Jim Fruchterman

Jim Fruchterman

By posted in on September 21, 2012 at 7:19pm

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What were you doing before Benetech that led you here?

I went to Caltech because I loved science and technology. I then came to Stanford to get a PhD, but left school to join a rocket company. When the rocket blew up on take off, I became an entrepreneur and got involved with seven for-profit high tech startups, two of which were actually successful.

The first such successful startup created optical character recognition for commercial applications. After our investors vetoed a new product that would help people who are blind to read, I decided to leave the company to start a nonprofit to develop that product.

This new nonprofit, Arkenstone, soon became the largest maker of affordable reading systems for the blind. But I felt there was more to do and wanted to apply critically important technology to other social problems. So we sold the Arkenstone product line to a for-profit company and reinvested the money from the sale into creating a new social enterprise that could be and do more: Benetech.

If you’re interested, read a longer version of what led me to found Benetech.

What is the best part about your job at Benetech?

I told my wife I’d do the “nonprofit thing” for a year. That was 25 years ago. At Benetech, I get to tackle the most challenging problems faced by society and work with other top people who are excited about seeing to it that technology fully serves humanity. We get to use our unique mix of technology, business and social sector skills to build products that create positive social progress.

Thinking about Benetech’s future, what are you most excited about?

I’m always excited about the new things ahead. In each of the areas where we work – Global Literacy, Human Rights and the Environment – our team is busy inventing the future of technology. And, our newest effort is Benetech Labs, a place where we can experiment and respond to the hundreds of ideas people bring us for Silicon Valley technology to do more for society.

– Follow Jim on Twitter: @JimFruchterman
– Read Jim’s Personal Blog: Beneblog
– Read Jim’s Benetech Blog Posts
– View Jim’s LinkedIn Profile