At age 35, inspired by a visit to a dilapidated Nepali primary school with an empty library, John Wood left an executive career track at Microsoft to build one of the fastest-growing non-profits in history. In just 13 years and from a standing start, Room to Read has opened 1,675 schools and more than 15,000 libraries across ten developing countries. What’s more, Room to Read is on track to meet an audacious goal: reach 10 million of the world’s poorest children by 2015.
Today, John’s real-world business acumen and drive to change the world have made him an inspiring and sought-after speaker with universal appeal. Since “giving up the money and the perks” of his former career, John has helped millions of children who have lost the lottery of life. John leverages what he learned in the business world to massively scale social change, and likes to say “we run Room to Read with the heart of Mother Teresa and the scalability of Starbucks.” Astonishingly, the organization did indeed open more libraries in its first decade than Starbucks did coffee shops.
John’s role in building one of the fastest-growing non-profits in history has earned him broad acclaim, including a nod as one of Goldman Sachs’ 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs of 2013. He is a five-time winner of Fast Company’s Social Capitalist Award, and was named one of Time Magazine’s “Asian Heroes” – the only non-Asian ever to win the honor. John has been recognized as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute, and sits on the advisory board of the Clinton Global Initiative where he’s spoken three times. He’s also received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Tribeca Film Festival, and appeared with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn in the award-winning documentary “Half the Sky.”
John has received three honorary doctorates, teaches at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education and NYU’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and has built a 370,000-strong following on Twitter.