After graduating from Tech, Jean Marie Richardson, MGT 2002, began building an impressive career in the technology field that included a series of leadership positions at Microsoft, Oracle, and Mastercard before she founded iFOLIO, a cloud-based digital marketing platform. In true startup fashion, Richardson started iFOLIO in her basement but soon moved her company into the Atlanta Tech Village as the customer base expanded and the product evolved. Continued expansion recently necessitated a move to Salesforce Tower in Buckhead. “During the pandemic, iFOLIO powered 232 million seconds of engagement for clients with unique digital portfolios delivered to mobile,” Richardson said.
As a woman-owned business, “iFOLIO is unique in the tech industry,” Richardson said. “The current ratio of women to men in technology is similar to the ratio of women to men at Georgia Tech when I was a student — although I hear that is changing for the better.”
Blazing trails doesn’t intimidate Richardson, who says she is inspired by digital transformation, customer engagement, and personalization. “I believe in investing in people, in the intersection of technology and business, and in Georgia Tech,” she said. Her investment in Georgia Tech is considerable: a seven-figure bequest to benefit women’s athletics scholarships, merit-based scholarships in the Ernest Scheller Jr. College of Business, and support for the Dean’s Innovation Fund in the Scheller College. “My goal is to leave a legacy that builds leaders for the future,” Richardson said. “My intent is to benefit bright students, women athletes, and future Tech entrepreneurs.”
Both Richardson and her husband, Harry L. “Hap” Richardson, BIOL 2002, are passionate fans of all Tech sports teams. Through her work with the Alexander-Tharpe Fund, however, Richardson became aware of the difference between private philanthropic support for men’s sports. “Women’s sports are often overlooked, while men’s and women’s sports get most of the attention,” she said. When Richardson decided to support women’s sports, her “first focus was volleyball, then softball, and then women’s basketball — and then I realized that I wanted to build up all women’s sports.”
Her support for the Scheller College is related to her own student experience at Tech as well as her appreciation for everything Scheller offers to students. A President’s Scholarship recipient, Richardson had high academic qualifications and scholarship offers from several top schools. “My journey started in high school when I put together a portfolio to apply to Georgia Tech,” she said. “I was valedictorian, but I’d done my research and discovered that — given the competition — I had a 97% chance of not being accepted to Georgia Tech.” To stand out, Richardson created a visually engaging portfolio and ran through her presentation with friends to prepare for scholarship interviews.
Richardson had the drive and academic credentials to succeed here, but said she still benefited from “being part of a cohort through the President’s Scholarship Program. We met together before we officially entered Tech, so I already had friends and a network as a first-year student,” she said. “I want to give back to programs like that.”
Likewise, Richardson’s decision to support the Dean’s Innovation Fund was inspired by her interactions with Maryam Alavi, Scheller’s dean and Stephen P. Zelnak Jr. Chair, and her service on the Scheller College Advisory Board. “The Dean’s Innovation Fund has a strong focus on analytics and on the intersection of business and technology, and Scheller is actively bringing thought leadership to campus so that students can hear from and learn about corporations such as Coca-Cola, Facebook, Google, and Accenture, among others,” she said. “When you are involved in programs like this during college, you get a taste of the real world.”
As she continues to grow her company, Richardson plans to “expand the jobs that we provide, and I want to hire the best in the world – and some of those are Yellow Jackets.” Her commitment to diversity in hiring is also evident. “Hiring the best means hiring a diverse group of people.
This article was originally published in the 2021 summer issue of Georgia Tech's Philanthropy Quarterly Magazine.