Trey Lockerbie (00:02:51):
Very interesting. So, I want to talk about the origin of Lux a little bit. Were you always at polymath like this? Because as I understand it, you started Lux kind of more focused on hard sciences and it seems to have broadened quite a bit from there. So how does the origin of Lux look compared to today?
Josh Wolfe (00:03:09):
Well there’s constraints in pursuits of things, and then there’s nudges. And so I’d say my own personal push and nudges have been really born out of intellectual competition. So, I find something that I think other people don’t yet know about and I have a natural propensity and interest to pursue that. And particularly if I think that I and our team can know something that others don’t know. So that has pushed us into new spaces. And then the constraint is often negative feedback, whether it’s from internal or my partner, Peter, who I trust a lot, in shaping what we might go and pursue and go out after.
Josh Wolfe (00:03:39):
And so, there’s times where I might go down a rabbit hole into something that feels really far afield, and I’ve got people that, thankfully, will pull me back. And so we’re always trying to protect the core of what we began with at Lux, which is really cutting edge emerging technology and things that other people don’t understand oftentimes has a hue of complexity to it that might scare people away. And we’re generally drawn towards those things that others are not looking at because, we always like to talk about these arrows of inevitability and these arrows of impossibility. The errors of inevitability are being students of history and looking at the way that technology trends are likely to evolve. Even if it doesn’t point specifically to a precise entrepreneur, or a precise company, you have a very high probability being correct if you follow that technological trend, that arrow of progress.
Josh Wolfe (00:04:20):
And when it intersects with what we call these hours of impossibility, which is a measure but other people think it’s possible or likely, it’s a beautiful thing particularly because if everybody else is massively underestimating how advanced something is, where they have all been informed and subscribed to a narrative which we believe is not true, then we’re entering typically at a low price because the crowd isn’t there. And so, it’s entirely driven by two things, a desire to be right and have social currency, and reputational currency by knowing things that other people don’t know, and then oftentimes that intersecting, although it’s not always with making money because you were right.
Josh Wolfe (00:04:52):
And so, that’s also a balance of wanting to be right versus wanting to be rich. And sometimes my desire for the former can hurt our results in the latter and that’s why we’ve got a team.
Trey Lockerbie (00:05:03):
Yeah that idea of, you want the consensus, but you don’t want it right away, early on. You want it eventually.
Josh Wolfe (00:05:09):
Yeah, exactly. We always say that, we don’t want to be contrarian for contrarian sake, we want people to agree with us just later. And a lot of what we’ve pursued is, if you take something like metamaterials, this is a breakthrough in physics, it allowed for being steering electromagnetic waves without moving parts, and we can talk about that later as it relates to say space communications and antennas, but that started with a breakthrough in physics that was poorly understood by many, and then it had all of these end applications in all of these different markets that frankly we knew nothing about. And then you get deep because you understand where’s the white space? What’s the unmet need?
Josh Wolfe (00:05:38):
What are the criteria in performance and price that a product has to have so that it can be competitive in that market? And you start to learn about the players, their interests, where there are some costs from incumbents, where incumbents are motivated to compete, and a simple breakthrough in technology can suddenly provoke the questions of, how is this going to be adopted or rejected by industry? And it can lead you to figure out who the winners and losers are likely to be.
Trey Lockerbie (00:06:02):
This is a perfect example of how this conversation could go so many different ways. Because with that metamaterials example, which as I understand, it was a new co that you guys developed from scratch almost just after finding one in particular, very smart individual who had uncovered this technology. So, were you recognizing the optionality of that early on or were a lot of these things happy accidents along the way?
Josh Wolfe (00:06:24):
Well most scientific breakthroughs are happy accidents that we ascribe this linear narrative to. In metamaterials, as with anything, all new discoveries I contend come from combinations of old, and this was a combination of physics and micro-electronics and electromagnetic research, electromagnetism. And the early progenitors of this were, not just one individual, and this is a theme that is recurrent now increasingly so, but many individuals and often at the same time. And so even if you look over the past 150 years, some of the great breakthroughs that we, ascribe, whether it’s theory of relativity or whether it is the invention of the radio, or TV, or Darwin’s theory of evolution, there were lots of people involved in those discoveries, and we tend to give the great man theory, so that we give credit to one individual and they get the alpha status and credit.
Josh Wolfe (00:07:11):
But increasingly, and as evidenced by the number of authors on any given scientist paper for a breakthrough, whether that’s something that’s involved in say deep mind using AI to look at the combinatorial space in biotech for new molecules, or protein folding, or whether that’s for some breakthrough in metamaterials, you used to have one or two, or three authors, or maybe there was a lead principal investigator, what we call PI, who’s the head of the lab, who’s typically the last author on the paper and they give all first author credit to the junior people who actually did all the work, but don’t get any pay. And increasingly now it’s like a 100 people on a paper. And the list of asterisks and crosses that denote all the different institutions or companies in some cases that they might be part of, is just a multiple of what it used to be even a decade ago.
Josh Wolfe (00:07:54):
So, success has many fathers, failures an orphan, there truly is, in scientific success, many, many mothers and fathers that are involved in this. So in that case of metamaterials, it was John Pendry at Imperial College, it was David Smith at Duke. The former was focused on the theoretical aspects of these metamaterials, which was, how do these materials that don’t exist in nature have performance capabilities that can do things that we’ve never seen before? And so the big holy grail, which being from the UK, the BBC picked up on was, the idea of an invisibility cloak that wavelengths of light might bend around an object. The object would physically be there, but it would be undetectable at the visual wavelength that we see things in.
Josh Wolfe (00:08:31):
And so they were, Harry Potter, invisibility cloak, very BBC. It turned out that the physical reality of that does not lend itself to invisibility, but it does lend itself to beam steering with no moving parts. And the reason that that would be important is if you were doing communications with a satellite instead of having a big parabolic dish that tracks a geostationary satellite as we move, that satellite is locked onto a position on earth. Increasingly you want to be able to just switch off to satellites the same way that we switch off our cell phones as you navigate through a city, going from tower to tower your phone doesn’t have a mechanical antenna that is looking for it, it’s electronically steerable. And so it’s the same phenomenon, and that just was never possible before until these materials were embodied into a flat cleaner surface, that’s basically an iPad.
Josh Wolfe (00:09:13):
And yeah, that took off in a company called Kymeta that we funded and I served on the board with Bill Gates. And then it lend itself to all these other applications that we never imagined.
Trey Lockerbie (00:09:27):
I’m glad he brought up Bill Gates, he’s someone we’ve talked about often on the show, given that it’s called, We Study Billionaires, and he’s been the richest man in the world for many decades until late. But, I’d love to just kind of quickly take the scenic route a little bit over here and … what it was like to work directly with Bill Gates, because as I understand it, you’ve now worked with him on a number of different companies. So what’s maybe something you’ve learned personally from him or something that, maybe about him that you feel has helped set him apart?
