Billionaire Beat: Jack Dangermond And Esri Provide The World With A Map Of Possibilities

Jack Dangermond and his wife, Laura, founded the Environmental Systems Research Institute — better known as Esri — as a land use consulting firm. Now, more than 50 years later, Esri is the world’s leading supplier of geographic information systems (GIS) software, advanced mapping and spatial analytics technology that is covertly crucial to everyday life. With over 40% of the GIS market share in its control, Dangermond’s company is one of the largest private companies of its kind, serving over 350,000 clients worldwide.

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When COVID-19 sent the world into pandemic protocol, Esri’s signature software tool, ArcGIS, was harnessed by Johns Hopkins University to create its national-standard coronavirus tracker. Using Esri’s technology, JHU supports the global mapping of COVID’s spread, essentially enhancing the worldwide response to the pandemic. What began as Dangermond’s obsession with the intersection of geography and technology is now an essential component of sustaining humanity — an ultimate triumph for the GIS community.

When Dangermond and his wife launched Esri, they committed to keeping their venture self-sustained, focusing on maintaining long-term control of its research and development while staying financially independent. In addition to keeping Esri autonomous from outside interests, the strategy has benefitted Dangermond a self-made fortune in excess of $5.6 billion, placing him among the country’s wealthiest tech entrepreneurs. However, his leverage as CEO and president has made Esri one of the most acclaimed workplaces as well, avoiding mass layoffs and contractions en route to being named one of America’s Best Midsize Employers 2021 by Forbes. Since the beginning, the Dangermonds have also been strongly committed to environmental preservation, one of the driving forces in the founding of the company. In 2017, the couple established the Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve, 38 square miles of unspoiled land on the southern California coast under the management of The Nature Conservancy, with the largest of such donations to the organization in its history.

Jack Dangermond also lends his expertise and technology to the United Nations and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), establishing a global network of data hubs between member countries — fueled by ArcGIS, of course. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the importance of data and technology is more evident than ever, with Esri users like JHU offering proof-positive of the power and impact of spatial analysis. Dangermond’s independence made it possible to donate more than $60 million in software, hardware, and services toward the coronavirus fight. With a lifetime of experience and financial autonomy on his side, he still has big plans for shaping the way we map the future.