jim fruchterman: rocket scientist, social entrepreneur, macarthur fellow


Resume for Jim Fruchterman

CEO & Founder, Benetech


  • California Institute of Technology
    B.S. Engineering, 1976-80
    M.S. Applied Physics, 1978-80
  • Distinguished Alumni Award, 2013
  • Stanford University, 1980-81
    Electrical Engineering
    Ph.D. Studies

Professional Experience

  • CEO, Founder, 1989-present
    Benetech (known as Arkenstone from 1989-2000)
    Palo Alto, California
  • Founder, Director, 1989-present
    President & CEO, 1989-95
    RAF Technology, Inc.
    Palo Alto, California and Redmond, Washington
  • Vice President, Marketing, 1987-89
    Founder, Vice President, Finance, 1982-88
    Calera Recognition Systems, Inc.
    Santa Clara, California

Prior engineering positions with:

  • Phoenix Engineering, Inc.
  • G.C.H., Inc.
  • IBM T.J. Watson Research Center
  • General Motors Company
  • NASA — Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory

Selected Publications

Invited Presentations

  • Extensive speaking engagements to students about technology serving people with disabilities. Invited talks at:
    • Caltech
    • Stanford University
    • University of Washington
    • Brigham Young University
    • University of California at Berkeley
    • University of the Pacific
    • Santa Clara University
    • San Jose State
    • University of California at Santa Cruz
    • University of California at Davis
    • Loyola Marymount University
    • Pepperdine University
    • Columbia University
    • Harvard University
    • University of Geneva
    • Oxford University
  • Making the Book Truly Accessible,” February 2011, Keynote Speech, Tools of Change Conference, New York, NY.
  • Social Enterprise Summit Keynote, April 2010, Social Enterprise Summit, New Orleans.
  • Keynote Speech, September 2008, Social Enterprise World Forum, Edinburgh, Scotland.
  • "Raising the Floor: Providing Accessible Technology and Content to Every Person with a Disability on the Planet," July, 2008 Keynote Speech, International Conference on Computers Helping People with Special Needs, Linz, Austria. (transcript attached)
  • Raising the Floor,” March, 2008 Keynote Speech, CSUN Conference on Technology and Persons with Disabilities.
  • Keynote Speech, 2007 NCTI Technology Innovators Conference, Washington, DC.
  • Keynote Speech, 2006, Global Social Venture Competition Finals, New York City.
  • It’s Not Rocket Science: Building Social Enterprises,” 2006 Keynote Speech, 7th Gathering of the Social Enterprise Alliance.
  • Keynote Speech, 2006, 7th International Association for Pattern Recognition Workshop on Document Analysis Systems, Nelson, New Zealand.
  • Universally Accessible Demands Accessibility for All of Humanity,” Presented at Google on September 20, 2006; chosen as one of the top talks of the year.
  • Keynote Speech, 2005, Alliance for Technology Access Institute.
  • Building a Global Library for People with Print Disabilities,” 2005, World Summit on the Information Society, Tunis.
  • Innovating Information Technologies to Protect Human Rights,” a speech for the World Affairs Council of Northern California, February 2004.
  • Setting the 2004 Agenda: Technology,” speaker at the World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland, January 2004.
  • When Markets Fail, Who Responds? Discussion Leader at the World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland, January 2003.
  • Technology and Human Rights,” University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, November, 2003.
  • Technology for Nonprofits,” with Michael Gilbert, National Gathering for Social Entrepreneurs, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December, 2002.
  • Bookshare.org: Large Scale, Web-Based Accessible Books,” TechShare conference organized by the Royal National Institute of the Blind, Birmingham, UK, November 2002.
  • In the Palm of Your Hand,” Keynote Speech, 2003, World Blind Union Asia Pacific Conference, Singapore.
  • Seizing Market Failure as an Investment Opportunity,” Keynote Speech, 2003, Business for Social Responsibility Annual Conference, Los Angeles.
  • Putting Technology to Work for Development,” speech at the United Nations to the joint meeting of the World Technology Network and UNOPS, July 2002.
  • Stanford Social Entrepreneurship Conference, January 2002.
  • Developing Partnerships for Assistive and Universally Designed Technology for Persons with Disabilities,” August 4, 1998 Testimony before Subcommittee on Technology, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science.

