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State regulations hamper innovation: Wikipedia founder

The government should “keep out of the way” if it wants more people to come out with innovative ideas and start new businesses, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales said Tuesday.

“The most important thing in the government’s policy about start-ups is how to get the government out of the way,” said the pioneer of the free encyclopedia.

Wales was invited to give a special speech to the young Korean entrepreneurs at the 2012 Venture-Startup Festival held at Seoul National University.

Wales claimed that in many countries the regulations surrounding starting up business make one to come up with innovative ideas.

“The government should make it easier to entrepreneurs to start businesses, but also at the same time to make sure we don’t have unnecessary regulations on investment,” he added.
Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales speaks during a news conference on Tuesday in Seoul. (Korea Venture Business Association)
Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales speaks during a news conference on Tuesday in Seoul. (Korea Venture Business Association)

In a news conference before his speech, Wales explained how Wikipedia became such a great success.

“I believe the success came from having the formula of respecting community and allowing people the opportunity to express themselves about topics that they are interested in,” he said.

The American entrepreneur said that he thinks Korea has very strong technical education that will help produce many innovative entrepreneurs.

“Korea is also wealthy enough country to use its capital for investing in innovation,” he said.

But he pointed out that the country’s traditional culture as one of the obstacles.

“I think parents here have a lot of pressure on young people to not do something too unusual, and force them to get a good job in a big company,” he said.

“But one of the necessary for innovation is to take risks.”

Wikipedia, which allows almost all entries to be initiated, updated and edited by almost anyone, has grown year-on-year, in terms of traffic, languages covered, number of articles and donations from the public.

The encyclopedia currently exists in more that 270 languages, including Korean and is currently viewed by more than 400 million people a month, and 11.6 million edits are made on its articles every month.

Wales is also the co-founder of Wikia, a collaborative publishing platform that combines pop culture and social media. Despite a slow start, Wikia is now one of the hundred most visited sites on the Web.

On Tuesday, the 45-year-old also spoke about why Nupedia, the predecessor to Wikipedia, did not really work out.

“Nupedia had the same vision of the free encyclopedia for everyone. But we didn’t really have good understanding of how to build community on.”

“The main reason why the Nupedia failed is it was far too difficult for the contributors to participate in whereas the Wikipedia, quite famously, everyone can come and participate.”

By Oh Kyu-wook (596story@heraldcorp.com)
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