SXSW: Basketball pro Shaquille O'Neal turns tech star

SXSW: Basketball pro Shaquille O'Neal turns tech star

He may be known as one of the best-known basketball players of his generation, but today Shaquille O'Neal was revealed to be one of the savviest tech investors of our time.

B&T Magazine
Posted by B&T Magazine

While the self-confessed "tallest geek in the world" might have made a fortune using his 7ft 1inch frame to score hoops, he also made a packet on the flotation of Google, and a multitude of projects since.

He is at the South by SouthWest festival to promote his latest investment Tout, described variously as a visual based version of Twitter, which has 150m followers.

Not that he doesn't use Twitter as well, he has 6.8m fans, and probably more aft his performance today, and more than 3m Facebook likes.

"Yesterday I was at the convention centre (at the trade show) and I thought I was at Toys R Us," was one of many quips which bought a laugh from the majority of the packed-out auditorium.

Indeed he is a master of using Twitter, revealing his formula to use it 60% of the time to "make you laugh", 30% of the time to inspire and 10% for self-promotion.

Indeed when he originally joined Twitter there was already a person imitating him there, and O'Neal said he had tracked him down and paid him a visit to "ask what's up", a terrifying thought for any would-be troll.

He lives by the mantra "image is reality", and works hard to present his true self, rather than the made-up personas a lot of celebrities pursue on social media.

"After I left college and got int basketball some people came in and said 'we want to create your image', but that wasn't real to me," he intoned.

"A lot of people get in trouble trying to be something they're not, the people who aren't real. If you try to act like something you're not it will catch up with you."

Describing himself as a "regular guy" he said befriending geeks at school, where he was a self-admitted "juvenile delinquent", teaching him how to use a computer on the army base he was bought up on.

"A lot of people told me I was no good and I would never amount to anything," he said. "Geeks made me realise I wasn't as dumb as I thought."

Talking about how he prompts his son to use the internet to help his studies he added: "I wish they had all the stuff we have now back then. I would have been the valedictorian."

And perhaps he's not overstating, having completed a PhD in Human resources, and also undergone police training at three different academies.

When asked about his impressive investment record O'Neal was quick to credit his team, admitting they had made it easy for him.

He also told a story of an early tech startup selling shoes online he undertook in 1995. "After we had set it up I realised I was ten years too early. My audience of inner-city kids didn't have computers back then."

That is also something he has helped change, providing 1,000 PCs for disadvantaged kids in his home town.

He also praised the work of techies, saying they did "a lot for us", saying he hoped his endeavours on the basketball court helped give something back to them.