Foundation to Bring Prize-Driven Philanthropy Model to Medicine and Fuel-Efficient Automobiles, in Addition to Spaceflight

Tom Vander Ark, the former Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has been named President of the X PRIZE Foundation – an educational nonprofit prize institute that offers multi-million-dollar awards for breakthrough innovations that benefit humanity.

The X PRIZE Foundation is best known for the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE for private spaceflight, which was captured in 2004 by famed aircraft designer Burt Rutan and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

“Tom’s experience in both the nonprofit sector and the corporate world make him a natural choice to lead our efforts as we refine our competition-based philanthropy model and expand to other industries,” said Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, who will remain Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation.

At the Gates Foundation, Vander Ark developed and implemented more than $3.5 billion in scholarship and grant programs to improve education throughout the United States. He brings with him a commitment to charitable giving that has the most widespread and ongoing impact on society.

“The philanthropic model is changing and X PRIZE is leading the way,” Vander Ark said. “The X PRIZE for private spaceflight has already established the Foundation as the leading model for fostering innovation through competition.

That award and others from X PRIZE drive the delivery of research and development that is more than ten times the value of the purses. I look forward to bringing this proven and evolving competitive model to new arenas.” Additional prizes will accelerate breakthroughs in medicine and fuel-efficient automobiles.

Prior to his role with the Gates Foundation, Vander Ark served as superintendent of one of Washington state’s larger school districts that has been recognized for narrowing the achievement gap and reducing administrative cost. Vander Ark also has extensive experience in the private sector, serving as a senior executive for a start-up retail chain that achieved $5 billion in revenue, as well as management and consulting experience in energy, telecommunications and business formation.

Since the award of the Ansari X PRIZE, the Foundation has added research, engineering and business luminaries to its distinguished board of directors, including: Dean Kamen, Founder of DEKA Research & Development Corporation; Larry Page, Co-Founder and President of Google, Inc.; Elon Musk, Founder and CEO of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Co-Founder and CEO of PayPal.

X PRIZE Foundation

The X PRIZE Foundation is an educational nonprofit prize institute whose mission is to create radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity. On October 4, 2004, the X PRIZE Foundation captured world headlines when Mojave Aerospace Ventures, led by legendary aircraft designer Burt Rutan and Microsoft Co-founder Paul Allen, built and flew the world’s first private vehicle to space twice in two weeks to win the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE. The Foundation has since expanded to offer new prizes for breakthroughs in medicine, healthcare, energy production and consumption, education, and the automotive industry. In October of 2006, the X PRIZE Foundation announced the $10 Archon X PRIZE for genomics, which will reward the first private effort to map 100 human genomes in 10 days, ushering in a new era of personalized preventative medicine. For more information please visit or email Contacts

X PRIZE Foundation
Lane Soelberg, 310-401-3910