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Whatever Happened To Jimmy Wales?

The Wikipedia Founder Spends His Days on The Road, Spreading the Gospel of The Openly Editable Encyclopedia—Sometimes Charging Top Dollar.

Whatever Happened To Jimmy Wales?
Bloomberg/Getty Images

I’M A DREAMER," says Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, "and what I do best is tell people about my dreams of what we can accomplish." He’s also a draw. Wales makes hundreds of appearances each year, charging up to $75,000 for speaking engagements, though none of it goes directly to Wikimedia. (He remains on the Wikimedia board but has no day-to-day role.)

"That’s my personal income," he says. Recent appearances include the Swiss Economic Forum in Interlaken and the Ambrosetti Forum in Lake Como, in Italy.

Much of his work is pro bono, traveling, for instance, to India to talk at universities that can only afford to offer him a plane ticket. Wales says he made 30 appearances in the past month and was paid for only one of them. Wikimedia executive director Sue Gardner says that the site derives enormous benefit from his world tour of appearances. "I consider myself and the foundation really lucky that he’s willing to evangelize on behalf of the organization," she says.

A version of this article appeared in the April 2011 issue of Fast Company magazine.