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Jim Fruchterman

Founder, Benetech

Skoll Awardee

Biography

Jim Fruchterman, Benetech
Technologist for Good and Social Entrepreneur

Jim Fruchterman is the founder of Benetech, a Silicon Valley nonprofit technology company that develops software applications for social good. He is the recipient of numerous awards recognizing his work as a pioneering social entrepreneur, including the MacArthur Fellowship, Caltech’s Distinguished Alumni Award, the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, and the Migel Medal—the highest honor in the blindness field—from the American Foundation for the Blind.

A Caltech-trained engineer, Jim’s first social enterprise idea was a machine that recognizes letters and words and uses software to read those words aloud to people who are blind. In 1989—after a stint as a rocket scientist and after creating two successful for-profit Silicon Valley companies—he founded Benetech to actually build these reading machines, empowering people with disabilities to read independently for education, employment and social inclusion.
Since then, Benetech’s work has grown to touch thousands of organizations and the lives of millions of people. Benetech’s suite of tools and services has transformed the ways in which people with disabilities such as dyslexia and vision impairment access printed information, at-risk human rights defenders safely document abuse, and environmental practitioners protect species and ecosystems.

Jim has served on three federal advisory committees on technology policy, as well as repeatedly testifying before Congress on innovation and technology subjects. He was on the original drafting team for the Treaty of Marrakesh, the first pro-consumer intellectual property treaty passed by the United Nations, which was ratified by the Senate in June 2018 and became law in the U.S. in October 2018.

Jim continues today to actively advance his vision of a world in which the benefits of technology reach all of humanity, not just the wealthiest and most able five percent.

Regional Focus

Oceania, Central and Southern Asia, Eastern Asia, North America, South America, Europe, Southeast Asia, Caribbean, Central America, Middle East and North Africa, West and Central Africa, Eastern and Southern Africa