.

$20 million of the grant, which is the largest in the school’s history, will be used to fund the addition of a cybersecurity wing to RIT’s computer science department. Another $17.5 million will underwrite what McChord calls “an incredibly large maker space” officially known as the Maker Library & Innovative Learning Complex of the Future.

McChord describes the gift as an expression of gratitude to RIT for the role it played in his post-graduation accomplishments, as well as a means of paying his good fortune forward.

“I certainly would not have been successful in building Datto if I hadn’t gone to RIT,” he says, noting that he founded Norwalk, Conn.-based Datto in 2007 while still an undergraduate there. “I saw an opportunity to really give thanks to people that played an important part along the way and hopefully to help inspire future Austin McChords, future students, to build things.”

Both the cybersecurity program and maker space will be housed in new buildings funded by McChord’s donation. Neither structure, McChord emphasizes, will bear his name.

“I have no need for anybody to go to school in the Austin McChord hall of God knows what,” he says, adding that he will probably let RIT’s students choose what he hopes will be “incredibly silly” building names instead. “That way it becomes part of the folklore rather than just some other boring building,” he notes.

McChord’s money will also underwrite multiple student grants and endowed professorships.

Though BDR solutions like Datto’s play a role in layered security strategies as a last line of defense against data-destroying threats like ransomware, Datto is not truly a security vendor itself. McChord chose to dedicate a substantial portion of his gift to cybersecurity anyway to help meet skyrocketing demand for qualified technicians with security expertise.

“It’s a growing need,” he says. “Finding talented cybersecurity professionals is incredibly hard, so if we can help create more of them that does good for the world.”

The launch of RIT’s cybersecurity wing, he adds, will make the school an immediate frontrunner in that field.

“There’s actually no place of higher education that’s really a true leader in the space, so it’s a unique opportunity for the university to build something that’s truly differentiated,” McChord says.

Unlike the cybersecurity program, which addresses a very specific need, McChord sees the maker space as a more open-ended effort to create a venue “where people can go to build robots and all kinds of crazy stuff” that could lead to important innovations or give birth to new companies like his own. McChord, who builds robots and other do-it-yourself devices in his spare time, stresses that technical students won’t be the only ones welcome in that venue.

“RIT actually has a very large art school as well as a heavy tech focus, and so if there’s a place where those two things can converge that’s really interesting,” he says.

In addition to announcing that the Vista Equity Partners purchase and Autotask merger have been completed, Datto also introduced a revamped leadership structure on Monday. The new executive team includes Autotask managers Patrick Burns and Adam Stewart, who will serve as vice president of product management and senior vice president of engineering respectively.


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