jim fruchterman: rocket scientist, social entrepreneur, macarthur fellow


Human Rights Program Featured in Fast Company — April 2011

Fast Company’s “How Benetech Slays Monsters With Megabytes and Math” described how Benetech’s Human Rights Program specializes in cloud-based storage of corruption evidence and employs sophisticated statistical techniques that bring dictators to justice.

Human Rights Program Featured on PBS NewsHour — March 25, 2011

The PBS NewsHour broadcast two extensive stories about Benetech and its Human Rights and Bookshare programs. The first story To Combat Human Rights Abuses, California Company Looks to Computer Code notes that Benetech's Martus software is used to secure sensitive human rights data such as the type of information about abuses that have recently been documented in the Middle East. The story also notes that Benetech's Bookshare library allows people with disabilities to access 95,000 copyrighted digital books in accessible formats. The second PBS story, The Panic Button: High-Tech Protection for Human Rights Investigators explains that Martus includes a "panic button" feature that allows users in threatening situations to delete all data and even the program itself with one keystroke. Unlike other "panic button" applications designed for cell phones, Martus allows users to securely back up their information to secure, remote, publicly available servers. This allows users to retrieve their data when it's safe to do so.

As the PBS stories note, the data collected by Martus is used to hold perpetrators accountable for large scale human rights violations. "The data itself can help build a case against a regime, and in some cases may be as valuable as eyewitness testimony, proving documented patterns of unethical behavior by police or the leader himself," PBS reports. "In Guatemala, which had a bloody civil war in the '80s and '90s, for example, Benetech's program, called Martus, was used to help sift through a huge secret police archive that included records of people killed or disappeared. Two police officials were tried and convicted — so far — as a result of the information gathered by the software program, and analyzed by Benetech experts."

Foreign Policy Magazine Posts Story about HRDAG Chad Study — March 9, 2010

Reed Brody, counsel and spokesperson for Human Rights Watch, cited in an article in Foreign Policy magazine entitled "Inside a Dictator's Secret Police," an HRDAG report on human rights violations in Chad. The HRDAG study, "State Coordinated Violence in Chad under Hissène Habré, A Statistical Analysis of Reported Prison Mortality in Chad's DDS Prisons and Command Responsibility of Hissène Habré, 1982-1990," demonstrated that former Chadian president Hissène Habré had detailed information about the hundreds of deaths that occurred in prisons operated by his state security force, the Documentation and Security Directorate (DDS).

The HRDAG report is based on thousands of documents generated by the DDS itself. The analysis could be critical in the long delayed prosecution of Habré who has been accused of killing and systematically torturing thousands of political opponents from 1982 to 1990.

Jim Fruchterman Profiled by San Francisco Chronicle — February 1, 2011

Benetech founder and CEO Jim Fruchterman was profiled in a front-page story by the San Francisco Chronicle. The article, which is entitled Technology His Launchpad for Literacy, Human Rights, looks at Jim's work as an engineer and his creation of Benetech. The story notes that Benetech only takes on projects where it sees the potential for revolutionary change, applying the technology and business strategies of Silicon Valley to social needs.

"The status quo approach in philanthropy is incremental change," Fruchterman told the Chronicle. "The nature of the tech industry is: How do we make people 5 times more effective? How do we give them capabilities they never had before?"

Chronicle of Philanthropy Features Comments From Benetech CEO Jim Fruchterman — January 7, 2010

In a story entitled, "Charity and Business Will Blend in New Ways by 2020," Benetech CEO Jim Fruchterman is quoted about the future of nonprofit organizations. "'The for-profit whose job is only to make money or the nonprofit which is a charity, those are two poles. In reality there is an entire spectrum in between them,' says Jim Fruchterman, chief executive of Benetech, a nonprofit technology organization in Palo Alto, Calif. In the next 10 years, he expects changes in federal and state laws to foster the development of L3C's. 'Someone should be able to operate a business and have a social mission without getting sued by shareholders for not making the maximum [amount of] money,' he says."

