You live and you learn: Jimmy Wales

The Wikipedia founder on coping with the press, his dispute with Larry Sanger, and why entrepreneurs should think outside Silicon Valley

by Hannah Prevett
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013
I was a very geeky child. I loved reading and spent huge amounts of time devouring books. I'd read 100 Nancy Drew books by the age of nine.

Growing up in Huntsville, Alabama made me want to be an astronaut. The Redstone Arsenal and Nasa's Flight Center are there, and the windows would rattle in the house when they were testing the rockets. So that got me into technology and science.

Academic life burned me out. I have a BA, MA and completed the coursework for two PhDs, but never wrote the theses. By that point, I'd had enough of academia and went and got a job in Chicago as a trader.

My daughter fascinates me. She's 10 and super-smart. She's in the US with her mother and I'm in the UK, but I talk to her a lot - I helped her with her algebra homework on the phone last night.

I find all the press attention really strange. I'm just a geeky guy from the internet and I'm really quite dull. It can interfere with my work. I've got better at dealing with it and seeing that I have to be careful what I say.

The wrangling over whether Larry Sanger was co-founder or not is stupid and irrelevant. He was an employee I hired to do the job. I actually think Larry's contribution is underrated - it gets obscured about this fascination over what his title was.

For me, Wikipedia was a project more than a business. It was just something I wanted to do.

Silicon Valley is an echo-chamber. I think a lot of entrepreneurs should consider being outside the Valley. Occasionally you'll see a super-hyped start-up and nobody notices that outside Silicon Valley no one cares.

My mum's a gadget freak. She's why we had a computer when I was very young. Dad has got into the internet more now since he retired. He forwards every joke that comes up, so my brother and I always tease him.

Nothing keeps me awake. I'm a really good sleeper; it's my super power.

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime