White male in his 60's standing in front of an accessible art installation, touching braille. He is wearing a dark blazer and a white dress shirt. His white hair is parted to the side.

Martin Essl

Founder and Chairman of the Board

Martin Essl is the Founder of the Essl Foundation, which through the Zero Project is committed to a world with zero barriers. As an entrepreneur­–and coming from an entrepreneurial family in Austria–Martin Essl is well-known for his dedication to social responsibility and modern arts. After selling the bauMax conglomerate in 2015, Martin Essl now concentrates on philanthropy and real estate investing.

Martin and Gerda Essl, together with their children, established the Essl Foundation in 2007. The Essl Foundation supports social innovation and social entrepreneurs, with a focus on persons with disabilities and employment. Currently the main project of the foundation is the Zero Project, which researches Innovative Practices and Policies that support persons with disabilities globally and organizes the annual Zero Project Conference in Vienna. The Essl Foundation is also a member of the Sinnstifter, a joint initiative of currently twelve Austrian Foundations, that co-finance social innovations and of the Disability Thematic Network Group within the European Foundation Centre (EFC). Furthermore, Martin Essl supports Ashoka Austria and has co-initiated the Haus der Philanthropie, a co-working space for charitable foundations in Vienna.