Oct 25, 2014 Reetta Heiskanen
In 2012, Sue Gardner was ranked as the 70th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes magazine. She has been called the “Mother Teresa of the Internet”, “the librarian to the world” and “the ultimate media game-changer”.
According to Gardner, her work is motivated by the desire to ensure that people have access to the information they want and need in order to “make the best possible decisions about their lives.”
Gardner started her career as a journalist, mostly in radio and TV. In 2000 she became the director of Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s website and online news outlets and in 2007 Gardner became the executive director of Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit operating Wikipedia.
In the years since, Wikipedia’s credibility has increased, readership has doubled, and number of articles has tripled.
Revenues at the Wikimedia Foundation have grown from $2 million to $60 million, making it the fastest-growing nonprofit in the United States as measured by revenue growth.
Sue Gardner told Slush News all about the long trip to this point and what has helped, inspired and driven her along the way.
Well, our first challenge was to get people to take Wikipedia seriously.
Back in 2007, everybody used Wikipedia, but it was considered mildly shameful. We wanted to accelerate the process, and so we deliberately formed a number of partnerships with very credible, very established institutions like the Sloan Foundation and Harvard and the BBC. Things get the brand they deserve and Wikipedians have earned the trust of readers by writing good articles day after day after day. But I do believe the WMF accelerated the acceptance process.
The hardest problem we had to solve though, and the area where we made the least progress, was diversifying the community of Wikipedia editors. Editing Wikipedia is a very niche pursuit, and tends to attract people who are male, young, highly tech-centric, and who live in rich northern countries. That’s a problem because Wikipedia aspires to contain the sum of all human knowledge, and we can’t be successful in that if only a tiny sliver of society is contributing what they know. It’s a hard problem to solve though, because there are real impediments to editing for many people.
That was actually a lot of fun!
For two years, we experimented with four revenue sources: we solicited grants from foundations; we asked for donations from rich people; we put up fundraising banners on the website asking readers for money, and we sold services to companies, such as live feeds. All the avenues were successful and so we had the luxury of choice. But it was really obvious to us what we should and wanted to do, which was the many-small-donors model. We liked it best, and use it today, because making money from our readers was the best way to ensure that the entire organisation was focused on the core mission of providing information to people around the world. Most nonprofits have a tension inside their organizations where their mission work is decoupled from revenue generation. Sometimes that’s unavoidable but it’s never ideal, and so we were thrilled that we were able to find a path towards sustainable revenue generation that focused our attention on the people we were designed to serve.
I think maybe I have three.
1) I work really, really, really hard. I listen a lot, I read a lot, I pay attention.
2) I like working with people who are better than me.
3) By nature, I’m logical and intentional. It’s weird to me how often smart, capable people will make a decision to do X, and then wander off and do Y instead. I don’t do that. I think about things, I decide what to do and then importantly, I actually do it.
I think a good leader is a person who will do, and can do, whatever it takes to ensure the group succeeds. Sometimes that means making a big rousing speech. Sometimes it means ordering pizza, or thanking somebody, or helping them in some small way. Sometimes it means firing somebody. Sometimes it means shutting up. Whatever it is that’s necessary, a good leader does it: they are thinking about what the group needs to succeed, not about themselves.
Brian Halligan, the Founder & CEO of Hubspot opened up the Founder stage on Day 2 by telling us what was the word of the year chosen by Dictionary.com – misinformation. There is a huge trust issue between buyers and sellers, which companies need to react to. This is where customer experience comes in. During […]
Justin Rosenstein, the Co-founder of collaboration tool Asana opened the Pink Stage with the useful hands-on advice on building powerful ideas and ‘growing smart’. He also announced the recent Asana’s $50 million Series E round, which catapulted Asana to $1.5 billion valuation. Justin, known as the creator of the Facebook’s “Like” button shared how through […]
Modern Meadow has been pushing the traditional leather industry to the edge by creating biofabricated materials from growing cells into a new type of material inspired by leather. We had an opportunity to have a chat with Andras Forgacs, the co-founder and CEO of Modern Meadow and get a sneak peek into some topics what he […]
Fumiko Kato, CEO of WAmazing, is one of the speakers of Slush Tokyo 2018. WAmazing provides a free network service for the tourists coming to Japan. Since she founded WAmazing in 2016, the highly qualified system has been evaluated and the application has more than 80,000 downloads. Now, the service is opened only to tourists […]
Obvious Ventures was founded three years ago on a simple belief that the most valuable companies of our time will be the ones solving humanity’s biggest problems. Today, Obvious Ventures has invested in more than 40 world positive companies. I got a chance to hit up with their Founding Partner Vishal Vasishth who co-founded Obvious […]
Funding Circle has one mission: to become the world’s leading small business lending platform. Since 2010, they have channeled more than $5 billion to more than 37,000 small businesses around the world. This has created roughly 100,000 new jobs and produced an investor network of 72,000 individuals, companies and institutions. Behind this is CEO Samir […]
Leila Janah is the founder and CEO of Samasource, a self-funding nonprofit, which reduces global poverty by outsourcing digital labor to impoverished places around the world, and LXMI, the organic skincare brand. Both companies were recently highlighted on Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies list. Leila is one of the Slush 2017 speakers and I had […]
In just two days, the world will descend upon Helsinki. Entrepreneurs, investors, journalists, students, scientists and professionals will come together in Messukeskus, the biggest convention space in Finland, to experience the highly anticipated, full-packed days of Europe’s leading startup event. Who better to prepare us for the action than team captain, CEO Marianne Vikkula? Below, […]
Nokia is heading into the growing VR industry with OZO Live, a software solution that runs on reference hardware and enables the OZO camera to broadcast live VR experiences at scale. Visitors at Slush get to have a glimpse of premium live broadcasting of 3D 360 VR video as well, since selected programs from Black […]
Subscribe to our newsletter to know about our ticket sales!
We collect cookies to make your experience here smoother.