Mumbai Mirror Covers Bookshare in India — November 18, 2009

In a story entitled, "Crusading for the Right To Read," the Mumbai Mirror covered efforts to make Bookshare's digital library accessible to readers with print disabilities in India. The story notes that, there are ten million blind people in India and at least three million people with mobility and learning disabilities. "Currently, less than three per cent of the regular books are available in a format (Braille or audio) accessible to them," said Prashant Naik, project manager of X-RCVC (Xavier's Resource Center for the Visually Challenged, an NGO that has partnered with Bookshare). "Bookshare also benefits slow learners and people who cannot turn the pages of a printed book. For instance, those without upper limbs, if taught how to access a computer with the help of a foot-switch, can read books on this online library."

Benetech Covered By Smithsonian Magazine — September 22, 2009

The October issue of the Smithsonian magazine featured a detailed story about Benetech's ongoing work with the Guatemalan National Police Archive. The article recounted how Benetech's Human Rights Program collected a random scientific sample of the estimated 80 million archive documents and entered the information into Benetech's secure Martus database. The collected data contains critical information about the involvement of the National Police in the killing and disappearance of an estimated 200,000 people during Guatemala's 36 years of internal conflict.

BBC and Business Press Cover Benetech's Guatemalan National Police Archive Project — May 9, 2009

The BBC has aired an extensive two-part investigative report on the Guatemalan National Police Archive project entitled The Atrocity Archives.

e-Campus News Covers Bookshare's National Press Event — April 30, 2009

e-Campus News, an online e-zine of eSchool News covers Benetech CEO Jim Fruchterman's address to the National Press Club, entitled "More Books Coming To Students With Disabilities."

ABC-7 News Interviews Benetech CEO Jim Fruchterman — October 29, 2008

The San Francisco ABC News Affiliate ABC-7 featured Benetech CEO Jim Fruchterman in its story about the Social Capital Markets Conference in San Francisco. The conference, which was attended by over 650 people, featured Benetech as a socially responsible business.

Benetech's Frontline Report on Guatemala National Police Archive Project — May, 2008

The Frontline/World annual "Heroes From A Small Planet" Film Festival included the PBS Frontline/World Report on Benetech's Guatemalan National Police Archive project. The festival focused on stories involving social entrepreneurs and featured a discussion with Benetech CEO Jim Fruchterman who won a 1996 MacArthur Fellowship for his role as a pioneering social entrepreneur.

The Frontline/World investigative report on the Guatemala National Police Archive project included interviews with team members from Benetech's Martus and Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG). Martus and HRDAG provide technology to collect, organize, secure and back up data collected from the archive which includes an estimated 80 million records. The largest known human rights archive in the Americas, the recovered police records could provide critical information about the estimated 200,000 people dead or missing during Guatemala's 36-year civil war and help bring perpetrators to justice.

Benetech Cited In New York Times Social Enterprise Story — April 14, 2008

Benetech was cited in a New York Times story about "hybrid" technology organizations that are defining a path between the nonprofit world and traditional for-profit ventures. Benetech CEO Jim Fruchterman provided the lead quote for the article entitled, "When Tech Innovation Has a Social Mission," which appeared in the Technology section of the newspaper. The story also appeared in the International Herald Tribune and on the Slashdot web site. "There is a lot of discussion taking place right now about a whole new organization form around social enterprise," said Fruchterman in the article. "Many of these efforts can make money; they will just never make enough to provide venture capital rates of return."

Quoted. New York Times Quotes Benetech CEO On Charitable Giving For A Financial and Social Return — November 12, 200

The New York Times quoted Benetech CEO Jim Fruchterman in a holiday Giving Section story on Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who are using their business acumen to transform their charitable giving to mission-oriented investing for both a financial and social return. The story, "With Sudden Wealth, the Desire for Sudden Impact" included Fruchterman's observation that an increasing number of people are deploying capital in for-profit initiatives that have a social outcome.

"Within a 10-mile radius of Palo Alto, there are a couple of thousand families that could give $50 million to a social cause and fundamentally change some issue," Fruchterman said. "You could do a lot with $50 million, or even $10 million. You could cure a disease, or revolutionize services to an impoverished part of the world."