Josh Wolfe (00:09:54):
Well I think he’s one of the few people that I’ve heard very articulately get to the 90/10 of something in like seconds. By which I mean, whether it’s a board deck, or whether it’s a technical breakthrough, or whether it’s the key business decision that has to get made, there might be 100 things that need to be discussed, 90 of them don’t matter. 90 of them are BS or are non-consequential and he’s able to zero in on the 10 things that are really of consequence. And then I think there’s an appreciation for the uncertainty that might surround those 10 things. The things that tend to be very important don’t necessarily have clear, absolute views of what you ought to do.
Josh Wolfe (00:10:28):
And so then it’s sort of a probabilistic exercise of like, okay, why would we not do this? Or why would we do this? And what would be the pros and the cons? And I’ve seen many people that more conservative at saying like, “Okay, this is going to cost another 50 or $100 million to turn over that next car,” if you were to think of this for poker terms. And he would look and say, “Well, okay, the cost of doing that is known and let’s see, even apply multiple to it.” you know obvious jokes that everything times pie in time and money. But what if we don’t do that? What if a competitor does that and what would be the consequence if they were to capture the market share and the economic value associated with that? And so more often than not, he has given the license to founders and management to say, “We really should aim high and go for that thing.”
Josh Wolfe (00:11:08):
Now, he is in a position, and this is something that I’ve always been mindful of, feeling like on the one hand we are partners and co-investors, on the other hand I’m like a guy with a short stack at the poker table. Because, Bill has for all intents and purposes, infinite capital, and we have finite capital with duration of typically 10, give or take a few years. And so, there’s a little bit of incentive mismatch in that, Bill can play the poker game all night long and not run out of cash. And so we might be guiding the company towards milestones like, “Okay, we need to hit this milestone so that we can reduce risk and show that something works so that we can attract new investors.” And Bill would typically say like, “Why do I need new investors? I don’t need any external validation. I don’t need to report to LPs. I can just keep funding the company.”
Josh Wolfe (00:11:52):
And so, that is obviously not something that’s a learned lesson that the average person can take away, but I do think that the learned lesson that you can take away from watching Bill is, getting to the 90/10 of something very quickly. And of the 10%, the things that have high degrees of uncertainty weighing the risk and deciding let’s go for the bigger, more consequential thing. His persona in private, in boardroom, is a bit different than the public persona. He’ll speak freely, he’ll curse. He will chew somebody down pretty quickly. So I think anybody that’s in a room knows that they’re sort of guarded for an intellectual battle, not one of ego that it’s ad hominem, but you have to defend an idea.
Josh Wolfe (00:12:26):
I’ve never heard him attack a person but I’ve heard him say, “That is the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard.” And then people might be defensive and you either have to defend that and he’ll be like, “Okay, good point.” Or you have to concede that he’s right and it’s a stupid idea.
Trey Lockerbie (00:12:38):
I love that. Well, keeping it back focused on an investment, I’m curious one, what you think are maybe the tenets of a great investment and maybe what you’ve seen from Bill and what he’s seeing as what makes a great investment. Is there any overlap there, or do you have different philosophies?
Josh Wolfe (00:12:55):
I think that there are two things that we both prize, which is, the primacy of technology and being able to do something that you can’t do, we are both psychotically competitive in very different ways. Bill has established, but I think is still, to this day, in that sort of classic revenge of the nerds case, a very competitive person. He’s way more diplomatic, and I think has been publicly groomed for a very long period of time. So whereas, I might disagree publicly with Elon and you’ll even see Elon take on Bill, and take jabs, Bill never does that. He finds the sort of almost presidential high ground, and maybe except when it came to some of the antivaxxers or things where he truly felt it was detrimental to public health.
Josh Wolfe (00:13:35):
But I think the primacy of technology and competitive advantage related to the technology, things that you can do that nobody else can do, and then the people, he has always been a big believer in giving management the rope to go and either build or hang themselves. And I’ve been surprised at that. I think other board members that I’ve seen have held management a little bit tighter, a little bit more accountable, and I think being a founder, Microsoft grew because he was able to have relatively free reign to make big, aggressive, strategic decisions, often extremely competitively, and not really have to answer to a board in a way that many companies with older boards that think they know better than the founder might.
Trey Lockerbie (00:14:13):
That is interesting because yeah, it’s easy to assume that with that kind of money and success and ego, even, and experience, you would be tempted to apply that to the people you’re investigating and not let them be as autonomous as maybe you have. So that’s an interesting point. Bill’s also very interested in nuclear and I am as well. I’m just kind of hopeful for that for the future of energy. And you’ve got experience in the space as well and I’d like to just maybe take a minute and explore what the future of nuclear looks like in your opinion,
Josh Wolfe (00:14:44):
In part the future of nuclear is going to look like the past, or I think ought to, but we’ll get to that in a second. Bill funded a company called TerraPower, which is a traveling wave nuclear reactor and he was quite bullish on that. And frankly pre COVID and pre some of the tensions between US and China, it looked probable that China was going to become a big, early customer. But we spent a few years going back 10 years here at Lux looking at every part of the nuclear fuel cycle and studying it. And we did this as an exemplar of, while I was discussing before being intellectually competitive and looking where other people were looking, everybody in the venture world, going back to the early 2010s, was looking at clean and green, and they were looking at biofuels, ethanol, batteries, electric vehicles, wind solar, things that were mostly talked about in Al Gore’s movie of the time An Inconvenient Truth, which helped to light a fuse under the movement.
Josh Wolfe (00:15:30):
And it became a little bit of a religious movement, most of the people praying at the altar really did not talk about nuclear. Nuclear still had a, what I would consider, generational and celebrity taboo, the generational being going back to the ’60s and ’70s, and the celebrity being people like Neil Young and Patty Smith who were rockers of the day, who basically were singing at concerts, being like no nukes. And there was a conflation for the ever everyday person that no nukes as a form of nuclear weapon versus no nukes in the form of power, which is clean and green, and at the time nobody was really focused on low carbon. And so the conflation of nuclear war and nuclear power, I think, has set us back many generations. I think it’ll take another 50 years really until we see widespread nuclear use.
Josh Wolfe (00:16:12):
So we looked at every part of the nuclear fuel cycle, we decided that uranium miners were mostly hucksters and fraudsters, as many mining companies are in Nevada and Montana. And we basically said, leave that to somebody else. And the other unique thing about nuclear, as opposed to say oil and gas, was a characteristic that, the marginal price of the input in oil or gas is basically defined by your marginal cost of extraction, and it’s what guides markets. The marginal price of uranium is just a very small percentage of the total operating cost for nuclear. Most of it is the operations, the regulations, the CapEx that goes into the physical equipment, the maintenance, the human labor, it’s a very different construct. It’s a small sub single digit, single digit percentage so that when uranium fluctuates as it did going back a decade from like 25, to 30, to $70 per pound of uranium, it didn’t matter.
