At the end of his interview with the Stanford ecorner entrepreneurial course, Tim O’Reilly told a short version of who he got started, and how the O’Reilly publishing empire came to be.

Tim O’Reilly

Got out of college. Didn’t want to have a job. Wanted interesting work. Wanted a lifestyle business. O’reilly was a lifestyle business that got out of control. Interesting work for interesting people.

Started writing manuals and that started retaining the rights (Fortran manual). Turned into a publishing company. Big break was when Sun turned down a $25K license fee for their XWindows lib programming books, and then a year later they bought $1M dollars with of books.

Source licence – they had to copy and copy books themselves.
Buying individual copies costed about the same.

Getting deep into your customers problems is a big part of business.

Programming Perl was a top selling book that no one was talking about. Started a Perl conference just to promote perl. Found out conferences were a great way to promote the books and ideas they liked.

A big turning point was 2000, read Built to Last, BHAG. What ties everything I do in the world together. He wrote down ‘Changing the world by spreading the knowledge of innovators.’ And that helped Tim realize they werne’t just a publishing company. They were about finding interesting people, finding interesting ideas, and then publishing them. Drive everything they do.

Always looking for those ideas and transformation.

An ebook that was really helpful in this regard was:

‘Who do you want your customers to become.’ – Michael Schrage.

He makes the point that really great companies think about how they are going to transform the lives of their customers.

Henry Ford – didn’t invent the assembly line. He invented the driver.
He invented the weekend so people would have time to do drive cars.

All these ways he thought about changing people.

The iPhone isn’t just a piece of technology. It changed who we are. Google changed who we are. It didn’t just create a search engine, it created a population of people who take for granted they can find anything they need to know.

Very powerful idea.

So we sit there at O’Reilly and think about this. Who are we trying to change. People have these important ideas and I want the world to go in a new better direction. So I look for interesting problems to make the changes I would like to see happen.