How Tim O’Reilly bootstrapped O’Reilly Media with “happy accidents”

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Several readers have asked for transcripts of videos and I will start looking into that. In the mean time I’m including a summary.

1. The animal covers were done for free by an employees roommate. The design felt “better” then the ones that they paid a company to produce.

2. O’Reilly Media was bootstrapped with “$500 bucks of used furniture.”

3. O’Reilly Media was originally a consulting company. They had a huge consulting contract cancelled and it inspired them to publish their own stuff. They decided they wanted their own product to sell.

4. They focused on writing books that they thought were needed.

5. At first they were selling directly to consumers. O’Reilly Media was doing $7 Million in revenue before they were discovered by bookstores.

6. Tim O’Reilly said that early bits of ignorance that were helpful in getting them started. For example, the first books they produced didn’t have spines. They discovered people actually liked it because then the books could lay flat. Since they had a unique design that forced them to be displayed in a different way, they had their own shelves in book stores which helped them stand apart from their competitors.

Special thanks to Tim for coming on TSF. You can follow Tim on twitter @timoreilly.

For up to the minute startup news, follow us on twitter @startupfoundry.

  • Dexter Hurly

    Thanks Tim and Paul! This was a great story and really speaks to me. This is exactly where I’m at with my startup.

  • Bob

    I assume ‘They focused on writing books…’ instead of ‘The focused on…’ and that the books didn’t have ‘spines’ rather than ‘spins’.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, I got it fixed.

  • Great post. O’reilly’s books were a godsend when I got heavily into web programming in 94-95.

    I bet the book publishing industry is going to go through a similar upheaval once the ebook fully catches on.

  • Awesome Paul!!! Great interview!

  • Joe Bonansinga

    Thank you Tim and team – for the access to all the great knowledge in your books through the years… and for 2 bookshelves full of Java Purple, Perl Aqua, Unix Pink, Linux Brown, Windows Blue and Nutshell Red. 🙂 eBooks stink… you can’t show them off.

  • Xenophod

    Copy editor needed!

    “better” THAN, not “better” THEN

    “The animal covers were done for free by an employees roommate. The design felt “better” then the ones that they paid a company to produce.”

  • Great interview, really enjoyed it! I didn’t realize that Tim’s company had a pivot, it seems like most of the best ones do! Look forward to future interviews with thought leaders, thanks for doing these!

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  • Love the interview! So much fun to hear from guys who have done well and have bootstrapped themselves.

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