David Risher

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David Risher
Born (1965-07-15) July 15, 1965 (age 51)
Bethesda, MD
Nationality American
Known for President & Co-founder of Worldreader

John David Risher (born July 15, 1965) is the President and co-founder of Worldreader. Risher, a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Business School, served as an executive at Microsoft Corporation, and helped grow Amazon.com from a small bookstore into the world’s largest internet retailer. In November 2009, together with Colin McElwee, he founded Worldreader.

Early life and background[edit]

Risher grew up in his mother's house in Chevy Chase, MD.[citation needed] From an early age, David devoured books; worried neighbors called his mother, concerned that they had seen him walking to school reading a book instead of watching where he was going.[citation needed]

Education was a strong priority on both sides of his family—both of his parents had graduate degrees and Ph.D.-holding forebears[citation needed]—and Risher graduated from Princeton University,[1] where he majored in Comparative Literature and wrote his thesis on “The Changing Attitudes towards Language in Samuel Beckett’s early Metafiction.”[citation needed] After graduating from college, he worked at L.E.K. Consulting, and then bicycled across the United States[2] before entering business school at Harvard, graduating in 1991.[3]

He speaks four languages: English, French, Spanish and Catalan.[citation needed]


At Microsoft, Risher was General Manager in charge of launching the company’s first database product, Access. He went on to found and manage Microsoft Investor. In 1997, he left Microsoft to join Amazon.com as its first Vice President of Product and Store development, responsible for growing the company’s revenue from $16 million to over $4 billion. He later served as the company’s Senior Vice President, US Retail, overseeing the marketing and general management of Amazon’s retail operations.

At the very bottom of Amazon.com's store directory, a perpetual easter egg link leads to a tribute to Risher written by Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos[4]

After leaving Amazon in 2002, Risher taught at the University of Washington’s Foster Business School, where he created the University’s course on “Competing on the Internet.” He was elected Professor of the Year in 2004. Risher now lives in northern California with his wife, Jennifer and his two daughters.

Risher founded Worldreader after a year-long trip around the world with his family, home-schooling his daughters and volunteering at a school in China. After visiting an orphanage in Ecuador, Risher saw how e-reader technology could give kids in remote and under-served parts of the world access to books.[5]

Worldreader is a Barcelona, Spain, and US-based 501c(3) public charity whose mission is “to make digital books available to all in the developing world.” In March 2009, Worldreader launched a successful trial in Ayenyah, Ghana.[6] After receiving positive results, Worldreader received permission from Ghana’s Ministry of Education to distribute e-readers to additional schools in Ghana.

Risher believes that e-books will let the developing world leapfrog paper-based books to adopt e-reader technology, helping create a culture of reading in parts of the world where people have not had access to books.[7]

Risher is an invited member of the Clinton Global Initiative,[8] a Draper Richards Kaplan Social Entrepreneur. He serves on the International Advisory Board of ESADE,[9] and sits on the International Advisory Board of Catalunya.[10]


  • Draper Richards Kaplan Social Entrepreneur [11]
  • Clinton Global Initiative 2014 Invited Member [12]
  • Microsoft Alumni Foundation Integral Fellow 2011 [13]
  • Publishers Weekly's “Eleven for the Millennium”[14]
  • Ad Age Power 50[15]


  1. ^ "Out of Amazon, into Africa". Princeton Alumni Weekly. 
  2. ^ Biography at Worldreader.org, retrieved 27 October 2014
  3. ^ "A World of Books". HBS Alumni Bulletin.  Wayback Machine version cached here
  4. ^ Bezos, Jeff (2002-02-01). "Thank You, David Risher". Amazon.com. 
  5. ^ Ali Velshi (2010-08-10). "CNN's Ali Velshi interviews Worldreader.org's David Risher". CNN. 
  6. ^ Charlie Sorrel (2010-03-16). "Kindles Come to Classroom in Ghana". Wired. 
  7. ^ Geoffrey A. Fowler (2010-08-05). "Nonprofit Tries One-Kindle-Per-Child In Ghana". Wired. 
  8. ^ "Worldreader Clinton Global Initiative Commitment". Clinton Foundation. Clinton Foundation. Retrieved 6 October 2014. 
  9. ^ El Pais (2006-08-21). "Esade ficha a David Risher, ex vicepresidente de Amazon.com". 
  10. ^ "Es constitueix l'International Advisory Board". 2007-10-01. 
  11. ^ "Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation: David Risher". 
  12. ^ "Worldreader Literacy Ledger". 
  13. ^ "David Risher: The Quiet Revolutionary". 
  14. ^ Steven M. Zeitchik (2000-01-03). "Eleven for the Millennium". 
  15. ^ Advertising Age. "Ad Age Power 50".