Tuesday 18 December 2018

Silicon Valley pioneer O'Reilly may sell on firm

Kerryman Tim O'Reilly may sell or float his US-based learning and conferences firm, writes John Reynolds

Tm O'Reilly, founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media
Tm O'Reilly, founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media

Tim O'Reilly, an Irishman who has been described as the 'oracle' of Silicon Valley,' may float or sell his US-based publishing, conferences and online learning company. His business, O'Reilly Media, has annual revenues of about $200m.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent at his home in Oakland, California last week, the 64-year-old entrepreneur, who is a native of Co Kerry, said: "As I get older, I ask myself what my plan is for the future of the business.

"I'm not going to live forever. My kids don't really want to run it. I'm looking at lots of options.

"At the moment, I'm still running the business, but at some point I have to figure out what the ongoing structure might be. That might include going public, or it might include selling to the right buyer who is a long-term player.

"It's possible that our Safari online platform could be venturable. In this sector, we have seen the likes of Pluralsight valued at $2bn when it went public earlier this year, while back in 2015 Lynda.com was bought by LinkedIn for $1.5bn, and then Microsoft later bought LinkedIn.

"It's a bit complicated though. When I was younger I would have said I'd never sell the business."

O'Reilly, a Harvard University graduate whose family moved to San Francisco when he was a baby, started his firm with just $500.

The firm has never taken outside investment, and has almost always been profitable, although it had a rough patch in the wake of the dotcom bust, when it lost about half of its customers.

While niches such as scientific publishing have been known to generate profits of between 15pc and 40pc, O'Reilly declined to talk about the level of profits that O'Reilly Media earns.

"Pearson, which is our biggest competitor, but also a partner in our Safari platform," he said, earns profits of about 10pc, though it is a much larger player.

Among the users of the Safari platform are employees of companies including Google, Nike, Microsoft, Bloomberg and BMW, according to its website.

O'Reilly, who is said to have popularised the terms 'Web 2.0,' and 'open source,' also makes seed investments in startups through O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, which he founded with two partners.

He also revealed that he is an investor in The Long Term Stock Exchange, founded by entrepreneur Eric Ries, the creator of The Lean Startup Methodology and author of the associated best-selling book.

The Irishman is seen as a leading thinker in, and 'oracle' of, Silicon Valley as his company created the first commercial website and was making money from e-books and open source software up to 20 years before others did.

He retains a link here as his family is partially restoring Flesk Castle, near Killarney.

Sunday Indo Business

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