Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, is one of the only world-famous Internet entrepreneurs to never become a billionaire.
Unlike most web moguls who build platforms to ultimately make their fortunes through advertising, Wales has a far nobler pursuit: to provide the world with free and unlimited access to knowledge and education.
“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 to Slashdot
Look no further than his own dedication to the editing and fact checking of Wikipedia to understand his passion for providing knowledge and education to anyone who’s interested or in need.
While he didn’t set out to start a not-for-profit, after founding Wikipedia, Wales quickly realized that the community contributing to the site was creating something far more culturally significant than a simple online version of an encyclopedia. A significance that would be tarnished if it was strewn with banner ads and pop-ups.
Instead of harnessing a huge team of content creators, an initiative that would cost far more than donations could ever cover, Wales and his small team rely on the passion of a core community of approximately 85,000 unpaid users to relentlessly add, edit and verify more than 24 million pages.
Available in 285 languages, and receiving 516 million unique visitors a month, or roughly 14% of the entire world’s population, Wikipedia would be worth billions of dollars if it utilized even basic monetization tactics. While Wales may not be anywhere close to the wealthiest, Wales is certainly one of the most powerful and influential individuals on the Internet.
Though he no longer runs the day-to-day operations of Wikipedia, Wales is undeniably the visionary behind the revolutionary platform. Now that Wikipedia has established itself as the go-to resource for accessing knowledge online, he now focuses his time on a Wiki hosting service, Wikia.
His commitment to advocating for the free exchange of information on the Internet, has also played a major role in stopping several online privacy bills around the world.
“I consider the free flow of information a human rights issue. We will never compromise with censorship in any jurisdiction anywhere in the world.” – Wales to Wired
While his success cannot be accurately measured by his net worth, he can claim to be the individual to make the entirety of human knowledge free, and that is an entrepreneur worth celebrating.
Find the issues in the world that matter to you and strive to be the person to make a difference. You probably won’t make a fortune, but Wales has proved that the work of an individual can have a resounding impact.
Image Credit: en.wikipedia.org