First Person: a conversation with Jim Fruchterman


A Cal Tech graduate and MacArthur fellow who comes from "a game-playing family," Fruchterman shares how he applies Silicon Valley's existing technology to meet humanity's needs that the traditional marketplace fails to address. He combines his love of science and technology for their own sake with a desire to help society. Benetech's current focus areas include the visually impaired, human rights and the environment. Committed to an open-source approach and inspired by his son's discovery of Napster through his neighbor, Fruchterman decided to legally create what became the world's largest digital library for the visually impaired—Bookshare.

As Fruchterman reinvents the "next way to solve problems," Fruchterman is looking for a "gigantic ROI for society." Intentionally structured as a nonprofit, Benetech can pick up where the for profit sector leaves off rather than elbowing competitors out of the way. Instead, he and his team look for the place where they can have the greatest impact and do so through sustainable business models. Looking ahead, Fruchterman wants to experiment more and fail faster, to find their best next projects through Benetech Labs. He is especially called to focus on climate change and cities. In addition to being on the lookout for the next projects to incubate and implement, Benetech is always seeking funding for their technology transfer efforts from all quarters.

Palo Alto residents, Fruchterman and his wife are the parents of three grown offspring.

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Like this comment
Posted by Dante
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 15, 2013 at 9:27 am

Going to work to help others pays off . Kudos to this guy.

Like this comment
Posted by Tami
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 15, 2013 at 10:53 am

Love all the work you do.

Like this comment
Posted by Mary
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 15, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Way to go, Jim!

Like this comment
Posted by Giorgio
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Jul 15, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Great work done by a great man. I'm proud to hail from his community.

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 15, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Ok alumni out there, is it Cal Tech or Caltech?

Like this comment
Posted by Caltech alum
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 15, 2013 at 4:15 pm


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 16, 2013 at 4:16 am

I knew you were lurking. Nice PR for the school, and for Palo Alto.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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