By ROSHAN THIRAN & PREMA JAYABALAN
Mention Wikipedia and almost everyone has heard or used it once before. Some of us constantly access this particular site to get information on all types of matters. There are bound to be answers for any topic under the sun to be found here. Jimmy Donal Wales is most renowned as the co-founder and promoter of the ever famous non-profit online encyclopedia known as Wikipedia.
Born in Alabama, United States, this postgraduate holder in finance together with Larry Sanger helped launch Wikipedia, a free, open content encyclopedia in 2001. Wikipedia is part of a non-profit foundation called Wikimedia. This site started garnering instant popularity and went on to be a phenomenal success due to its rapid growth. As Wikipedia’s public profile grew, Wales became the project’s promoter and spokesman and in 2004, he co-founded Wikia, a privately-owned, free Web-hosting service, with fellow Wikimedia trustee Angela Beesley.
When I asked Wales what gave him the idea to start Wikipedia, he quickly explained that as he saw more and more software developers work on collaborative efforts, he knew that there was potential for collaboration to work in many other areas. And as he pondered this brave new collaborative world, he knew that if he talked about his idea for a free encyclopedia everywhere he went, he could inspire people to partner with him to develop and grow his idea.
In fact, most people thought he was crazy. But that never derailed him from his goal of giving everyone access to a free encyclopedia. He managed to get a hundred folks inspired with his vision and was interested and excited with the concept.
He still faced significant challenges and issues. And there were so many unanswered questions: How do we compete with Microsoft (Encarta)? How do we create an encyclopedia with one employee? How do we spread the word about Wikipedia? Yet, in spite of all the issues, challenges and obstacles, Wales explained that as long as he was having fun and because he knew he was helping to make the world a better place, he kept chugging along.
Prior to Wikipedia, Wales failed in numerous ventures. His first failure was with Loop Lunch, where people could order lunch online. He also failed at Nupedia, a precursor to Wikipedia. He failed at a few other initiatives but unlike many others who would give up and accept failure, he kept persevering and kept going.
That is a great lesson to learn from Wales. In fact, he talks frankly about each of his failures and the precious lessons he learnt from each one.
All of us fail and mess up at times. The key question is, do we learn from our failures? Do we pick ourselves up and keep persevering even in defeat? Do we embrace failure or fear failure? According to Wales, the best people to hire are people who failed but have picked themselves up and have learnt precious lessons in life and business. Are you learning great lessons from our failures or just brushing them off and not learning much?
Watch our exclusive interview with Jimmy Wales: