Feeds

Why would someone toss $1.35m at Wikipedia?

Jimbo Wales catches VC from Bono on Mexico City rooftop

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

Updated There's little doubt that anyone with the time and the inclination can overhaul at least a few Wikipedia entries to suit their personal ambitions. All they need is the right friends. Or a little pillow talk. The question is, could someone overhaul the entire encyclopedia?

Over the past two years, one man has donated or "lined up" donations totaling more than $1.35m to the charitable organization that runs Wikipedia, dwarfing the contributions of any other donor. And this man is among Silicon Valley's most conspicuous venture capitalists.

His name is Roger McNamee, and he runs Elevation Partners, a San Francisco-based VC firm whose partners include Bono, the U2 frontman more famous for pop records than venture capital. In fact, Bono played a significant role in the mysterious pas de deux between Elevation and the Wikimedia Foundation, making nice with Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales and his wife Christine before a U2 concert in Mexico City more than two years ago.

In the beginning, McNamee's donations were made anonymously - at least on official records. But the Elevation Partners connection has long been an open secret among Wikimedia insiders, and last week the secret spilled out onto the web when former Foundation executive Danny Wool posted a few details to his well-read blog.

After Jimmy Wales dumped his lover on the "free encyclopedia anyone can edit", and Danny Wool accused the site's Spiritual Leader of mismanaging Foundation funds, many assumed that the The Great Wikipedia Soap Opera had reached its climax. But there's more to come.

At the very least, McNamee's involvement with Wikimedia is a puzzle that needs solving. Considering the Foundation's status as a tax-exempt non-profit, a VC would need more than a little sleight of hand to turn it into a personal moneymaker. And if he did, this would surely raise the ire of more than few Wikipedians. Remember: Wikipedia was built almost entirely with free labor.

When Bono met Jimbo

According to Danny Wool, Elevation Partners - named for the U2 song - first approached the Wikimedia Foundation in late 2005. Wool took a phone call from a partner named Marc Bodnick.

"There was a period of time where everybody was trying to get in on the Wikipedia action," Wool told us. "Bodnick was really intriguing. He gave me the whole Bono thing, and I thought that was really cool. So I told Jimmy."

Wales soon met with Bodnick at Wikimedia's St Petersburg, Florida, headquarters, and later chatted with Roger McNamee in San Francisco. Then, several weeks later, Wales and his wife Christine had dinner with Bodnick and his personal assistant at a steakhouse in nearby Tampa. According to Wool, this was the $1,300 meal that Wales famously asked the Foundation to pay for.

In the end, the Foundation did not reimburse Wales for the steakhouse tab. But a few weeks later, on February 15, 2006, Wales and his wife flew to Mexico for that U2 concert, together with Danny Wool and another Wikimedia staffer. And this tab was on Elevation. "They paid for all the expenses," Wool told us. "All of them."

That night, the four of them joined Bono for drinks on the roof of their hotel, and at one point the pop icon suggested that Wales dump Wikipedia's volunteer editors and hire professionals.

Bono also suggested the Wikimedia foursome meet him for lunch the next afternoon before attending the concert. But in the end, that meeting included only Wales and his wife. "I was all dressed for the lunch with Bono and I was told that Bono only wanted to meet with Jimmy and Christine," Wool said.

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Next page: Non-disclosure

More from The Register

next story
Scrapping the Human Rights Act: What about privacy and freedom of expression?
Justice minister's attack to destroy ability to challenge state
WHY did Sunday Mirror stoop to slurping selfies for smut sting?
Tabloid splashes, MP resigns - but there's a BIG copyright issue here
Google hits back at 'Dear Rupert' over search dominance claims
Choc Factory sniffs: 'We're not pirate-lovers - also, you publish The Sun'
EU to accuse Ireland of giving Apple an overly peachy tax deal – report
Probe expected to say single-digit rate was unlawful
Inequality increasing? BOLLOCKS! You heard me: 'Screw the 1%'
There's morality and then there's economics ...
Hey Brit taxpayers. You just spent £4m on Central London ‘innovation playground’
Catapult me a Mojito, I feel an Digital Innovation coming on
While you queued for an iPhone 6, Apple's Cook sold shares worth $35m
Right before the stock took a 3.8% dive amid bent and broken mobe drama
EU probes Google’s Android omerta again: Talk now, or else
Spill those Android secrets, or we’ll fine you
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.