Jimmy Wales Facts

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Jimmy Wales Facts - Biography

Jimmy Wales Facts – Biography

Early Life of Jimmy Wales – Biography

1. Date of Birth of Jimmy Wales

American Internet entrepreneur, Jimmy Donal Wales is born on 7th August 1966 in Huntsville, Alabama.

His father, Jimmy works as a grocery store manager and his mother along with her grandmother works at the House of learning.

Wales takes his early education there.

From his childhood, Wales is very intellectual and is fond of reading.

2. Early Education of Jimmy Wales

During his early education at his mother’s Montessori school, Wales recalls he not only loves to read but he loves to ponder over Britannica and World Book encyclopedias.

The sheer amount of information in these collections fascinates him.

During an interview in 2005, he reveals that such an early exposure to a wealth of knowledge later led him to establish Wikipedia.

Education of Jimmy Wales

3. Studies

He attends Randolph School in Alabama, United States and receives Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in finance.

He studies at two universities at the time of his graduation and leaves his PhD degree in between as he gets a job in finance and after that he works at Chicago futures and options firm as the research director.

He is so addicted to the internet that he spends his leisure time writing computer codes.

He decides to leave financial trading for becoming an internet entrepreneur.

The initial public offering of Netscape inspired him in 1995.

4. Expensive Schools

Because of an intense educational background in his family, Wales is always studying at schools that are more expensive than his parents can afford.

This same educational influence earns him an admission for a PhD, however writing the dissertation is not his cup of tea!

Wonder Years

5. Nupedia

Before Wikipedia launches, Jimmy Wales founds Nupedia, a free online encyclopedia which is developed to provide free of cost experts’ contribution and peer-reviewed encyclopedia.

He soon starts creating a new encyclopedia called Wikipedia with the help of wiki software.

Anyone can contribute to this new encyclopedia so it is bound to be more successful than Nupedia.

6. Funding for Nupedia

To fund his brainchild Nupedia and later Wikipedia, Wales partners with two colleagues to form Bomis, which in Wales words was “guy-oriented search engine”.

This is the first of his attempts to become something in the internet and technology world.

While Bomis was has never been taken as a long term project, the adult content that is available here for viewership is intended to generate revenue that Wales can use to fund his encyclopedia projects.

The Beginning of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales

7. Wikipedia Replaces Nupedia

Do you wonder why Wikipedia replaces Nupedia? Wales relates this story very openly.

According to him, Nupedia works on a framework of a highly strict top to bottom approach.

Volunteer writers who are hired to submit content for Nupedia start feeling too restricted as the process is too lengthy.

This discourages the new writers and hinders their creativity.

8. Decision to Change Nupedia

However, it is not until Wales himself experiences this discouragement and intimidation that he decides to change Nupedia.

In 2000 when he wants to write and submit an article on Robert C. Merton, the Nobel Prize Winner, Wales realizes he worries about getting feedback on his work.

9. Nupedia Wiki

In 2001, the first model for ‘Nupedia wiki’ is introduced.

This model runs side by side to the original Nupedia model so that the site benefits from the expert reviewers and also breaks down top bottom hierarchy.


10. Launch of Wikipedia

Wales experiences a lot of discontent over the launch of Wikipedia because experts are reluctant to ‘contaminate’ their exclusive reviews with amateur content.

However, spirited for the fulfillment of his dream project, Wales launches Wikipedia as a separate website on 15th January 2001.

11. What is Wikipedia?

He launches Wikipedia on 15th January 2001 along with Larry Sanger.

At the time of its launch, Jimmy Wales is quoted as the co-founder of Wikipedia, which is a free online encyclopedia, but later he declares himself as the only owner of this rapidly growing online encyclopedia and becomes the promoter and spokesperson for Wikipedia.

12. Fears

Launching the first ever open source collaborative encyclopedia is no small thing.

Wales discloses that in the initial days he is so scared of what the masses will edit and enter on the published articles that he wakes up in the middle of the night to check if everything was in place! No wonder, Wikipedia turns out to be a success owing to such commitment and zeal.

13. Controversy over Wikipedia’s Ownership

There has been adequate controversy over the ownership and founding of Wikipedia.

While Wales himself asserts in January 2001 that he co-founds the website with Sanger’s help (he mostly manages the content that came on the website), he later wants to be recognized as the sole owner of this nonprofit organization.

So much so that, that Wales tries to re-write history by editing his own profile on Wikipedia!

14. Business Affairs

Gil Penchina replaces Wales as Wikia CEO in the year 2006.

Penchina is the former vice president of eBay.

Social Work: Jimmy Wales

15. Social Responsibility

Wales is also socially responsible individual.

It is in the year 2003 when Wales initiates a non-profit organization, named as Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) – with its headquarter in West Cost of the United States of America.

The main purpose behind the establishment of the foundation is to design a policy for his projects, including an encyclopedia.

16. Wikimedia Foundation

Wales set up the Wikimedia Foundation in mid-2003 and has been a member of its Board of Trustees.