Article. Bookshare.org Award Covered in the San Jose Mercury News — October 19, 2007

The San Jose Mercury News covered the U.S. Department of Education's $32 million five-year grant to Benetech's Bookshare.org project. The article gives credit to Bookshare.org volunteer Carrie Karnos and collection Development Manager Claire O'Brien who see to it that Bookshare.org members have access to the latest bestsellers and educational books. Bookshare.org remains the world's largest accessible collection of scanned books and periodicals for use by those with a qualifying print disability such as blindness, severe dyslexia or a mobility impairment. The story quotes Benetech CEO Jim Fruchterman who notes that thanks to the grant, Bookshare.org will likely be adding more than 500 books a week to its site, or more than 100,000 new volumes over the next five years.

Profile. Stanford Magazine Profiles Jim Fruchterman —July/August 2007

The Stanford Magazine published a profile of Benetech CEO Jim Fruchterman entitled Geeks For Good. Fruchterman was a PhD student at Stanford and together with another Stanford student, built a reading machine for the blind that became the first of many social technology projects from Benetech. The article presented Benetech's Bookshare.org, Route 66 Literacy, Miradi, Martus and Human Rights Data Analysis Group projects which "harness Silicon Valley's engineering expertise for social benefit." It also talks about the landmine detector project, which was put on the back burner at Benetech because of political difficulties getting access to and exporting the needed technology. The article concluded with Jim's vision of giving back to society through technology delivering social benefits.

Benetech Tools Highlighted In Guatemala Police Archive Project — March 3, 2007

The San Francisco Chronicle published a feature article highlighting Benetech's role in providing technology tools to collect, organize and back up data from the ongoing Guatemalan National Police Archive project. The story, Guatemala Struggles To Find War Crimes Justice, noted that the recovered police records could provide critical information about the estimated 200,000 people dead or missing during Guatemala's 36-year civil war and help bring perpetrators to justice. (Note that three years later, in December 2010, expert testimony by a Benetech statistician provided key evidence in the conviction of two former police officers who were found guilty in the 1984 forced disappearance of Guatemalan union leader Edgar Fernando García. The verdicts established forced disappearance as a crime in the Guatemalan judicial system and prompted government prosecutors to investigate higher ranking officers for their possible role in the case.)

TV News Story. Benetech's Bookshare.org Service Profiled On CBS News — February 22, 2007

Benetech's Bookshare.org project was profiled in a feature story on the CBS Evening News today. Appearing as part of the CBS "American Spirit" series on innovations that scale to meet social needs, the program, entitled Tech Entrepreneur Helps Blind To Read, included Benetech CEO Jim Fruchterman, Bookshare.org Customer Service Manager John Glass, Bookshare.org volunteer Carrie Karnos and Bookshare.org members Brian Miller and Priscilla McKinley of Alexandria, Virginia. Miller was pictured listening to his daily newspaper via Bookshare.org enroute to work on the Washington D.C metro. CBS producers say they have received many calls in support of the program.

Interview. AccessWorld Interview — January, 2007

An interview with Benetech CEO Jim Fruchterman was featured in the January 2007 issue of AFB AccessWorld. Celebrating the Naming of a Genius: An Interview with Jim Fruchterman covered Fruchterman's 2006 MacArthur Fellowship and the expansion of Bookshare.org. Writer Deborah Kendrick also touched on Benetech's Route 66 Literacy service and Fruchterman's dream of of an inexpensive cell phone that delivers audio books and GPS coordinates. AFB AccessWorld: Technology and People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired, is published by the American Foundation for the Blind.

Quoted. Network Philanthropy — January 21, 2007

Benetech CEO Jim Fruchterman was quoted in Network Philanthropy, a feature story that appeared this week in West, the Los Angeles Times magazine. The article, written by New American Foundation Fellow Douglas McGray, profiled the work of venture philanthropy pioneers Pierre Omidyar and Jeff Skoll. Benetech receives support from the innovative foundations launched by these two technology entrepreneurs: The Omidyar Network and the Skoll Foundation.

