SXSWi: Fireside chat – Jason Calacanis interviews Tim O’Reilly

Session: Friday 11th March 2011
Hashtag: #psych
Featuring: Jason Calacanis, Tim O’Reilly


The opening session for my SXSW experience was the Fireside chat — I just couldn’t pass up the chance to see Jason Calacanis interview Tim O’Reilly. I’m sure everyone has heard of these two big names in our industry – Tim’s company O’Reilly Media is well known for their book publishing, conferences and online courses.


These are both two very influential people in our industry – this was definitely shown by the packed out hall. I managed to get a pretty sweet seat in the second row – but it’s a pity that Evernote decided to lose my notes on this session :(


On O’Reilly Media and branding


Tim spoke about the O’Reilly beginnings, and one interesting point to note about the O’Reilly “animal” style branding, was that it was a “gift” from a graphic designer friend who happened to think their first book topic sounded like a strange animal.  In a time where similar style books were very serious and heavy, Tim realised that the animal illustrations perfectly encompassed the company and its vision.


TIm mentioned that the brand encompasses more than just the company – it’s about what it means to the people collectively.


How we innovate – People that focus on the big ideas


Tim spoke about his favourite startup – but what stuck with me most was that he was most interested in the people that chase the “big ideas”.  These are people that aren’t necessarily concerned with being the next billionaire, but entrepreneurs that focus on making a product that is truly great.


On companies like Facebook and Google, he mentioned:

“The reason I admire companies like Google or Facebook is because when you talk to Larry, or talk to Mark, you know there is somebody who is deeply wrestling with hard problems they really care about, and are not just trying to optimize that thing to make money.”



One of my favourite lines from Tim was that:

“Much innovation happens when people are just having fun”.

And this really rings home to me – people innovate best when they truly love the work they are doing, and are having a good time doing so.


On Larry Page returning to Google he mentioned that he thought “Google lost its way by trying to care too much for its business as opposed to caring about their users and their value to the world”, and he believes that Larry has the ability to bring the care back into what they were initially trying to do: the big idea.


Pattern recognition as a strength


When talking about what he thinks his one strength is he talks about pattern recognition – he mentions:

“I have some doubts about the future and where its going, and I see stories or people that kind of light up part of that future.”

And when a audience member asked him about how others could improve their own pattern recognition, he talked about having a wide outlook on things, with strong convictions, but loosely held.


Overall the session was a very interesting start to my SXSWi experience – though I’m not sure Calacanis asked more than 4 or 5 questions (Tim really knows how to tell a good story!). :)