Wikipedia founder speaks to Elvin pupils

Sunday 05 October 2014

The internet entrepreneur Jimmy Wales visited ARK Elvin Academy on Wednesday to deliver a message about the importance of failure and resilience. The founder of Wikipedia spoke to pupils from Years 9-13 in a broadcast that was watched by students in schools across the UK.

“Failure – Jimmy Wales is good at it", was his key message, reinforcing the ARK Elvin value of Courage and our mantra that "mistakes are learning opportunities". He discussed the various businesses that he had tried to set up, including an online food ordering business, a search engine and even an initial online encyclopaedia called ‘Nupedia’ which all failed to take off.

“I spent about $250,000 just on the first twelve articles. I keep all twelve of them printed out and by my bed and I read them every night – so someday I’ll get my money’s worth. It was a failed business idea. It didn’t work. Then I had a really dumb idea. A free encyclopaedia for everyone. Just open up the website and let anybody come and edit. No advertising. No sane business plan of any kind."

The idea would go on to become the 5th most visited website in the world and according to Wales, “change the face of human knowledge forever".

“The classic entrepreneurial success stories that you hear about – the most famous one currently is Mark Zuckeberg – an enormously fast growth curve with no stumbles along the way. These kinds of stories are enormously misleading to young people getting into business. The truth is for most entrepreneurs that’s not the way it works. The way it works is there’s lots and lots of failure. One of the problems for young people is they are very afraid to take that first step, because what if it’s a failure? The idea is just embrace that, try lots of little things – fail and fail and fail because ultimately that is what is going to lead to success."

Our principal Annabel Bates said, “It was great to welcome Jimmy to our school. We try to build a sense of resilience and determination amongst our students. We believe mistakes are learning opportunities, and a chance for students to build their strength for future life."

The event was live streamed via Google Hangout and the TES Connect website to over 100 schools to mark the launch of a series of events to promote the study of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects.

At ARK Elvin we have a strong belief in the importance of these subjects, and have this year started the Computing curriculum for Year 10. The talk was also of particular interest for Year 9, whose forms are all named after technology entrepreneurs such as Tim Berners-Lee and Jony Ive.

Rory Cellan Jones, the BBC’s technology correspondent, who chaired the event, said that the audience was “very intelligent".

And Jimmy even took the time to take a 'selfie' with our Head Girl and Head Boy Rashmi and Syed.

Click here to see coverage of this event in the local press.