Benetech – Silicon Valley’s Deliberately Nonprofit Tech Company


Date Thursday April 20th 2006
Time 4:00-5:00pm
Venue George E. Pake Auditorium

PARC Forum

Jim Fruchterman will talk about his transitions from rocket scientist to tech entrepreneur to social entrepreneur. Benetech’s nonprofit structure allows it to tackle less lucrative but socially critical applications of technology. These range from a digital library of books for the blind, to human rights database, project management software for the environmental movement and humanitarian landmine detectors. Find out more about how the latest Valley technology gets directed towards serving more of humanity.


A technology entrepreneur, Jim Fruchterman has been a rocket scientist, founded two of the foremost optical character recognition companies, and developed successful social enterprises. Jim co-founded Calera Recognition Systems in 1982. Calera developed character recognition that would allow computers to read virtually all printed text. In 1989, Jim founded Arkenstone, a nonprofit social enterprise, to produce reading machines for the disabled community based on the Calera technology. Following the sale of the Arkenstone product line in 2000, Jim used all of the resulting capital to fund Benetech, with an explicit goal to use the power of technology to serve humanity.

Jim has also been active in public service, with two stints on U.S. federal advisory committees. He was named as an Outstanding Social Entrepreneur 2003 by the Schwab Foundation and, as such, participated in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January 2003, 2004, and 2005. He also received the Robert F. Bray Award from the American Council of the Blind in recognition of his outstanding efforts to make literary works accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired.

Jim believes that technology is the ultimate leveler, allowing disadvantaged people achieve more equality in society. He notes with pride, "I'm an advance scout for social applications, finding exciting technology waiting to be turned into non-commercial tools for disadvantaged groups."

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