John Wood
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John Wood
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Bio Info:
John Wood
Founder and Board Co-Chairman
Room to Read
At age 35, John Wood left an executive career track at Microsoft Corporation to form Room to Read, a nonprofit organization that “combines the heart of Mother Theresa with the scalability of Starbucks” to help children across the developing world break the cycle of poverty through the power of education. Razor-sharp business acumen honed at Microsoft, combined with a passion to change the world makes John Wood a unique, inspiring and popular speaker with universal appeal.

Since its start in 2000, Room to Read has sponsored the opening of 1,443 schools and more than 12,000 multi-lingual libraries across the developing world. The organization has distributed over 10 million children’s books in multiple languages and supports 13,500 girls with long-term scholarships. John describes these results as “total tip of the iceberg” as Room to Read plans to increase this literacy network to 20,000 libraries and schools serving at least 10 million children by the year 2015.
In his award-winning memoir, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World (Collins, 2006), John tells the story of how he raised over $125 million of financial commitments from a “standing start” to develop one of the fastest-growing non-profits in history. The book was described by Publishers’ Weekly in a starred review as “an infectiously inspiring read.” Translated into 21 languages, it is popular with entrepreneurs, philanthropists, educators, and internationalists alike, and was selected by as one of the Top Ten Business Narratives of 2006 and voted by Hudson Booksellers as a Top Ten Nonfiction title of 2006. The book was also featured during John’s appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show and the resulting “Oprah’s Book Drive” with Room to Read raised over $3 million from viewers.
John holds a Masters in Business Administration from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, a B.S. in Finance from the University of Colorado, and an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from the University of San Francisco. He also serves on the Advisory Board for the Clinton Global Initiative. He is currently working with Viking Penguin on his second book to be published in late 2012.

  • Twice named by Barron’s as one of the world’s 25 most effective philanthropists.
  • Five-time winner of the Fast Company Magazine and Monitor Group Social Capitalist Award
  • TIME Magazine’s “Asian Heroes” Award (the only non-Asian ever chosen for this honor)
  • Four-time speaker at the Clinton Global Initiative. 
  • Selected as a “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum
  • Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute.
  • Two-time winner of the Skoll Foundation Award for Social Innovation
  • Second recipient of the Draper Richards Fellowship, America’s largest fellowship for early-stage social entrepreneurs.
  • Profiled by the Public Broadcasting Corporation (PBS) as one of “America’s Great Leaders”
Notable Speaking Engagements
  • Goldman Sachs Asia Macro Conference, Hong Kong, 2011
  • Merrill Lynch Japan Conference, Tokyo, 2011
  • Credit Suisse Asia Investment Conference, Hong Kong, 2011
  • National Australia Bank High Net Worth Client Conference, Melbourne & Sydney, 2011
  • Barclays Asia Forum, Singapore, 2010, 2011
  • Google Human Resources Conference, Mountain View, CA, 2010
  • Clinton Global Initiative, 2008, 2009
  • Clinton Global Initiative Asia, 2008
  • Aspen Ideas Festival, 2009
  • TEDx East, 2009 & TEDx Mumbai, 2010
  • Goldman Sachs Leadership Speaker Series, London, 2008
  • Innovators @ Google, Mountain View, CA, 2007
  • IBM “Pulse” Software Conference, Orlando, FL, 2008
  • The Power Within, Calgary and London, 2007
  • PepsiCo, St. Petersburg, FL, 2008
  • TiEcon “Entrepreneurship Unbounded”, Santa Clara, CA, 2008
  • Council on Foreign Relations, Washington, D.C., 2006 
  • Harvard Business School Alumni Club of London, 2008
  • Starbucks Corporate Marketing Conference, Seattle, WA, 2006
  • Microsoft Education Summit Conference, Seattle, WA, 2006
Speaking Topics

  • “Leaving Microsoft to Change the World”is John’s first-person account of following his passion, and the lessons learned in doing so. It is a popular “inspiring close” or “bring people to their feet” dinner speech at corporate, industry, and education conferences.
  • “Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone”is a speech John first delivered at a Microsoft sales conference. With sales reps facing an increasingly competitive and ever-changing economy, Microsoft’s sales leadership team requested that John speak about “what’s possible when a committed person dares to take risks and leave their comfort zone”.
  • “Leadership Lessons from the Front Lines of Social Change”– Leadership is a subject on which John lectures at leading business schools, including University of Chicago, Harvard, Kellogg, Wharton and Stanford. In this presentation, John highlights the leadership lessons that can be learned from the front lines of social change.  This is an increasingly popular topic amongst corporations, universities, and membership organizations. 
John’s work has been featured by a wide variety of major media outlets, including:



o  The Oprah Winfrey Show

o  CNN / CNN Headline News

o  PBS Frontline

o  PBS “The Great Leaders” series

o  Fox News

o  Good Morning Australia


o  CBS Evening News

o  Charlie Rose

o  The Tavis Smiley Show

o  Bloomberg Televison

o  CNBC “Squawk Box”

o  BBC



Daily Newspapers


o  The New York Times

o  International Herald Tribune

o  The Wall Street Journal

o  The Financial Times

o  ChicagoTribune

o  TheWashingtonPost

o  TheBostonGlobe


o  Christian Science Monitor

o  Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)

o  South China Morning Post (Hong Kong)

o  The Straits Times (Singapore)

o  BusinessWeek (Singapore)

o  The Guardian (UK)

o  The Los Angeles Times




o  Newsweek

o  Forbes

o  Fortune

o  Business Week

o  New York Times Magazine

o  Reader’s Digest

o  Entrepreneur Mag (Second Act)

o  Men’s Journal


o  U.S.News and World Report

o  Fast Company

o  Continental Airlines Magazine


o  Town & Country

o  Travel + Leisure

o  Sky (Delta Airlines)


o  Discovery (Cathay Pacific Airlines)



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