Profile. Benetech's Jim Fruchterman Profiled By IEEE Spectrum — December 2006

The IEEE Spectrum magazine published an extensive profile of Benetech CEO Jim Fruchterman in its December issue. Together with an introduction by Senior Editor Tekla S. Perry, the story "Doing Well by Doing Good," offered a detailed history of Benetech, its current projects, and Jim's role in promoting social entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley. The IEEE Spectrum story quoted Chris Eyre, managing director of the Palo Alto venture capital firm Legacy Venture, who notes that 30 years from now, Benetech may be viewed in the same light as Fairchild Semiconductor which spun off many other companies and creative people who made their mark on the high tech community. "But why shouldn't Silicon Valley do for the social sector what it did for the private sector?" asks Eyre in the final sentence of the story. "Perhaps once again, one smart engineer with a little Palo Alto company will change the world."

Op. Ed. Jim Fruchterman Urges Silicon Valley To Address Global Concerns — November 13, 2006

Benetech Founder and CEO Jim Fruchterman published an OpEd in the San Jose Mercury News urging Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and technologists to apply their skills to solve pressing social problems. Fruchterman's essay, Build Great Companies, Then Help Build A Great World pointed to current projects launched by high-tech philanthropists and encouraged social entrepreneurs to link up with like-minded people.

Extensive Coverage. Jim Fruchterman Awarded a MacArthur Fellowship — October 12, 2006

When Benetech CEO Jim Fruchterman was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, both he and Benetech were the focus of increasing media coverage. In addition to reports about the MacArthur winners in The New York Times and USA Today, profiles of Jim have appeared in San Francisco Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News which published a news story on the three Bay Area MacArthur winners, a business section feature story “Genius Sees Connections” and column by Mike Cassidy entitled “An Executive Does Well By Helping Others.” Betsy Corcoran, a columnist at Forbes also wrote about Jim noting that he is "one of a handful of people at the forefront of starting not-for-profit technology companies."

Profile. Benetech's Jim Fruchterman Profiled By Caltech Today — September 2006

Caltech Today published a profile of Benetech CEO Jim Fruchterman who graduated from Caltech in 1980 with a BS in electrical engineering and an MS in applied physics. The article describes how Fruchterman first got interested in high-minded uses for high-tech when he was studying smart-bomb technology in a Caltech applied physics course.

Local TV. KPIX (CBS 5) Newscast — August 9, 2005

San Francisco-based television station highlighted the work of Benetech’s Bookshare.org. Read KPIX broadcast transcript.

Article. San Francisco Chronicle — July 15, 2005

Article by Maura Thurman: Books ripped up, fed to online library for the blind. Focuses on Bookshare.org library containing more than 24,000 books.

Stanford Business School Case Highlights Benetech — 2005

In this case, Benetech is used as one of three examples of how social entrepreneurs are counteracting market failure by "discovering and implementing new ways of creating social and environmental value by serving the needs of poor, disadvantaged, and neglected communities." Read the Benetech Extract.

Article. San Jose Mercury News — May 31, 2004

Article by Karl Schoenberger: “Hiding in Plain Sight” Describes how Benetech’s Martus software helps human rights groups protect sensitive information.

Article. San Francisco Chronicle — April 14, 2003

Article by Carrie Kirby: “Placing people before profit / Palo Alto's Benetech sets out to help human rights organizations save lives.”

Article. San Jose Mercury News — March 8, 2003

Article by Ian Stewart: “Saving Lives with Software” Describes how Benetech’s Martus software helps human rights groups protect sensitive information.

Article. San Jose Mercury News — February 14, 2002

Article by John Boudreau: “Improving Life for People with Disabilities” Describes the founding of Benetech as a social enterprise and covers current and future projects.

Article. Caltech News— 2002

Article by Rhonda Hillbery: "From Smart Bombs to Reading Machines" Describes how Jim came up with the idea of the Arkenstone Reader. "At Caltech you spend a lot of time wondering how you will come up with a really good idea. I was learning about optical pattern recognition, and [started] thinking of what, other than military targets, you could recognize with optical pattern recognition. The one idea I came up with was that you could make a reading machine for the blind using the same technology." The article then explains how Jim subsequently founded a nonprofit company to develop and manufacture the reading system, which has since been distributed in a dozen languages to people in 60 countries.