Josh Wolfe (00:17:01):
And so, we did not look at the mining people, we did look at modular reactors, and while Bill Gates had funded that in TerraPower, and there were probably six or seven other different constructs for efficient modular reactor instead of building a Gigawatt power plant that might cost $1 billion and could serve a million people. The idea was, could you build something that was smaller, maybe a $100,000 or $1 million and build hundreds of them? And put on powers you need in a very modular way. I think it’s a great idea, I just unfortunately think that it’s going to take a very long time, you’re going to have to have safety and approval and manufacturing. You also increase the chance that there’s a risk on any one thing that creates a failure point that could actually triple everything which normally in a redundant system you would be okay with, but in this you’re increasing more failure points.
Josh Wolfe (00:17:42):
The history of traditional nuclear power, particularly in the US is somewhere between exceptional and extremely exceptional. You had Three Mile Island, which was a disaster, zero people died. There was more evidence of the efficacy of the fail safe systems that basically shut the system down. That also, unfortunately, happened to coincide with the movie The China Syndrome. So this is going back to 1979, I think. And again, it captured the zeitgeist of a nuclear down, and so that was just unfortunate. In contrast, Chernobyl was an absolute certifiable disaster, and that’s been well documented literally in documentary or a dramatized movie, I think on HBO or Showtime about Chernobyl and I think it really talks not so much to the engineering failure, but to the human failure of being able to report truthfully up a chain of command to prevent things from getting worse.
Josh Wolfe (00:18:26):
And then Fukushima was also a disaster, less a human disaster, maybe you can say it would be the equivalent here of like an army Corps of engineers, but in failing to anticipate this super low, negative, back swan event, a super low probability high magnitude consequence, it wasn’t nuclear failure, it was a failure of the architecture to be able to prevent a breach from a tsunami. And so, that set it back, but already you see Japan beginning to restart and rebuild for nuclear. So one would’ve imagined that that would’ve been a generation or two before people would embrace nuclear again, already they are. You’re seeing the consequences both in energy scarcity in Europe, the rise of the green party, and Germany the increased leverage has given Putin in Russia with natural gas pipelines. France has, always generated about 80% of its electricity.
Josh Wolfe (00:19:09):
Southern California had shut down nuclear power plants and had to import electricity from Arizona, which was producing it by a nuclear. And so unfortunately the religious zeitgeist around no nukes has, I think, created some worse devils in the world. And I believe that the future is going to be a combination of speculative investment that is going into phishing, primarily large dollars will go into fusion. I expect that, of course, there’s a very low probability that many of those things will ever actually produce energy. Obviously this entire planet is premised on receipt of power from a fusion reactor, that is the sun, but I’m more skeptical about it being on a timeline that’s investible. And so I would advocate that there just needs to be a rebranding of nuclear. I talk about it as elemental power.
Josh Wolfe (00:19:51):
So people could talk about the sun, which they like the wind that they like. So solar and wind. You could talk about natural gas to an extent, and then you could talk about uranium, this wonderful yellow rock that, when enriched slightly can boil water with no carbon released and turn turbines and produce beautiful, clean electricity. As I joke that if elemental power were discovered, in recent weeks, we would be screaming with joy and it would grace every cover of every publication, exalted that we just solved the climate crisis. So, I think it more than any engineering or investment, it just needs a rebranding and zeitgeist to capture young people, advocate and demand for elemental power, and I think that would be the best thing for society.
Trey Lockerbie (00:20:30):
I love it. And I love that you get to live in the future so much, exploring the companies you’ve invested in, there’s such a broad range, but they’re all very futuristic and exploring these really big goals. And I can’t think of anything more futuristic than the future of space. So I’d like to walk through a couple of the prospects for space, Florida, for example, is very interesting because as I understand it, it’s setting out to essentially establish manufacturing in space. So, maybe talk to us about why we need manufacturing in space.
Josh Wolfe (00:20:58):
Well, it’s why we need anything. I mean, why do you need an iPhone? Or why do you need internet? You don’t know that you need it until you have it and then you can’t live without it. I think the premise of manufacturing something in space, which really when we even first thought about it, seemed quite absurd. It was akin to some things that we had seen some years ago, which was like space mining that you were going to send vessels or probes out to be able to collect rare materials and we never got around to funding that, we thought it was a little bit too [inaudible 00:21:24]. This was interesting because you had people that had out of SpaceX, they were super deep engineers and entrepreneurs.
Josh Wolfe (00:21:30):
There were two founders Delian and Will. Will came from SpaceX, Delian as a partner at Founders Fund and making pretty cutting edge investments. And their hypothesis was relatively simple. One, when you look at the input costs, each of the elements was dropping precipitously. And so it was at least allowing the possibility of more experiment. The main input costs were rocket launches. So SpaceX’s continue to plummet increasing competition from Rocket Lab and others only mean that that trend will exacerbate. So the cost per kilogram to launch something up into space was dropping. Increasing communication systems, some of which we’ve invested in, increasing software and logistics to be able to manage launch operations, increasing engineering talent that come out of SpaceX with very high expectations. In this case, I think actually well set by Gwynne Shotwell and Elon.
Josh Wolfe (00:22:13):
Be able to move and iterate very rapidly against, slower incumbents. And so that culture, the combination of available technologies, the launch capabilities, better software optics positioning, all of that has just allowed a 1,000 flowers to bloom. And so you have people that are launching small satellites. We’ve invested in some of those companies like Planet, that’s now going public, capturing imagery thrice daily on earth. You have people that are launching communication satellites to cover the internet, to cover the globe with high speed internet particularly for on the move planes, trains, ships, boats, et cetera. And so they said, “Well, what if we launched a bus,” not a transportation bus, but a term of phrase used in the space industry, “that’s basically a vessel that would be able to house something that could manufacture exotic materials that inverse to the launch costs where you want cost per kilogram to be very low here.” Here you want the cost per kilogram to be very high.
Josh Wolfe (00:23:03):
You want to be able to make something where it’s an exotic material, maybe special doped fiber optic cable, for example, maybe pharmaceuticals or certain compounds that there’s some advantage in either the rate of production, or the output of what you are producing and doing it without gravity. And that the way to achieve low gravity is not by being on one of these very expensive, and short time period vomit comets that you see, but to actually have something in lower orbit. And then the question is, if you can make that, which is the first test, and that is still a question. It’s a hypothesis, but it’s what we are in the business of.
