"I'm not a big believer that your toaster will have Internet access," says the 38-year-old CEO and co-founder of DoubleClick, the leading ad network and online ad-serving company. "I haven't figured out why I'd want that."
In fact, he didn't even like the Internet when he first used it. "It was so slow," he recalls. "But the possibilities kept growing on me."
Despite his general skepticism, Mr. O'Connor says he does see the value in a few well-conceived ideas with the potential to better people's lives.
"The challenge is, out of 20 new ideas, finding the one technology that will really have an impact," he says. "Once I find that, I am very optimistic about how that technology will change the world."
Mr. O'Connor's search for life-changing technologies started early. "Since I was 12 years old, I've been obsessed with technology and how it can be used to solve human problems," he says. "I always knew I wanted to be an engineer. I got an engineering degree, and that taught me how to solve complex, abstract problems."
After receiving his degree from the University of Michigan, Mr. O'Connor created a software company that developed PC connectivity products. In 1995, he helped fund and build an Internet security software company and co-founded the Internet Advertising Network. Then, in February 1996, he started DoubleClick.
Mr. O'Connor's vision for DoubleClick is a lofty one: "What DoubleClick is all about is this unique hybrid between technology and media. Our belief is that technology will continue to play a growing role in vertical industries."
These days, Mr. O'Connor is embroiled in the online privacy debate. DoubleClick has taken most of the heat from privacy advocates and the Federal Trade Commission on behalf of the industry, which is struggling to develop government-approved standards for online data collection.
In the meantime, DoubleClick continues to maintain its market leadership by developing new services, such as the Sonar Network, a collection of small, unbranded Web sites.
Mr. O'Connor says DoubleClick will continue to evolve by focusing on finding that one good idea in 20. "Since I spend a lot of time with the new technologies, I often find myself with the final decision as to whether we go with something. It's easy to be blinded. It's not a perfect system, so maybe you miss a few big ideas. But you gotta' swing the bat before you get a hit. I think we've done a good job picking a few technologies to focus on."
The right technologies, including the Internet, he adds, will play a positive role in the future. Despite naysayers' concerns, he says, the Internet will enhance human interaction.
"I believe that every technology that becomes successful is always used for good purposes and great impact," Mr. O'Connor says. "I remember people saying the Internet would kill interpersonal communications. In fact, it has done the opposite. I write more letters to my mother in a week than I did in [the previous] 25 years."