L. James (Jim) Marggraff
Category of Humanitarian Benefit: Knowledge Sharing
Short Biography/Background of the Nominee: For more than 40 years, Jim Marggraff has dedicated his energy, vision, and inventiveness to advancing human potential and the human condition through the acquisition and sharing of skills and knowledge. Jim’s journey, across the six companies he has founded or co-founded, the 40+ patents he has been granted, the hundreds of public presentations to millions of people he has given, and the hundreds of prestigious awards for products and achievements he and his teams have received, has focused on evolving our communication, learning, productivity, compassion, empathy, mutual understanding, and fundamental human thought. On this journey, Jim has impacted over 100 million people’s lives, giving them new tools, abilities, knowledge, and conceptual models with which to view the world and address its challenges.
Most recently, Jim worked as a Director in Google’s Virtual and Augmented Reality division, following the sale of Eyefluence, founded by Jim, to Google in 2016. Eyefluence was the sixth company that Jim has founded/co-founded. Departing Google in 2018, Jim is now exploring the development of a new technology to address the issue of human isolation in seniors, space travelers, and people of all ages. Jim also currently holds Board or advisory positions with a number of technology companies and teams in AI (Artificial Intelligence), VR and AR (Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality), human-collaboration, ideation, and AI-based transportation of goods through mobile, intelligent robots. Jim founded Eyefluence in 2013 to develop technology that transforms intent into action through your eyes. With Eyefluence technology, a person wearing a head-mounted display (HMD) such as Google Glass, Oculus, or other HMDs, could interact with the display, and control or interact with objects in their world, simply by moving their eyes, with no waiting, no winking, just looking. In addition to supporting neurotypical individuals, Jim and his team worked with people with neurological disabilities, such as ALS, to improve their life-conditions through access to knowledge and communication using solely their eyesPrior to founding Eyefluence, in 2007, Jim founded Livescribe, as the inventor of the world’s first smartpen. Under Jim’s guidance, Livescribe sold over 2 million smartpens in more than 40 countries, to create a global brand for a new product category. The smartpen addressed the issue facing all people who take written notes to capture and share information -- “Do I listen, or do I write?”. By capturing digital ink written by a user, and simultaneously recording audio and time-stamping the audio with ink as the ink is written on paper, a notetaker can simply touch their handwritten ink, on paper, to hear the audio that was recorded as the user wrote that stroke of ink. Smartpens have been adopted by journalists, authors, movie directors, lawyers, salespeople, teachers, students, researchers, artists, doctors, patients, and virtually anyone who takes notes. Further, it changed the lives of everyday students and provided critical assistance to special-ed students, including helping those with dyslexia, as well as changing the lives of people with PTSD.
Jim’s idea for a smartpen developed during his 7 years at LeapFrog, as he continued to consider how to help people of all ages with their acquisition of knowledge. Jim had sold his previous company, Explore Technologies, to LeapFrog in 1998, where he helped grow LeapFrog from $31 million to $680 million annual sales in five years. As the inventor of the world- renowned LeapPad Learning System, Jim’s dedication to technology-based learning helped LeapFrog sell over $1 billion of LeapPads and educational content worldwide in less than 5 years. Jim’s voice, as a lead voice-over talent for LeapFrog, greeted users of tens of millions of LeapPads. The LeapPad ultimately impacted more than 100 million children and adults in reading, math, and language skills, and have sparked and fueled a passion for lifelong learning for people around the globe.
Jim is a prolific speaker, with 2 presentations on the TED main stage, a UNLV TEDx talk, and a presentation at Rotary’s 2018 International’s Annual Convention, All Things Digital, DEMO, Future in Review, the Milken Global Economic Conference, the Aspen Ideas Festival, Bloomberg TV, JavaOne, Building 43, Dust Or Magic, AdAge’s IDEA Conference, CM Summit, the Director’s Guild of America, The E.G. Conference, TTI/Vanguard, Imagine Solutions, Ciudad de las Ideas, Columbia Business School, MIT, numerous Rotary District Conferences, and many other local and global events featuring thought-leaders and innovators.