Josh Wolfe (00:23:34):
We believe that that is a risk, it’s a hard one. If they are able to successfully launch, and they’ve already contracted with Rocket Lab for the bus and SpaceX for launch, and be able to produce their first set of products, which I don’t know if they publicly talked about what that is, but it’s along the lines of some exotic doped material. And then have a capsule that is able to capture that and take it back down and deliver it to earth, then you have really advanced towards what I would consider the Bezosian vision as opposed to the Muskian vision. The Bezos vision says, let’s take some of the industries that are on an earth that are as many of our robotic efforts go after, dull, dirty, dangerous, take them off earth as opposed to escaping earth, to go to another planet.
Josh Wolfe (00:24:13):
And much more in that Bezos camp, I think that there will be exotic things that are manufactured in low earth orbit, in low gravity. They will have high dollar value per kilogram, and the people that are able to develop those are going to have, for some period of time, a monopoly. And then they will parlay that into an increasing interesting portfolio suite of products.
Trey Lockerbie (00:24:34):
When we’re saying manufacturing, obviously it’s such a broad word, my mind goes to 3D printing. Which you’re also invested in other companies. So I’m curious, is there some overlap there, or some synergy there between the 3D printing aspect in this company?
Josh Wolfe (00:24:50):
Well the number one overlap is that you don’t have humans in the loop. You might have humans designing software, designing the machines, but these are basically things that are autonomously printing or making stuff. And so, if Varda has a sequence of steps in a mechanically engineered system that can operate and offset effects of gravity and rotation and then produce a thing, being a little bit circumspect and then be able to have that thing go into almost off a conveyor belt, it’s not actually a conveyor belt, into a vessel and drop that back down, that’s really interesting. If you think about what 3D printing is, it is akin to our 2D printers of course, but in a Z dimension. So not just X, Y dot matrix printers that evolved into laser printers, but now you’re physically adding layers.
Josh Wolfe (00:25:31):
So that is oftentimes why the less sexy nomenclature may be more timeless of additive manufacturing. And we have a whole slew of companies in this, Desktop Metal run by Ric Fulop who’s an amazing entrepreneur former venture capitalists, started this business to say, we’re not going to just do trivial trinkets, and plastic pieces, and small parts and, gamers and hobbyists kind of stuff. We really want to change the economics of manufacturing for certain specialty industries. So this might be an impeller for a water pump for a BMW car. This might be part of a GE turbine for a jet engine. It might be something like Tiffany’s and the entire jewelry line that they produced using handcrafted artisans that you might be able to do on just a handful of machines.
Josh Wolfe (00:26:12):
And he decided that they were going to build a small desktop machine, a medium size, and then this large, main event, so to speak, which is a full production system. And what started as this entirely speculative thing now has just hundreds of machines being sold around the world and dozens of major customers, and it is changing the economics of how you manufacture things. Then we have another company called Shapeways, which is actually partnered with them, and I think even today it was publicly announced. There are some people who say, “I can’t afford one of these desktop machines, but I would love to be able to use it.” And so there’s a long tail of people that won’t be able to buy the machines themselves, but want to be able to access the capability.
Josh Wolfe (00:26:47):
And so a company like Shapeways, you can think of them as like a Kinkos, I’m the chairman of the board, they’re now publicly traded, but you can think of them as, we don’t make the equipment, we’re going to use the equipment and then we’re going to figure out, of all the orders that are coming in, whether they’re from small, medium sized businesses, or a long tail of individuals that are trying to make something, we can figure out algorithmically how to put all of these orders into one batch that a single machine can print 40 orders instead of doing them serial one by one. And it’s a beautiful thing to watch, but the common thing amongst all these is you’re basically, for all intents purposes, hitting a button and watching this thing go and do its thing, and the main job of people is generally to make sure that other people aren’t touching these machines.
Josh Wolfe (00:27:27):
I think this is the future of manufacturing across a whole range of industries. You look at the current supply of logistics problems that are coming in ships lined up in ports and generally low cost manufacturing in one part of the world in Asia, another part of the world say in South America or Africa where raw materials are being sourced in mind and then sent to Asia so that they can then be packaged based on IP that was basically emailed over from Cupertino St. Apple. All of that is going to start to change. You’ve had 30 or 40 years of that process, and increasingly you are going to be able to manufacture much closer to where the customers are, and you’re going to be able to bypass the ships. Not with 99.9% of stuff for a long time, but for 0.1% of global products there will be increasing penetration where you put the printers near the customers, and the customer just orders by basically emailing a file, and the file is printed. And that thing is delivered locally.
Trey Lockerbie (00:28:18):
Another space company that our listeners might be also interested in because it is going public it looks like, is Planet or Planet Labs. And this is an interesting one because, that’s one of those things that someone like me never thinks about a shortage of imagery of the earth. I wasn’t aware that there was such a demand for something like that. But talk to us about the prospect of Planet Labs and maybe why the investors should be interested in that spec deal that’s happening.
Josh Wolfe (00:28:44):
First of all the founders were amazing, Will Robbie and Chris, Chris actually was just on a Bezos rocket with William Shatner and evidence that the decreasing gap between science fiction and science fact just keeps getting smaller and smaller, to actually ride to space with captain Kirk, I think was pretty cool. But these are the kinds of people that Lux loves to back, right? People that are dreaming of science fiction and then making it real. So these were three guys that basically said, “We hear all the about more computing power inside of your cell phone than there was in the Apollo, eight, nine, 10, 11 missions, well what if we actually took these cell phones and launched them up into space?” And so they created these small cube stats and on rockets in the desert, in California, ended up launching these phones and to take pictures, and basically have them record.
Josh Wolfe (00:29:24):
And sure enough, a few survived, they came back. Three of them were called Alexander, Graham and Bell, to be cute, and that became the early origin of Planet Labs, at the time it was called Cosmology and then it became called Planet Labs, then it became called Planet. They would end up buying, Google had a satellite division that they bought called Sky Box, which was doing slightly higher resolution images with larger cube sat, maybe the size of a fridge, and also taking 30 frames per second video. And they have a whole suite of products now that are basically competing with like Maxar, which was Digital Globe and others that preceded it.
Josh Wolfe (00:29:57):
And they’re taking three daily images of the earth so they’re able to what used to be, if you pulled up like Google maps a few years ago, you would look at an image and maybe you’re standing next to your neighbor’s house and on Google maps, it was like three, four, five year old imagery, right? It was like a sand lot or something. And today you’re able to get imagery three times a day of almost every spot on the earth. You don’t need to task a satellite as a government or an Intel agency would, and basically say, go over there and look what’s going on. And so that’s a great thing, generally if you believe that technology can be in the service of revealing truth and shining sunlight on things, whether that’s a humanitarian crisis, whether that is agriculture or climate issues, whether that is nuclear silos in China, movements of troops in the Russian Ukraine border.