He becomes the Chairman of Wikimedia Foundation in 2003 and stays the chairman till 2006 and works for its promotion+ at educational conferences.


17. Jimmy Wales: A Thinker

For his valuable efforts and contributions to change the way internet uses and produces information, Wales is a part of the ‘Scientists and Thinkers’ section of the Time 100 in 2006.

18. Forbes List, Jimmy Wales

In 2006 he ranks No.12 on Forbes list of ‘The Web Celebs 25’ which pays tribute to the top contributors of the World Wide Web.

Moreover, he speaks at the Stuart Regen Visionary Series that promotes and honors “special individuals who make major contributions to art and culture, and imagine of a better future.”

19. A Leader

In 2007, Jimmy Wales is known as a ‘Young Global Leader’ by the World Economic Forum.

The list of accolades he receives is endless.

Some of the prominent ones include; The Monaco Media Prize, the Nokia Foundation Annual Award (2009), the Business Process Award at the 7th Annual Innovation Awards and Summit by The Economist and the Quadriga award of Werkstatt Deutschl and for A Mission of Enlightenment.

20. Largest Encyclopedia

He is best known for his role in creating the world’s largest encyclopedia.

His name is amongst “the 100 most influential people in the world” in 2006 by the Time magazine.

21. Awards

Wales receives many awards and honors for the contributions he makes in various domains.

For example, he gets the Pioneer Award, the Leonardo European Corporate Learning Award, and The Gottlieb Duttweiler Prize.

He also receives the award for Global Brand Icon of the year in 2008.

Personal Life of Jimmy Wales

22. Marriage of Jimmy Wales

Wales marries three times.

His first marriage is at the age of twenty, he marries Pam who is his colleague at the grocery store in Alabama.

After breaking up with Pam, he marries Christine Rohan whom meets through a mutual friend.

The couple marries in 1997 and has a daughter before separating.

It was in October 2012 when Wales marries to Kate Garvey.

The wedding takes place in London.

Wales also has a daughter with Kate Garvey.

23. Religion

Wales claims to be an atheist.

His belief that “Reason” is an influencing factor for him becoming an atheist.

In his interview, he clearly states that he is a complete non-believer and proclaims the philosophy of rationality to be his motto.

24. Travel

Before the launch of Wikipedia, Wales never travels outside the territory of North America.

However, after the success of Wikipedia, Wales becomes an instant celebrity and flies around the world as the public face for the promotion of Wikipedia.

Other Work of Jimmy Wales

25. Member of Different Institutions

Wales is a member of both the MIT center for Collective Intelligence and Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School.

He is also the member of Board at big names like Creative Commins, Hunch.

Com and Socialtext.

Moreover, he has also had the privilege to be the former co-chairman of the World Economic Forum held in the Middle East in the year 2008.

26. Business Ventures

Once Wikipedia establishes enough to stand on its own, Wales looks beyond this website to pursue other business ventures.

In 2004, he sets up Wikia, a sister concern that is for-profit, unlike Wikipedia’s not-for-profit trademark.

A number of smaller ‘Wikis’ are part of Wikia namely; The Alpha Memory, Wookieepedia and a search engine by the name of Wikia Search that was discontinued in 2009.

27. Controversy

In year 2008, Wales faces controversy regarding his association with the Wikimedia Foundation.

An ex-employee of the foundation impeaches Wales for using the Foundation’s finances for leisure purposes.

Wales denies all the charges levied against him and soon the chairperson of the foundation also declares that the charges against Wales are false as he is always accountable for all his expenditures.

28. Launches Free Thinking Festival

In November 2011, it is in the United Kingdom where Wales addresses to launch the Free Thinking Festival.

The title of his speech is “The Future of the Internet” which primarily focused on Wikipedia.

29. Advises UK

Wales also advises the United Kingdom government on initiating the idea of making academic research, financed by taxpayers, available and accessible online for free.

30. Endorsements

Along with being a public speaker, he is the face of many famous brands and is currently endorsing Swiss Watches by Maurice Lacroix.

Jimmy Wales Personality

31. Dream

Wales childhood dream of having open source knowledge and free access to information is what Wikipedia achieves.

It is not just another website that spurs for profits.

In an interview in 2004, Wales himself describes Wikipedia’s existence as, “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.”

32. Internet

Who says the internet is anonymous when Jimmy Wales is the most popular Internet Celebrity ever! Described as a benevolent dictator, constitutional monarch and spiritual leader, this celebrity has all that it takes to be inspire and to make your dreams come true.

To assert that Wikipedia is truly for the empowerment of the people, he gives up many of his technical powers on the website so that it can live up to its expectations.

33. Public Service

To make Wikipedia’s service seamless and unrestricted, the Wikimedia Foundation is entrusted to handle all the domain and background work for the website.

Being a chairperson and board member of the foundation, Wales always appears at educational and IT conferences without demanding remuneration from the foundation.

34. A Good Speaker

No doubt, Wales is an inspirational man, one who knows where to hit the right chords.

His enlightening speech at the 2011 Free Thinking Festival is well received and he is later called on the British debating program Question Time that sets his reputation as a thoughtful speaker.

