A scientifically momentous few people have walked on the moon. Believe it or not, fewer people have a major network television show based upon their lives air while they are living.
Dubbed a “30-year overnight success,” Walter O’Brien was born the son of a humble dairy farmer in rural Ireland. So rural, in fact, he notes that they still don’t have Internet or cell phone coverage to this day.
O’Brien never fit in and always asked too many questions which, lucky for him, led to an IQ test. Yes, it’s higher than yours or mine – his reported 197 is one of the highest ever measured. O’Brien, now aware of his ability, would spend his adolescent years learning to code through trial and error, and by 13 he had deftly obtained NASA shuttle blueprints and successfully hacked NASA.
Proving resourceful, he “did a deal” and, rather than fight the NSA and Interpol, turned them into clients. He started his own consulting company—similar to today’s Geek Squad—utilizing his hacker handle of “Scorpion.” His Geek Squad would fix bad floppy disks, printers, and point-of-sale systems. According to O’Brien, he ultimately transformed his bankroll from 75 cents a week pocket money to $100 every time he fixed a problem.
O’Brien turned his high IQ and a predisposition for hacking into a successful pair of businesses—Scorpion Computer Services and Concierge Up. The former works on hush-hush projects with government agencies—building missile defense systems, capturing terrorists, and training soldiers—while the latter is a full-service agency for active entrepreneurs. Want to start or scale up a new business? Make your book a bestseller? Solve a medical or legal issue? Optimize the family business? The team of experts at Concierge Up will come on board and work with you as your personal super butler.
It’s the intrigue of Scorpion Computer Services that helped launch O’Brien’s celebrity. Hoping to parlay his passion for coding and computer science into something that could affect change in youth, he took his story to someone who knew Scorpion, Scott Manson, the COO of Scooter Braun Productions.
It became immediately clear that a reality show was out of the picture (cameras are rarely allowed in the places O’Brien conducts his business), so O’Brien and Scooter Braun Productions then took the idea for a “based upon” episodic action / crime procedural to Justin Lin (Fast & Furious, Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6) and his Perfect Storm production company, ultimately pitching the show to CBS.
“Getting 70 percent of my message to a billion people is far better than 100 percent of my message to nobody.”
Between Manson, Lin, producer Alex Kurtzman, and writer/showrunner Nick Santora, Scorpion was unlikely to fail. O’Brien did what he has always done—found the best people for the job and put them together to make something happen. He then reluctantly took a step back and let his team go to work.
Today, Scorpion is watched by 26 million people regularly in the U.S. alone and airs in 187 other countries. O’Brien notes that the show is only about 70 percent accurate but proclaims, “getting 70 percent of my message to a billion people is far better than 100 percent of my message to nobody.” He adds some humor to our conversation, noting that if the show gets something wrong, nobody dies.
Scorpion’s fourth season is preparing to air (coming to your TV or CBS All Access app this fall), which means a 100th episode, resulting in syndication (and big bucks for everyone involved). O’Brien hopes Scorpion stays on the air for as long as staples like Seinfeld or The Big Bang Theory. Unlike those shows, and most, Scorpion has decades of source material to work with.
When not saving the world or amusing the CBS demographic, O’Brien enjoys fast cars and antique watches. He always makes time to give back to his community, speaking regularly at hackathons and inner-city schools as well as in support of schools that emphasize STEM. He was the keynote speaker at the California Science Center’s Fair this year and recently received the Celebrity ICON Humanitarian Lifetime Achievement Award at unite4:good’s unite4:humanity gala.