Josh Wolfe (00:30:41):
Any signs of human rights abuses, it has become an invaluable tool and literally a God’s eye in the sky. And then the data that is coming off of that platform is increasingly valuable because you can do longitudinal analysis on it over time, looking at, something from a day, six hours or six months and see and detect change. And then that change is important for investors because they can look at everything from a number of cars in a parking lot, as a proxy for retail sales at a Walmart, or a Lowe’s, or Home Depot. They could look at shipping yards and progress, or lack thereof. It gives you better sense of quite literal ground truth. Today, run by CEO Kevin, who is serving as president, an incredible product guy from Twitter and Instagram, and just understands how to take technology and make it available to the masses. So yeah, very optimistic and bullish on them and their prospects and their place in the ecosystem.
Trey Lockerbie (00:31:33):
Well that certainly gives a little bit more color to the Tam potential for a company like that. I mean, almost an infinite, it sounds like, as far as who wouldn’t want that kind of knowledge and how broad ranging it can be. What about the concern about just, these are micro satellites up in the sky but, how many are we talking about long term? And is there ever a concern about the cluster forming around the earth and kind of debris, so to speak, building up?
Josh Wolfe (00:31:57):
Well, every new technology solves a problem that prior technologies might have caused, and then in itself becomes a problem for future technologies to solve. So, there are scientists, astronomers that are complaining about, say Starlink or satellites that Starlink is launching, a virtue of Starlink, it will beam down static satellite internet, others OneWeb and beyond will do mobile. And so there will be a lot of assets up in space. That itself invites new opportunities so we’ve already funded a company that is actually co-founded by Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, that is tracking things in space and using a combination of both off the shelf publicly available satellite data, and then actually probes themself that are visually tracking and identifying objects.
Josh Wolfe (00:32:41):
Now that’s going to be really useful, not only for protecting your own assets, if you are a private company or like Planet, or SpaceX, or Starlink, or if you’re a government that is trying to detect sabotage of assets or potential threats. And there is a space war beyond a space race when China blew up a weather satellite nearly a decade ago, they were showing a kinetic capability, they were not blowing up their own weather satellite. They were showing what they could do to any other sovereign satellite system. And there’s just a lot of competition, a lot of interests competing over private space stations, where assets are. We had a US surveillance satellite that was looking at a China surveillance satellite, and the China surveillance satellite was able to do a quick navigation maneuver, and this was probably reported about two weeks ago.
Josh Wolfe (00:33:24):
So it’s pretty wild and it is the sci-fi vision of, Star Wars and Space Race that is already underway. It’s very sophisticated engineering software, it quite literally is rocket science, and I think it’s a frontier that is going to define a lot from communications to governments and sort of everything in between. So, geopolitically quite critical.
Trey Lockerbie (00:33:47):
Yeah let’s go there next because, as you described it, there’s obviously that defense appeal to the technology at hand with Planet. I’ve heard you talk about being anti-war, but pro defense. So maybe walk us through this framework and how you use it for your investment decisions.
Josh Wolfe (00:34:07):
Well, the default morality that we look at, the lens of technology that we fund, is a very simple question which is, is it reducing human suffering? And, you could look at something like Facebook and say, pro or con, is this good for society or bad for society? Is it good for teenage girls or bad for teenage girls? Is it good for distant relatives or bad for … and a lot of it is, it depends on what the incentives of the system are. Well it’s the same thing when we fund a breakthrough cancer detection technology, or a cancer drug, there’s very little question if we’re reducing human suffering. When it comes to defense, it’s a tougher question.
Josh Wolfe (00:34:39):
Is what we are funding, particularly if it is literally involved in a kill chain, doing something to reduce human suffering? Now, I would argue that in some of our companies where they’re able to use artificial intelligence to dissect aerial imagery, whether that’s from a plane, or a drone, or a satellite, and discriminate between a honest, hardworking father, who’s coming home from a field with a pick ax over his shoulder, and a malevolent, violent extremist who has an AK-47 over their shoulder and are going to a school of girls to either shoot them up or kidnap them, there is a very clear, I think, moral use of force in reducing human suffering.
Josh Wolfe (00:35:19):
And so, being able to use technology to understand, again, better ground truth and have more precision, which I think is something that has been a trend over time, the sort of directional era of progress, we have greater and greater moral precision, the more technological precision you have. And so, that has just made me generally supportive of wanting to see good technology in the hands of good people at a time when we have peer competitors where it is very clear, if you take China and specifically authoritarian CCP, China, not the Chinese people, nobody wants crypto or satellite imagery, or social media, or technology more than Xi Jinping.
Josh Wolfe (00:36:02):
It is very clear that these, in the same way, Shakespeare might have said that, “Tis nothing, either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” It really depends where, and in whose hands the technology, advanced technology is. And so, I feel that there’s a moral imperative, not only to invent technology, but to make sure that it’s in the hands of the women and men who are quite literally on the front lines fighting against people that have a quest to either, suppress, surveil, decrease human rights and increase human suffering, and right now in China, in particular, you see that very clearly. And we have a zeitgeist in US that is increasingly or economically deterred from speaking out against it.
Trey Lockerbie (00:36:41):
What are your thoughts on the privatization of defense just more generally speaking? There’s this movement it seems of just, by proxy saying Silicon Valley, you’re based in New York, but there’s trend of more and more VCs and tech smaller companies, privatizing defense, is that a good thing overall, you think in your opinion, or something to be concerned about? Because I also wonder if that just opens up more and more opportunity for investors to find more opportunities to partake.
Josh Wolfe (00:37:05):
Well, again, you have multiple dimensions here, right? You have a geopolitical consideration, you have an investment consideration, you have a moral consideration, societal consideration. We were warned by, we, American society, was warned by Eisenhower going back to the talks of military industrial complex. And you didn’t want to create a system where there was, sort of call it, big defense, that had incentive to go to war so that they can crank the war machine and produce material, produce rockets and bombs and ships, and aircraft carriers, and even when you see now the incentives of something like the F-35 joint strike fighter in hundreds of congressional districts where poor politics are funny, just being doled out to all these congressional districts. That to me is a corrupted system.
Josh Wolfe (00:37:47):
When you go back to the very early roots of … and so if you take that, by the way, the military industrial complex is something we don’t want. You contrast that to what China has said, not only that they want, but that is a effective state mandate, which is military civil fusion, it’s that in the service of the nation and the nation’s interest, even if that in that case is decided not by democracy, but by a small set of men in rooms, in the poly bureau, it is very clear that technology that is developed by Alibaba, or technology that is developed by Tencent, or foreign interests in investments that they make, are in the service of one China. I mean, they’re very overt about this.
