Kevin O’Connor is co-founder and former CEO of DoubleClick. DoubleClick is the world’s largest Internet advertising technology company and was recently acquired by Google. Prior to DoubleClick, Mr. O’Connor founded and developed several successful Internet businesses and is now the principal of O’Connor Ventures, a venture capital firm that provides funding for startups. For this interview we met with Mr. O’Connor in Santa Barbara, California to explore his thoughts on Internet entrepreneurship, venture capital, and success in life.
Kaizen: Before you went to college, you were a young man with an experimental turn of mind. Some of those experiments went well—and others didn’t?
O’Connor: Well, there was the one when I tried to build a hot air balloon and it was too windy, so I launched it in our garage and it caught on fire. It was about six o’clock on a Sunday morning, and all the hot ashes flew up in the rafters and almost burned the whole house down and killed the family. So I had to put everything out before anyone woke up.
Kaizen: What was your parents’ reaction to that?
O’Connor: My dad actually helped me build a new one, and we went out and launched it, but it was too windy and it burned up again. But it was outside. He was always very good on that. And the other time, I think I was building a rheostat and it was very, very hot and it caught the carpet on fire. I tried to hide it and somehow my dad always found everything I did. He was totally cool with it; he was fine. He liked the story and he was glad I didn’t kill anyone.
Kaizen: So rather than dampening your experimentalism, they took the risks and—maybe keeping an eye on things the way parents do—encouraged you down that road?
O’Connor: Yep. He never even kept an eye on me. I don’t know why. They were fairly conservative people, but I think my dad had a bit of a hidden wild streak in him.
Kaizen: So by the time you went to college you had years of fun experience with technology and great parental support?
O’Connor: Yep. My dad used to go out with me every garbage night. We’d go out and collect TVs and radios and anything with electronics. He used to help me do that.