2007 Technology Innovators Conference
November 15-16, 2007, Washington, DC
A technology entrepreneur and engineer, Jim Fruchterman has been a rocket scientist, founded two of the foremost optical character recognition companies, and developed several technology social enterprises. He is now a leading social entrepreneur through his deliberately nonprofit technology company, Benetech.
Fruchterman’s entrepreneurial career in Silicon Valley started when he co-founded Calera Recognition Systems in 1982. Calera developed character recognition that would allow computers to read virtually all printed text. In 1989, Fruchterman founded a nonprofit social enterprise to produce reading machines for the disabled community based on the Calera technology. Following the sale of this product line in 2000, Fruchterman used the resulting capital to fund the expansion of Benetech, with an explicit goal to use power of technology to serve humanity. Benetech is a global leader in socially motivated applications of technology, active in literacy, accessibility, human rights and the environment.
Fruchterman has won numerous awards for his work in the social sector. He received the MacArthur Fellowship in 2006. Fruchterman was named as an Outstanding Social Entrepreneur 2003 by the Schwab Foundation and participated in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in the five years from 2003 through 2007. Benetech has received the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship twice under Jim’s leadership. He has received the American Library Association’s Francis Joseph Campbell award, presented to a person who has made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of library service for the blind and physically handicapped and 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, as well as two Access Awards from the American Foundation for the Blind.
Also active in public service, Fruchterman has served two stints on U.S. federal advisory committees, and currently serves on two advisory committees at the federal level on digital textbooks for students with disabilities. He is a founding director of the Social Enterprise Alliance, the international association for entrepreneurs running businesses in the nonprofit sector. He serves as a director of the Community Technology Foundation of California. In addition, Fruchterman is a cofounder and director of RAF Technology, Inc., America’s leading high-end OCR technology company, used by the United States Postal Service to route the mail. Fruchterman believes that technology is the ultimate leveler, allowing disadvantaged people achieve more equality in society.