Josh Wolfe (00:38:21):
And so I think that for the past 20 years there has been a growing reluctance, some of that organic and natural seeing a relatively jingoistic, rah, rah American, foreign interventionist, Bush too, seeing a more embracing, but, imperfect war on terror with Obama. And then seeing a super jingoistic, populous, anti I don’t know, anti civility Trump, that if you were an engineer, an entrepreneur, it would be hard pressed for most of those administrations for a variety of different forms to say, like, I really want to work for that man or those people.
Josh Wolfe (00:38:57):
And so for 20 years I think you’ve had a zeitgeist where people have said like, “I don’t want to pursue that.” And now increasingly I think it’s not a choice that you know and see in daily headlines, the tactics that are being used by China, by Russia and by others. So it used to be non-state actors that were a threat, but now it’s very clearly peer competitors and state actors. And technological demonstrations that increasingly they’re showing in domains that we have been surprised by are increasingly worrisome. So I think that there’s, again, a moral imperative that the best and brightest women and men working on cutting edge technology should be working with the country, not because they’re hardcore patriots, but just because protecting the freedoms and the interests, and the markets and the very thing that we all take for granted, why would you want the women and men on the front lines to be disadvantaged with inferior technology?
Josh Wolfe (00:39:46):
And, yeah. So I feel pretty strongly that we should be working with the government and that you should be working with good people to put good technology or better technology in the hands of good people.
Trey Lockerbie (00:40:00):
My mind went back to our earlier discussion on optionality because, I’ve spoken with a number of investors and it’s a recurring theme as of late, and just identifying optionality early on and how much of an advantage that can be. I wonder, is that part of the appeal in investing in defense, given that so much tech that comes out of defense sometimes trickles down and becomes other technology, or other use cases, not so much use for defense?
Josh Wolfe (00:40:22):
Yeah. And in fact, while there isn’t an early history, again, remember the roots of venture capital itself were not just like these halt and catch fire kind of movies and orchards, and Hewlett and Packard and a garage. It was all electronic warfare, in service of defense, and many of the most cutting edge things in Silicon Valley ended up coming out of that. But it was really entirely funded by the Pentagon and defense. Lockheed Martin started in Sunnyvale with basically zero people, had tens of thousands of people later, and were working on major submarine and aircraft missions.
Josh Wolfe (00:40:50):
And so, I do think that there are a lot of things that historically have come off what happened, again, and going back 20 or 30 years now is, increasingly the military was sourcing things the inverse way. So instead of the military being at the most cutting edge and spinning off commercial things, now you had the military reaching in and saying, “My gosh, Google or Apple are doing these things better than we can.” And so there’s even simple software capabilities, like I’ve used an example publicly that I’ve been privy to of Blue Dart tracking, you can pull up your iPhone and find my friends. And if you were part of a small, five or six person team in Southeast Asia trying to track some of your peers in special operations, even that capability is inferior to what we have on our iPhones today.
Josh Wolfe (00:41:28):
And so, there are clear, low hanging fruit where, commercial off the shelf technologies can be used in the service today of government. To your question on optionality, I do think that increasingly companies that are explicitly focused on defense, which have not really existed until say Anderol, which is one of our companies that’s really unapologetically and exclusively focused on defense, will end up spinning off commercial things. But most people have sort of hedged, well, government’s too bureaucratic, it’s going to take too long, the entrenchment of the incumbents are really hard to overcome, and so let’s make sure that we have a “dual use technology”, something that we can sell to the commercial markets and something that we can sell to the military.
Josh Wolfe (00:42:03):
We have become increasingly comfortable, and maybe three or four other firms, very small, minority of venture capitalists are comfortable funding something that is entirely focused on the US Department of Defense, the Pentagon and US allies.
Trey Lockerbie (00:42:15):
Very interesting. I’d like to kind of explore a few concepts that may or may not be overhyped in your opinion. And one of the things that’s coming to mind is quantum computing, because I have heard you mention that that word quantum can be overhyped. But there is a company in the portfolio called Rigetti that I think is built around quantum computing. I’m kind of curious what the appeal of that company is, and what prospects it has.
Josh Wolfe (00:42:40):
We were early investors with Chad Rigetti, autonomist founder. Chad came out of Yale, he was doing things in early stages that were scientifically appreciated and competitively advantage relative to say, even IBM or Google, or other people. And so it’s sort of a speculative investment betting on the credibility of a scientist. It’s an area that I would say generally, I think not specifically to Rigetti, but just overall is fraught with very high expectations, hand wavy hype, and I would caution people, there’s a big ignorance arbitrage gap where people feel like they don’t understand it. And just when I hear people talk about it and, it’s the same thing.
Josh Wolfe (00:43:19):
It’s cryptographic codes that can never be broken or can instantly be broken. The ability to model complex simulations of drugs, the ability to encrypt communications. There’s lots of other ways to do this then quantum computing and it’s one of these things that I’m on the board of the Santa Fe Institute, and one of the early fathers in Santa Fe Institute was Murray Gell-Mann, and he would talk about flap doodle, quantum flap doodle, which people are just sort of talking about stuff and they don’t really understand it. So, I just would caution people that, you read things in major news publications, and they talk about, the rise of AI and 5G and quantum computing, and AI matters but other two, not as much. So I would caution people when it comes to quantum.
Trey Lockerbie (00:44:00):
That last point is very timely because, as we’re seeing right now, inflation is starting to rise and the debt to GDP is massive. And there’s some narratives out there around this idea that, hey, don’t worry, technology is going to save us. GDP is going to start growing at 20% a year again once AI really takes a foot hold. Or, there’s a lot of these narrative being thrown around and someone like you, who’s sort of living at the helm of the future, so to speak, you’re seeing so many opportunities, does it make you more optimistic or more of a realist or somewhere in between? What’s your take on how much buy-in we should believe in technology alone being sort of the white knight here?
Josh Wolfe (00:44:39):
I would say relatively low. So even thoug h I’m a techno optimist, I’m generally a cynic when it comes to most people, and most people making predictions is, buffing [inaudible 00:44:47] say more about the predictor than about the thing that they’re predicting, which is generally that they’re fools. So I would take a little bit more of a measured uncertainty, Howard Mark stance here which is, I truly have no idea about the inflationary environment. I know that there are very smart people that are saying that inflation is more likely to be persistent than it is to be transitory. And they may be right.
Josh Wolfe (00:45:06):
And they are looking at recent data and they’re seeing supply chains, and there are others that say, no, these are still these rippling waves and aberrations from COVID dislocations and the markets will come back on. Then I have other people that say, “Well, the measures of inflation, particularly dominated by food and fuel, are not the things that really matter.” And the things that really matter that are often not counted in GDP itself, lots of productivity measures in technology, even what you and I are doing right now, being able to communicate without having to jump on a plane, without the energy or fuel use for that, besides the electricity that’s fueling the electrons that are lighting up the illuminating displays, we’re not really paying for any of this.
