With only 50 employees and 450 million users, Wikipedia has changed the face of the world of collaborative information sharing. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales had been interested in the internet from its earliest days. Wales spent considerable amounts of time reading encyclopedias as a child and credits this self-directed upbringing with his ability to think creatively. He studied finance at Auburn University. After graduating, he began a doctoral program in finance at the University of Alabama. He transferred to Indiana University before dropping out of school to take a job in a financial services firm.
In 1996, he left his job at the firm to cofound a startup called Bornis. Although the venture was not successful, it motivated Wales to pursue his vision of creating an online encyclopedia. In March 2000, he launched Nupedia—an open-content, peer-moderated reference site. He hired an academic, Larry Sanger, to serve as editor-in-chief. Sanger learned about wikis in 2001 and Wales agreed to adopt the model. Wikipedia and Nupedia co-existed for a short time, with Wikipedia attracting much more traffic and participation. The non-profit Wikimedia Foundation, founded by Wales, has overseen the development of Wikipedia since 2003.
In 2004, Wales and colleague Angela Beesley founded a for-profit internet company called Wikia. Wales began advising the British government on potential open access initiatives in 2012. The goal of the project was to make government-funded research available to taxpayers at no cost. In addition, Wales serves on the advisory boards of a number of academic foundations and research centers. Wales has been married three times and has two daughters. He has received a number of major awards and honorary degrees from institutions, including Amherst College.
Twitter – @jimmy_wales