Professional Associations

  • Association for Computing Machinery
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • Social Enterprise Alliance

Awards and Public Service

  • John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, 2006
  • Member, Advisory Commission on Accessible Instructional Materials in Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities, a federal advisory committee established by Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 to make recommendations to improve the quality and abundance of accessible instructional materials (2010-2011)
  • Brigham Young University, Center for Economic Self-Reliance Social Innovator of the Year, 2009.
  • Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award from the National Federation of the Blind, July 2008 (for Bookshare.org)
  • AT&T Technology Innovation Award from the Alliance for Technology Access, March 2008
  • Fred Strache Leadership Award from the California State University, Northridge, 2007
  • Member of the Board of Directors, ZeroDivide, foundation investing in community enterprises that leverage technology to benefit people in low-income and other underserved communities (2007-2012)
  • Technical Advisory Committee Member, National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard, U.S. Department of Education (2005-2009)
  • Advisory Committee Member, National Instructional Materials Accessibility Center, U.S. Department of Education (2006-present)
  • Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship
  • 2006 Fast Company Social Capitalist Award: Top 20 Groups Changing the World, 2004 Laureate, The 2003 and 2001 Tech Museum Awards
  • American Library Association Francis Joseph Campbell Award 2003
  • Schwab Foundation Outstanding Social Entrepreneur of 2003 Award
  • Member, the Community Partnership Committee, which oversees a diversity and disability agreement with SBC, Inc.
  • Runner-up, Yale-Goldman Sachs National Nonprofit Business Plan Competition, 2003
  • American Foundation for the Blind Access Award, 2003
  • Robert S. Bray Award, The American Council of the Blind
  • Winner, Education Category, 2002 Stockholm Challenge
  • Fast 50 Champion of Innovation 2002
  • Judge, 2002 National Social Venture Competition
  • Member, Board of Directors of the Social Enterprise Alliance (2000-2010)
  • Member of the Advisory Board, Telecommunications Access Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center, a joint effort of the Trace R&D Center of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Technology Access Program of Gallaudet University, 2001-2003
  • Panelist, National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research Program, 1998, 2000, 2003
  • Participant, 1998 NSF Workshop for Discussing Research Priorities and Evaluation Strategies in Speech Synthesis, August, 1998
  • Member, Electronic Information and Technology Access Advisory Committee, a federal advisory committee responsible for drafting federal acquisition standards for accessibility under Section 508, 1998-1999
  • Member, Telecommunications Access Advisory Committee, a federal advisory committee responsible for making recommendations to the U.S. Access Board and Federal Communications Commission on implementing portions of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, 1996-1997
  • U.S. Patent Number 5,470,223: System and Method for Tracking a Pedestrian
  • Finalist, 1996 Discover Magazine Awards for Technological Innovation
  • 1996 Access Award, American Foundation for the Blind

Major Works and Areas of Expertise

  • Founder and CEO of Benetech, a highly innovative nonprofit company focused on using the power of technology to address social needs in areas such as disability, human rights, literacy, education, the environment, the digital divide, employment of the disadvantaged, and the prevention of suffering.  Developer of the Arkenstone Reader, the first affordable reading system for the blind. Designer of Open Book, the first talking Windows program for the blind. Co-inventor of Atlas Speaks, the first accessible map software for the blind, and of Strider, a talking GPS locator for the blind.  Creator of Bookshare, now the world's largest online library for people who are blind or have a print-related disability. Creator of the Martus software, for capturing the stories of human rights abuses.
  • Cofounder of RAF Technology, Inc., the nation's leading company in optical character recognition technology for processing forms in postal applications. RAF's software is used to route the mail in the United States and other countries.
  • Cofounder of Calera Recognition Systems, Inc., the first company to develop omnifont optical character recognition that worked without user training.