Josh Wolfe (00:45:48):
Indirectly through my Comcast bill or fiber optics, and the hardware that’s been amortized now already over two plus years. But, a lot of that just isn’t caught in modern GDP, technology has been almost deflationary in everything where it has been allowed to compete. And the same elements and components from the semiconductors, the display, the pixels, the bandwidth, that I’m just like looking around here off the cuff, have all gotten cheaper and cheaper over time. So those are relatively non-inflationary or deflationary, and they have become cheaper, become more widespread. There’s encouraging signs that technology has gone into many [inaudible 00:46:27] to four boring industries, particularly ones that have had high degrees of government intervention, subsidy regulation, and that’s things like healthcare, government itself, and civic technology and how government operates, military and defense.
Josh Wolfe (00:46:42):
There’s optimism from a technology optimist that it will start to chip away in a deflationary way at some of those sectors, which have historically, if you look at graphs, been the most inflationary, including education itself, obviously. The incentive around education is historically, give people student loans. Well if you get a student loan, if I was at college I’m just going to continue to raise my tuition prices. Does it really cost more to actually educate people? No, it should be costing less. COVID and Zoom and novel versions of these [inaudible 00:47:13] and online communities have shown that it is a very poor substitute for in-person physical learning. But there is massive scale to be gained from recorded lectures and all kinds of other things.
Josh Wolfe (00:47:24):
So, I’m quite optimistic that technology will be a deflationary force as a younger generation starts to route around the institutions in healthcare education government. But the idea of AI being this anti inflationary measure, all technology gives some temporary advantage to people who are early adopters. And that advantage is transient because, as it becomes cheaper it becomes more affordable. As it becomes more affordable, it becomes a fallacy of composition which is, if I’m able to stand on my toes at the stadium and see better, that’s fine. But once everybody can stand on their toes, we’re all just at a new level. So at some point the people that were able to instantly communicate because they had early access to email and bandwidth might have been at a communication advantage relative to the people who were still sending faxes or letters. But once everybody had email, you no longer have an advantage, and so I don’t see that AI itself will be this mass disinflationary force that will be the savior.
Trey Lockerbie (00:48:19):
One more concept that may or may not be overhyped is this word now that’s … and the zeitgeist called the metaverse. And you’ve recently posted that the metaverse is exciting, but not for the reasons that you think. So what do you mean by that?
Josh Wolfe (00:48:34):
Well, there’s different layers of how you want to describe this and part of the measure that makes me pessimistic about the metaverse as a term is the fact that everybody is using it. So it’s only imminent time until IBM has launched an ad about how IBM is powering the universe but, Nike is in the metaverse, and IBM’s in the metaverse, or will be in the metaverse, Facebook of course in the metaverse. Everybody’s just basically trying to say like, hey, there’s something new and cool and we’re going to help define it and you want to be part of it. So, if you think about the metaverse as a series of rectangles, which is the way that I’ve conceived it, I have this rectangle here, I stared it all day long, if an alien came down they would see these humans with their necks hung just down and this weird pose and staring at this.
Josh Wolfe (00:49:16):
Well, the early conception of the metaverse that Zuck and Facebook have said is, “We’re going to take this rectangle and we’re just going to slap it on your face. We’re going to strap it around, and that’s basically virtual reality.” We are going to actually ensconce you in a headset with pixels coming on your retina so that, as you move, you feel like you’re in this other world. If you’ve experienced VR, the average person typically wants to be in that, assuming that they do want to be in it, for less than 20 minutes. I’d say the average time is somewhere between six and 12 minutes. Of course there’s going to be a long tail or some edge on the bell curve of people that are obsessed with it and spend many hours a day.
Josh Wolfe (00:49:52):
But by and large, it’s not that comfortable, I think it massively underestimates our already desired propensity to want to multitask and do many things at a time. You might be at home later, watching a show on Netflix on your laptop, checking your texts, you’ve got multiple screens. So then the next conception is, okay, what if instead of having rectangles that are slapped to your face, you take the rectangles that many people already have, which are their glasses, and you put a layer inside of those rectangles, which is augmented reality. Which is, screen projection, giving you directions, giving you little tidbits of information, allowing you to filter the key things or the key people that you want to see.
Josh Wolfe (00:50:30):
And I do think that there’s going to be really creative content in those layers. It might come from a company like Niantic, that already captured our imagination with Pokemon Go. There’s a transient and a faddish appeal to that, obviously remember people were running around like Pokemon Go fanatics and now it’s just not a thing. And so, you’ll see companies that form on that software layer. You’ll see a lot of companies on the component layer just like today inside of the iPhone, there’s all kinds of different chips and chip sets, communications, cameras, increasingly AI embedded on the chips. And there will be a whole new set of players that are not your classic Intel or Nvidia or micron that are governing that. And so there’s a hardware layer there.
Josh Wolfe (00:51:15):
And I just increasingly think that the metaverse as pitched and imagined by Zuck of this ensconced world that you’re going to want to go to straight out of sci-fi like ready player one, which is effectively playbook for Zuck, is not the one that we’re going to experience. I’m much more in the camp that this is going to be an extension of our existing senses, just this is now, I have a microphone that is picking up and amplifying my voice. I have a lens that is picking up and amplifying the humanity in front of me and then playing back yours. I have speakers that are amplifying your voice. And so I think, we really prefer the amplification of our existing humanity, and are more drawn towards the technologies that are going to do that.
Josh Wolfe (00:51:54):
Every piece of the stack that people are going to compete on this, from hardware, software, wearable devices, we funded a brain machine interface company called Control Labs that Facebook bought, which is allowing you to do hands free gesture and control devices in many cases, just by thinking about moving your muscles so as to control the device. And, I think that’s really going to be the future of this purported metaverse. But, I also think it will be called something else and I think that whatever it gets called will be defined by some currently 17, 18, 19 year old young kids, probably somewhere outside the US, maybe in Nigeria, maybe in the Philippines, probably in the web three crypto world, tinkering with protocols and coming across discovery.
Josh Wolfe (00:52:40):
And I think that Facebook will end up spending tens of billions of dollars annually with thousands of thousands of people who’ll have some pretty cool things. We’ll probably get beaten by Apple in AR, and then we’ll be completely surprised in the same way that Microsoft was surprised by Google and Google was surprised by Facebook, Facebook will be surprised by somebody else. And I couldn’t tell you who that is today, but my job is to go out and try to find who they are.
Trey Lockerbie (00:53:02):
One of the sense that was missing in your outline there that I just couldn’t help, but call out is the smell. The smelling sense that I know you had a passion for developing that technology, is there any update there?
