Peter Thiel is becoming a household name after this election and it’s a shame people are finding out about him as a result of controversy as opposed to the fact that he is one of the most astute technology investors anywhere. Right now the dominant topics surrounding Peter Thiel seem to be that he committed the horrible sin of publicly announcing he supported one of two candidates running for president in a democratic country. That sin however, is not what we’re interested in talking about. We’re interested in talking about what bets Peter Thiel has made that may turn out to be the next Facebook. For those of you that don’t know, Peter Thiel was the first outside investor in Facebook with a seed funding injection of $500,000 for 10.2% of the company.
If you look around out there for information on Peter Thiel you’ll uncover all kinds of interesting facts about him like how he pays students to drop out of school or that he thinks that we should be considering creating communities on the ocean that experiment with different social, political, and legal systems. Peter Thiel’s day job though is Founders Fund which is a $3 billion venture capital fund that invests in all kinds of exciting startups like SpaceX and Palantir. In addition to investments he makes makes alongside other VCs, he also has his own incubator called Breakout Labs.
Founded in 2012, Breakout Labs is an incubator that runs a very selective 2-year program that provides up to $350,000 in funding and support to companies with “radical” emerging technology ideas that are too speculative to interest your typical venture capital (VC) investor. We took a look at the Breakout Labs investment portfolio and found 20 blue sky investments Peter Thiel has made which may turn out to be the next big thing. Here is the list of the current investments made by Breakout Labs :
|Azitra||Microbiomes for skin disease|
|Arigos Biomedical||Organism cyropreservation|
|AVEtec||Harness tornado power|
|E3X Bio||Drug discovery|
|Entopsis||Nano enabled diagnostics|
|General Genomics||Enzyme engineering|
|G-Tech Medical||EKG for the gut|
|Ion Dx||Measuring proteins|
|Longetivity Biotech||Developing therapeutics|
|Maxterial||Biomimicry and coatings|
|nanoGriptech||Gecko inspired adhesive|
|Neumitra||Stress monitoring wearables|
|Opus 12||CO2 Recycling|
|Positron Dynamics||Antimatter propulsion|
|Seatrec||Thermoelectrics in the ocean|
|Siva Therapeutics||Nanorod therapies|
|ZymoChem||Synbio that “brews” chemicals|
In going through this list, there are some truly “radical” scientific ideas being explored. C2Sense is building a credit card sized “digital nose” that uses carbon nanotubes to “smell” fruit to see if it is ripe or “smell” meat, fish and poultry freshness. Positron Dynamics is working on antimatter which would give us a fuel source that could enable space travel at up to 40% of the speed of light. CyteGen has put together a dream team of world-renown researchers across eight major universities who will join the likes of Calico and Human Longevity in order to increase the human life span. AVETec is looking at creating controlled tornados that can then power turbines and generate nice clean electric power. Entopsis is using nanotechnology and machine learning to develop a single cost effective test which can detect cancer and diseases in urine or blood. Maxterial and nanoGriptech are both looking for inspiration from nature (called biomimicry) to develop new superior materials. Seatrec wants to build a floating platform that generates electricity from temperature differences in the ocean. Epibone uses your stem cells and 3D imaging in order to create custom bones that they “grow” in a proprietary bioreactor system. In short, every single one of these companies is working on truly moon shot technology applications that could change our future in a very disruptive fashion.
Savvy technologists often tend towards being eccentric, and Peter Thiel is no exception. He’s not afraid to take big calculated risks which is why he is so successful today. Breakout Labs is a remarkable business model because it allows technologists to pursue ideas that might never receive funding otherwise. Let’s hope that all the people who have decided to crucify Peter Thiel for thinking differently will also be aware that he is a promoter of innovation, a quality that made America what it is today. We must never stop innovating and we must not get in the way of those that do. If Silicon Valley is concerned about the effects of our future president on the development of technology, they may want to buddy up with the one technologist that we know for sure has the ear of our soon to be president.
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