It’s been leaking out around the edges that O’Reilly has gotten into the venture business, but by SEC rules, we weren’t allowed to say so publicly until we had closed our fundraising. We did a first close late last year, and have already made four investments, but needed to stay mum until the final close. But now I can say it formally: we’ve launched a new venture fund called O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures.
O’Reilly has always done a bit of opportunistic venture investing, and actually had a small internal venture fund called O’Reilly Ventures. Some of our most successful investments over the years included GNN, sold to AOL, Likeminds, sold to Andromedia (which was sold in turn to Macromedia), Pyra (blogger.com), sold to Google, and ActiveState, sold to Sophos. We’re also investors in Collab.Net, Intalio, Sendmail, and Zope. This is the first time, though, that we’ve raised money from outside investors — a total of $51 million. Mark Jacobsen and Bryce Roberts are the managing partners. Our first three investments include Instructables, Chumby, and Wesabe.
We’re focused on the same kinds of opportunities we’ve always seen at O’Reilly: potentially disruptive technologies coming from outside the mainstream, often from enthusiasts who only later realize that they’ve created a new industry. Our company mission is “changing the world by spreading the knowledge of innovators.” We do that through books, magazines, online publishing and conferences, but sometimes, the right way to do it is to fund an entrepreneur to build something new and earthshaking.
P.S. We will always disclose when we’ve made an investment, and when we talk about the companies we’re invested in. But even more importantly, just as we’ve always done, we try to keep a church/state line between our technology activism and our investing or other business relationships. We’re far more interested in growing the whole of a new market than in giving particular advantage to any one company we’re affiliated with. Of course, we invest in companies because we think they’re doing something cool and important that will make them successful, and so we’re likely to talk about them, write about them, and feature them in conferences — but we’ll do the same for competitors that are just as interesting.