35. Information Guru

After a number of projects spearheaded by Wales himself, he becomes the guru of information distribution and research.

In 2012 he acts as an “unpaid advisor on crowdsourcing and opening up policymaking” for the Department of Business Innovation and Skill in the UK.

36. Inspirational

Being a staunch Objectivist enables Wales to make wise decisions as far as his business is concerned.

Even though he does accept that the philosophy ‘colors everything I think’, Wales values integrity, which is the No. 1 trait anyone should have no matter what business they are in.

37. Strong Decision

The value he places on freedom of speech cannot be understated.

Being a libertarian makes Wales take staunch decisions as standing against the Chinese Government’s demands to censor politically sensitive information on the internet.

While all other major internet tycoons comply, Wales stands his ground.

If Wales’ example teaches nothing, it definitely tells us the kind of faith and value we should place on our principles.

38. Business Issues

The above stance leads to the banning of Wikipedia in China where even today the website is not as popular as it is in the rest of the world.

However, at the time of the Beijing Olympics, many small restaurants use Wikipedia’s international presence as a tool to promote themselves with dishes like ‘Stir fried Wikipedia with peppers’ on the menus!

Personal Interests of Jimmy Wales

39. Literature

The importance of literature in Wales’ life is tremendous.

He is one of those entrepreneurs for whom written knowledge is like a treasure.

In another interview, he describes the essence behind Wikipedia as the same as the gist of Friedrich Hayek’s essay “The Use of Knowledge in Society”, that emphasizes the importance of a decentralized source of information.

40. An Objectivist

As an individual Wales believes in reason, individualism, and capitalism.

One can also say that he firmly adheres to the theory set by Ayn Rand – making Wales an Objectivist.

Reading Rand’s novel, “The Fountainhead” becomes the basis for Wales to adopt this particular approach.

Wales always mentions that integrity and the virtue of importance are two of the major traits of Rand’s personality that inspired him.

41. Political Views

Wales also considers himself a “libertarian”.

According to him, values like freedom, liberty, and all the individual rights have been his guiding principles as a libertarian.

It is in the year 2007 when one of Wales’ interviews makes it to the cover of a renowned libertarian magazine, named as “Reason”.

When it comes to political views, Wales considers himself as “center-right”.

42. Music and TV

Jimmy Wales loves to listen to ‘Lincoln’ by They Might Be Giants because it makes him feel young and silly again.

It also goes with his ‘geeky’ personality as he puts it.

Some of his favorite TV shows are Mad Men, Lost, The Wire and Game of Thrones.

43. Dream Come True

Now 11 years old, Wikipedia is a dream-come-true for Wales.

He proudly quotes that for a child who is 15 or 16 years of age, Wikipedia has been around for as long as he has known how to read! Moreover, its presence has become so widespread that it is for the generation what books and television was in the old.

44. Wikipedia Blackout

Wales calls a recent blackout on the Wikipedia website ‘a protest against anti piracy bills.’

According to Wales, Wikipedia does not have any political affiliations but stands up and stands fast for what is right and what is wrong.

For the founder, what is important is the way people perceive information and not how much they would pay for it.

Other Fun Facts about Jimmy Wales

45. Degrees

Apart from the accolades, honors and awards, Wales thoughtful projects and earnest lectures also gain him honorary degrees from various colleges around the world, some of them include:  Knox College, Amherst College, Stevenson University, Universidad Empresarial Siglo 21 (Argentina) and MIREA University (Russia).

46. Co-author of Various Books

Wales interest in books and literature do not stop at only reading and citing it.

He avidly co-authors various publications on a variety of topics, including his specialized field of finance and option agreements.

All of his books have been very well received and quoted on numerous occasions.

The list of books he contributes to include: Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom: How Online Social Networking Will Transform Your Life, Work and World,  “The Pricing of Index Options When the Underlying Assets All Follow a Lognormal Diffusion”, Marketing to the Social Web: How Digital Customer Communities Build Your Business and  33 Million People in the Room: How to Create, Influence, and Run a Successful Business with Social Networking .

47. Net Worth

Wales’ involvement in so many projects, both profit and not-for-profit makes his net worth soar to $1 million.


48. Values

A person’s outlook on life and people in general shapes his personality.

Jimmy Wales is a person who values the worth of thinking and wisdom.

His famous quote is enough to sum up the importance he places on change and social contribution: “People are not fundamentally bad.

It only takes the smallest of correctives to take care of that tiny minority that wants to disrupt the community”.

49. An Inspiration to Students

Known for his inspirational speeches, Wales also delivers an inspirational speech to hundreds of students at one of the renowned business schools in the US.

The agenda of the speech is to enlighten the student body about the use of open source technology that makes his encyclopedia a worldwide success.

50. Impact of Knowledge

In Wales, it is fascinating to think of about the impact knowledge has on people and how trends change in recent years as he says, “Almost anything is better than three network TV outlets completely controlling the national discourse with their nightly broadcasts.

We’ve moved a long way from that, and that’s important.”

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