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< All founders' list

Jimmy Wales

Side Project
Does Code
Year of founding:
Current age:
Net worth:

1. Background


- PhD in Finance (Incomplete)

- Masters in Finance


- Indiana University

- University of Alabama

Previous Career:

1994: Jimmy Wales worked at Chicago Options Associates, a futures and options trading firm in Illinois.

1996: Wales co-founded Bornis

2000: Wales founded Nupedia

2. Origin Story

The Spark

When Jimmy Wales was three years old, his mom bought him a World Book Encyclopedia. World Book sent out stickers to owners to paste on the pages for updating the encyclopedia. "I joke that I started as a kid, revising the encyclopedia by stickering the one my mother bought" says Wales. In 1995, when Wales was working in the finance sector, Netscape went public. Jimmy Wales was a typical 'Finance Guy', and Netscape's successful IPO inspired him to become an internet entrepreneur. Despite his failed attempt to make Bornis - a web portal featuring user-generated web-rings - a successful company, he raised sufficient capital to fund his dream venture - an online encyclopedia.

The Second Business

In the early 1990s, Wales chanced upon Larry Sanger while moderating an online discussion group focused to the philosophy of Objectivism. Their debates and discussion around the topics of philosophy and the idea of an online encyclopedia continued for few years. When Jimmy Wales did start on his dream venture after 1995, he hired Larry Sanger as an 'Editor in Chief' and they launched Nupedia in March 2000. The intent behind Nupedia was to publish articles curated and written by professionals on varied topics and monetize via selling advertising besides the entries.

The Slow Growth & the Uncertain Vision

Nupedia had a bottleneck when it came to its peer-to-peer review process. The stringent review process allowed no room for collaboration on content with general public, and Wales saw this as a problem. Constantly being intimidated to submit articles and the fear of feedback from academic peer community was in no way fun for volunteer writers, and it slowed down the process to publish and make an article live on the website. This led Wales to discuss the idea of integrating the functionalities of Wiki Software which would enable anyone on the internet to edit the articles on Nupedia. If implemented, this would greatly speed up the time to publish. Wikipedia began as a tool for Nupedia, but the expert editors on Nupedia were skeptical of mixing content written by general public and experts. Even Wales was not sure where this initiative would lead them.

The Launch

Due to the backlash faced by the editors from Nupedia, the wiki project (dubbed as Wikipedia by Larry Sanger) went live at a separate domain, five days after its creation in January 2001. Within a year, to the surprise of Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, the number of articles on Wikipedia had outgrown that of Nupedia.

3. Other interesting points

Jimmy Wales taught courses at the University of Alabama and Indiana University during his postgraduate studies (PhD).

4. Quote

"Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That's what we're doing." - Jimmy Wales

5. Company growth & sources (links)

Personal Story

How did they grow the company?