Jimmy is an American Internet entrepreneur best known as a co-founder and promoter of the online non-profit encyclopedia Wikipedia and the Wikia company. In March 2000, he founded a free online encyclopedia called Nupedia, which sought free contributions from experts and subjected them to an intensive peer-review process. Frustrated by slow progress, he turned to a new type of software called wiki, to create Wikipedia, a companion encyclopedia site to which anyone could contribute.
Jimmy Wales was born in Huntsville, Alabama, United States, where he attended Randolph School, a university-preparatory school, then earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in finance.
In 1996, he and two partners founded Bomis, a male-oriented web portal featuring entertainment and adult content. The company would provide the initial funding for the peer-reviewed free encyclopedia Nupedia (2000–2003) and its successor, Wikipedia.
On January 15, 2001, with Larry Sanger and others, Wales launched Wikipedia, a free, open content encyclopedia that enjoyed rapid growth and popularity, and as Wikipedia’s public profile grew, he became the project’s promoter and spokesman.
Jimmy also set up the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) in 2003, a non-profit organization founded in St. Petersburg, Florida and later headquartered on the West Coast of the United States, in San Francisco, California. All intellectual property rights and domain names pertaining to Wikipedia were moved to the new foundation, whose purpose is to establish general policy for the encyclopedia and its sister projects. Wales has been a member of the Wikimedia Foundation’s Board of Trustees since it was formed and was its official chairman from 2003 through 2006.
In 2004, Wales and then-fellow member of the WMF Board of Trustees Angela Beesley founded the for-profit company Wikia. Wikia is a wiki farm: a collection of individual wikis on different subjects, all hosted on the same website.
On November 4, 2011, Wales delivered an hour-long address, at The Sage Gateshead in the United Kingdom, to launch the 2011 Free Thinking Festival on BBC Radio Three. His speech, which was entitled, “The Future of the Internet”, was largely devoted to Wikipedia. Twenty days later, on November 24, Wales appeared on the British topical debate television program Question Time.
In addition to his role at Wikia, Jimmy Wales is a passionate and enthralling public speaker. His natural style and exuberant spirit allows him to set an audience at ease whilst keeping entertained and on the edge of their seats throughout the course of the presentation.