Walter “Scorpion” O’Brien Responds to Critics

My podcast with Scorpion Computer Services CEO Walter O’Brien ended up sparking a lot of controversy.

Many skeptics asked pointed questions about Walter’s background, claims, and credentials (often pointing to pages like this or this). This is the first time I’ve run into such an issue with the podcast, so it’s taken me some time to figure out how to best address things.

I struggled with whether or not to take down the episode and associated blog post entirely.  In the end, I decided it was more instructive to leave the original up (with a new preface) and add an audio note to the beginning of the podcast (coming soon).

I’m hoping it will help us all improve, especially yours truly.

Here’s my post-game analysis…

The purpose of my podcast is to meet interesting people and attempt to distill tactics you can use. Part of that means taking occasional chances and risks. This episode qualified, and although I enjoyed the conversation, my prep process could have been better.

As context: Walter was originally introduced to me by several well-known names in finance who’ve used him to solve complex real-world problems with high stakes. I assumed they’d done extensive due diligence (which perhaps they did), and I did only a cursory pass myself.  This was anomalous behavior for me, and I’ve deservedly suffered blowback from a few listeners when I couldn’t answer many follow-up questions.  Lesson learned.

I do think there are valuable takeaways in this episode, but rather than sweep any confusion under the rug, I wanted to tackle it head on.

So, I reached out to Walter with the most common questions.

What I do know — Walter and Scorpion have handled large projects for very wealthy, high-performing clients whose judgment and expertise I generally trust.

What I don’t know and can’t seem to answer — Many of your questions.

To keep things simple, I e-mailed Walter to ask that he respond to some of his skeptics’ most common questions directly.  Below are his responses, which you can accept or reject. If you have follow-up questions, I encourage you to take it up with the man himself, as I don’t want to play go-between.

If you’d like to read comments on this episode from other listeners, here is the associated blog post.

As always, thank you all for your feedback.  It’s what makes me better.

[Note: If the below formatting is funky and hard to read, I also put it in Evernote here.]

Responses from Walter to Common Questions

“I am a public figure whose firm consults government, military, and Fortune 500 companies. It is standard practice that any work with these entities is under non-disclosure agreements. At the same time a television show with a fictionalized character with the my name and inspired by my earlier life contributes to the confusion.

To see my credentials and accomplishments in the press, you can review that here. We’ve also all seen recent press coverage of my contributions to national security and software appear hereherehere, and here.

You can also see explanations of the differences between the show and real life here and here. And anyone is welcome to write in to Scorpion Computer Services with questions.

To answer a few of the questions here and now using information you can find on the Scorpion Computer Services website:

Why does he claim 6th in the Olympiad but records show Ireland was 90th?

First, there are two different competitions: The Informatics Olympiad or “Information Olympics“, and separately the Wisconsin International Problem Solving competition.

You can see a photo of me with the team (on the right) at the Olympics and an original Olympiad in Informatics certificate of participation signed by the General Secretary of the Government of Mendoza, the President of the International Olympic Committee and the Secretary of Informatics and Development from the Secretary of Science and Technology of the Argentine National Presidency.

At the Wisconsin competition, I came first in Ireland in 1991 and 1992.
The Olympiad, in contrast, only publicly reported as a “team” or “country” event for the Irish National team. The rank is the average of the team members who competed for a given national team. There were three people on the Irish national team. When my score was averaged with the other two team members representing Ireland the Olympiad arrived at the “90th” place rank for the team.   
Why didn’t Walter get his IQ ratified my Mensa? 
What I know is that I took an IQ test at the age of 9 at my school. When I received the results the score read “197.” I, nor my parents understood the gravity of that result. It was just another test. Just another day. And we were back to farming. I do not, as a result, have any record of it or copy of the original paperwork.
The same explains why I didn’t get my IQ ratified by Mensa. 31 years ago I didn’t know what Mensa was.
Why do business records show him at a 1-10 million revenue company with 1-15 employees but he claims so much more?
These “business records” are not business records. They crawl the web to attempt a guess at financials, and deposit the information on anonymously edited “anyone-can-edit-at-any-time” websites. Because they’re guessing, these websites are inconsistent. These websites tend to show anywhere from one to thousands of contractors and a wide range of revenues.
Scorpion Computer Services started doing business in Ireland in 1988 as a “doing business as” under my name, Walter O’Brien. Since it began and was later incorporated I have owned– and continue to own– 100% of the company. It has no outside investors. The company is also privately held and doesn’t publicly report financials.
Helpful, circumstantial information exists to show some semblance of its size. One example: Scorpion Computer Services, Inc. is a sub-contractor to the $10 billion Aegis Missile Defense System. One written reference from a RAF Architect confirmed that ScenGen is deployed at the two largest U.S. military contract firms— one on the ballistic missile defense system and one on the command-and-control system.
For more on me please see the following detailed articles here and here.”

Please check out Tribe of Mentors, my newest book, which shares short, tactical life advice from 100+ world-class performers. Many of the world's most famous entrepreneurs, athletes, investors, poker players, and artists are part of the book. The tips and strategies in Tribe of Mentors have already changed my life, and I hope the same for you. Click here for a sample chapter and full details. Roughly 90% of the guests have never appeared on my podcast.

Who was interviewed? Here's a very partial list: tech icons (founders of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Craigslist, Pinterest, Spotify, Salesforce, Dropbox, and more), Jimmy Fallon, Arianna Huffington, Brandon Stanton (Humans of New York), Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ben Stiller, Maurice Ashley (first African-American Grandmaster of chess), Brené Brown (researcher and bestselling author), Rick Rubin (legendary music producer), Temple Grandin (animal behavior expert and autism activist), Franklin Leonard (The Black List), Dara Torres (12-time Olympic medalist in swimming), David Lynch (director), Kelly Slater (surfing legend), Bozoma Saint John (Beats/Apple/Uber), Lewis Cantley (famed cancer researcher), Maria Sharapova, Chris Anderson (curator of TED), Terry Crews, Greg Norman (golf icon), Vitalik Buterin (creator of Ethereum), and nearly 100 more. Check it all out by clicking here.