On a local, community level, Jim is active in his home town of Lafayette, with the Lamorinda Sunrise Rotary Club, and supports the local public school system with technology donations. In 2017, Jim led Rotary International’s adoption of VR with a new concept he called a “VR-a-Thon”. Jim drove the financing, and was Executive Producer of a VR piece, One Small Act, produced in Romania, focused on polio eradication and the elimination of violence as a means of conflict resolution. This piece was experienced by over 3,000 Rotarians simultaneously at Rotary’s Annual World Conference in Atlanta in June 2017, setting a world record for the largest co-located viewing of a VR piece, and will be distributed globally to Rotarians, along with a new VR Rotary-produce piece, Two Drops of Patience, for World Polio Day in 2018. As another channel for his passion for innovation and founding, Jim has written a book, “How to Raise a Founder with Heart”, comprising stories, science and suggestions for “founding” to parents who would like to instill a founder’s mindset, and skills, in their children. His book will be published in Q4 2018. Jim is also a board member of the Gleason Foundation, supporting former New Orleans Saints football player, Steve Gleason, a person with ALS, in Steve’s fight against the disease and a public inspiration to others with disabilities. Jim joined Steve to speak at the UN in 2013 on the topic of startups addressing disabilities. Jim received his SB and MS degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT, and holds over 40 issued patents.
Project Name and Description: Project Name: Lifelong Learning, Knowledge, and Global Humanitarian Advancement Jim Marggraff’s life’s project has been to improve and evolve who we are, what we do, and how we do it as individuals, communities, and as a species. Jim has dedicated his life, work, and family time to championing causes and leading teams to improve the human condition with passion, focus, and unrelenting, commitment to impact on humanity. Jim believes that we are all members of a single, global community, and that to assure that our future generations continue to advance and evolve, we must embrace an enlightened outlook towards global alignment, understanding, and mutual support that is commensurate with our exponential advancements in technology and human capability.
The efforts Jim has pursued as a part of his life project have encompassed technological developments which have been deployed to over a hundred million people around the world. As a result of ideas he have sparked and nurtured with teams across companies and organizations, He has helped improve foundational communication systems, instill a desire for lifelong learning in people of all ages, develop an appreciation for the value of literacy, education, knowledge, and skills, and helped people realize their potential by implementing technologies within affordable, accessible tools with content and experiences that positively evolve behavior.
By the numbers, Jim has created, inspired, and/or led the development of globally successful technologies that have directly impacted over a hundred million people around the world in developing and developed nations through products and technologies from the companies I have founded or co-founded -- StrataCom (IPO; acquired by Cisco), Explore Technologies (acquired by LeapFrog which then IPO’d), Livescribe (acquired by Anoto), and Eyefluence (acquired by Google).
The technologies and products Jim has conceived, and have developed with teams, have been recognized with the issuance of over 40 patents, the declaration as one of MIT’s top 150 alumni inventors, the granting of hundreds of awards, and the generation of billions of media impressions across television, radio, periodicals, books, and the internet.
Humanitarian Benefit : The humanitarian impact of Jim’s life’s project, with the ongoing support of empowered, impassioned individuals and organizations, is reaching beyond personal education, knowledge, and skills of individuals, to motivate inspiration and aspiration of hundreds of millions of people who have touched, or have been touched, by this project’s ideas, their instantiation, or their offspring.
There is nothing more fulfilling for a founder than to sow the field, plant the seeds, and nurture the development of a new crop of founders and creators, who are equally committed to humanitarian causes.
In recent years, Jim has challenged himself to reach higher in the engagement of people to embrace and propagate convictions around empathy, understanding, and non-violent conflict resolution. This is a work in process. Hisinvolvement in Rotary has sparked new perspectives on achieving this, and on connecting people in new ways. Jim has had the good fortune to have been recognized for driving the idea of adopting VR, Rotary-wide, to improve storytelling for Rotary causes, help increase membership, attract younger members, support fund-raising, create major private/public partnerships for Rotary, and help evolve the Rotary Brand. Championing the funding and creation of the peace/polio VR film, “One Small Act”, we set a world record with 3,000 co-located Rotarians viewing this piece simultaneously. In 2018, Jim addressed the Rotary Annual Convention audience to speak on the topic of literacy and education. Jim is continuing to drive the adoption of VR, along with AI, within Rotary, and will soon embark on Rotary service projects to Benin, Africa, and to Guatemala. The Rotary community has welcomed Jim to keynote at over a half dozen District Conferences on topics of literacy, entrepreneurship, invention, social good, overcoming adversity.
In October/November, Jim will publish a book called “How to Raise a Founder with Heart” incorporating stories, science, and suggestions for developing a founder’s outlook and skills. Jim was motivated to write this book in response to the need he saw at LeapFrog among parents who desired such skills for their children but who did not know how to pursue developing these skills.