Build Gala 2014: Olivia Hsu Decker

Olivia Decker, Ron and Gayle Conway

Photograhy: Drew Altizer

On March 1, over 500 guests gathered for the 2014 BUILD Gala at the Palace of Fine Arts. Bay Area and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and venture capitalists came together to support BUILD’s programs for disadvantaged high school students by engaging them in entrepreneurial education. Founded by Stanford Law School graduate Suzanne McKechnie in 1999, BUILD is an innovative, college preparatory program using entrepreneurship to help disengaged, low-income high school students to college and career success. The annual BUILD Gala is a fundraiser where a “Pitch” Prize is awarded for Entrepreneurship. This year, the honoree was Ben Silbermann, Co-founder/CEO of Pinterest. Co-chaired by Ron & Gayle Conway and Khosla Ventures, the event included a Student Product Showcase where the attendees purchased the products produced by BUILD’s students and a live Auction after the touching keynote testimony by BUILD student Alex Gonzalez left the audience in tears, inspiring them to open their wallets. Auction items that got highest bids included a stay for two at Necker Island donated by Sir Richard Branson; an internship with Ben Silbermann/Pinterest got $60K bid from Jack Dorsey, Twitter co-founder/chair and Square founder/CEO.

Presenters Pitch Johnson and Ron Conway with BUILD honoree Ben Silbermann

To add excitement to this internship auction item Ron Conway and rapper MC Hammer threw in a dance lesson and a $1 bill signed by Ben Silbermann got bid up to $20,000! I have witnessed some impressive live auctions in the past such as Sharon Stone auctioned a song by Elton John for $110,000 followed by another $110,000 for Ringo Starr’s drum sticks at amFAR American AIDS foundation auction at Cannes Film Festival, but selling a single $1 bill for $20,000 was truly ingenious. I was seated next to Ron Conway and watched him in action encouraging the bidding prices, the enthusiastic spirit of the evening raised a remarkable $1.6 million! To support BUILD, please visit