Jimmy Donal Wales is an internet entrepreneur the co-founder of Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia that runs with an open management style. Times magazine named him in their list of ‘The 100 Most Influential People in the World’ in 2006.
Wales was born on 7th August 1966 in Huntsville, Alabama. He had a keen interest in general knowledge since he was a child. He accredits the Montessori Method of his schools education that was to spend a lot of time reading the Britannica’s and the World Book Encyclopedias. Wales went to Randolph School where he graduated at 16. He then enrolled in Auburn University to gain his bachelor’s degree. He received his master’s degree from University of Alabama. Jimmy Wales landed a job with Chicago Options Associates, a trading firm in Illinois. He recalls himself as being completely addicted to the internet. He even wrote computer codes as a leisure activity. Wales got inspired from Netscape’s outstanding public offering in 1995 and thus left the territory of financial trading to become an internet entrepreneur. The next year he ventured into a web portal named ‘Bomis’ that featured webrings generated by the users and erotic pictures. This however did not prove to be very successful. Although this project was not as fruitful as Wales had expected, it encouraged him to begin another endeavor, one that was also his passion; an online encyclopedia. He started ‘Nupedia’ in 2000 with Larry Sanger, a PhD student at Ohio State University, as its editor-in-chief. In 2001 an extreme programming expert, Ben Kovitz introduced the wiki concept to Wales. The main writing experts of Nupedia were not very interested in this idea because they believed it would harm the credibility of the encyclopedia.
Sanger and Wales both believed in this project thus they initiated it from another domain. Wales hoped that this would start the knowledge building that he had always wanted. Fortunately for the duo, the website had more articles than Nupedia in just a few days. Wales feared the fact that anyone could add whatever they wanted so much so that it had him awake at nights. However, the team of editors made sure that robust and good quality content was being added to the encyclopedia. There was some controversy between Wales and Sanger as Wales claimed to be the sole founder of the website. In 2003 Wales established the Wikimedia Foundation (a non-profit organization) in St. Petersburg, Florida. This was done in order to support the Wikipedia project along with other sister projects.
Jimmy Wales was listed in Time 100 ‘Scientists and Thinkers’ section in 2006. Forbes named him as one of ‘The Web Celeb 25’ and as one of the ‘Young Global Leaders’ in 2007. He has been honored with the ‘Pioneer Award’ and the ‘Gottlieb Duttweiler Prize’ in 2011. He has received other awards such as the ‘2009 Nokia Foundation’ annual award, the ‘Business Process’ award and ‘the 2008 Global Brand Icon of the Year Award’. He has also been awarded honorary degrees from Stevenson University, Amherst College, Knox College, MIREA University in Russia and Universidad Empresarial Siglo 21 of Argentina.