Josh Wolfe (00:53:12):
No, it’s a constant hunt for me and maybe a hunt for a year or 10, I have no idea. But I am primed for the optionality of trying to discover it. What it is, just for people who are watching or listening, is the idea that I can pick up this phone and it is a remote control for pretty much everything in my life. I’m able to conjure a car, conjure a meal, control devices around me through response system, or iPhone, and I can capture high fidelity sound, I can play that sound back with high fidelity speakers. I can capture high fidelity imagery, static or dynamic in the form of video, increasingly 4k and 120 frames a second, and then I can play whatever high quality, high density, high pixelated displays.
Josh Wolfe (00:53:51):
The one sense that I can capture today, and I already have haptics that are tapping me on my watch, so I have a sense of feel, I can’t capture smell. And when you say, “Well, why do you want to capture smell?” It is our most salient memory connected sense. And so whether it’s the smell of a loved one, the smell of nostalgia, the smell of a wine or a food, being on a beach in vacation, capturing that dimension, not just of the sound of the waves or the visual of it in a different speed, slow motion, or faster, as realistic as possible. But that smell that is like the one French word I know, that [foreign language 00:54:21] of that moment, and being able to share that with somebody.
Josh Wolfe (00:54:25):
And so that second piece is not only, do you have to capture it? But you have to be able to play it back. Now capturing, if I would’ve told you 20 years ago, you can walk into a cafe and hold up a little magic Star Trek device and whatever song is playing, it will tell you exactly what that song is. You never have to write it down, you don’t have to record it and the ability to Shazam is effectively capturing a digital signature of sound waves that are permeating through the air, tied to a central database. It does pattern recognition, figures out what segment that is and what it matches to in the database. It says, “It’s this Drake song or whatever it is,” the same thing will happen with smell.
Josh Wolfe (00:54:56):
There are volatile organic compounds, today you can use a mass spectrometry machine to be able to look at the chemical signature of that visually. And eventually those technologies will become solid state, they will shrink down. Maybe they’ll be small scale lasers in the same way that we have like LIDAR in our iPhone today that can do 3D depth sensing of physical spaces used to require big machine, and you’ll be able to get a smell signature, press a button and basically have a Shazam for, hey, what is that smell? And then somebody else will have to invent the playback mechanism. So they’ll be recording and they’ll be playback, and I’m absolutely convinced it will happen because it kind of already obey the laws of physics, and there’s no reason that it can’t, we just have to find the right combination of technologies to put together, to make it happen and I hope to fund the ones that win.
Trey Lockerbie (00:55:35):
That’s an interesting take on the technology side. I would’ve thought it would’ve been more of like a brain implant that’s just sending you little electromagnetic things.
Josh Wolfe (00:55:44):
It’s a good and it’s certainly possible that that’s way we go. I’m very skeptical about implants. Obviously if you have a lifesaving need for epilepsy or heart, or a stent or something like that, or knee implant or something mechanical, it makes a lot of sense. The idea that we’re going to put in technology that won’t be [inaudible 00:56:01], and I’m way more optimistic about surface technologies that will be driven by ever increasing software. Same thing with these brain machine interfaces. I am not in the camp of Neuralink where you’re going to have an implant sending signals to, or receiving signals directly from the brain and as mass adoption.
Josh Wolfe (00:56:18):
Whereas, something like this, which is effectively one of the few in the wild control labs bands that Facebook bought, that I’m able to put on my forearm and it detect my intentions and control all the stuff around me. The software will continue to get better, this will be embedded into something like my watch, that is directionally the way that neuroscience and neurotech devices are going to go.
Trey Lockerbie (00:56:40):
Okay. Last question here is, you have a number of companies that have gone public, do you have a company that’s nearest and dearest to your heart?
Josh Wolfe (00:56:49):
Well, I won’t comment on the public ones just because I always want to be very careful, and I’m very careful while I talk about and promote a lot of our companies, even on Twitter I tend not to talk about the public ones, ones that I’m super bullish on or worried about. And so, I will talk about a private company which I’m super bullish on, which I think is the epitome of what we like to fund, which is this N of one company that nobody else is really looking at, or thought of. It was inspired by science fiction, the science fiction in this case was Professor X. Professor X of X-Men puts on a helmet, can spot muts from a crowd, and those mutants have science fiction capabilities; shooting lasers, and conjuring fire from their fingers and through invisibility cloaks in these movies and nonsense.
Josh Wolfe (00:57:26):
But I got to thinking, if there was an actual human trait that had a one in the billion possibility of existing, and there are eight billion people on earth, do the math, there might be eight people walking around with a trait like, get into an accident, don’t break their bones or, only need two hours of sleep at night, or have extreme eyesight in very dark conditions or can breathe oxygen assistance at very high altitudes or very low depths of water. Have body temperature control at different latitudes of earth that make them almost super human. So that is something that I was convinced that there are real life, super humans, and we started a company after going and talking to 100 plus people to find out if it’s the stupidest idea or incredible, and we got a whole bunch of PhDs that came out of Cold Spring Harborm and people from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Illumina chairman and CEO and gene sequencing.
Josh Wolfe (00:58:11):
And then importantly, this team called Variant, assembled a cultural anthropologist and an ethicist, because they know that as they were going to go out into the world, they were really looking for outlier traits in outlier people, and those outlier people were going to be in outlier parts of the world. And they had one chance to get it right. They structured a very thoughtful benefit sharing program so that whether it’s the science, the technology, the learnings that they get, or actual equity, or cash, things go back to in many cases, these indigenous tribes so that they can really be part of this versus having been in a history of exploitation by most scientists that interacted with indigenous folks.
Josh Wolfe (00:58:44):
They already have 14 partnerships around the world with some exotic groups of people with exotic traits, already found their first hit particular area of the body, and I’m just super optimistic that this is going to be a game changing company, finding people that are sort of almost real life X-Men mutants and bringing drugs to the masses based on their natural biology,
Trey Lockerbie (00:59:05):
Fascinating stuff. Well Josh, we got to do this again. I got to hear more about this company as it develops more, and a number of the other ones. I really appreciate your time today. Like I said this conversation could go a number of different ways and explore lots of different topics, and it didn’t disappoint. Before I let you go Josh, I want to give you an opportunity to hand off where people can find you, follow along, any other resources you want to share.
Josh Wolfe (00:59:26):
Yeah website luxcapital.com. Details, a lot of the things that we’re looking for, we are always looking for new entrepreneurs. And as much as we think that we know where technology might be going off times as a conversation with an incredible founder, and it says, this is the way that the world ought to look, and we want to follow him or her. You can follow me on Twitter @wolfejosh, W-O-L-F-E J-O-S-H and hit me up, my DMS are open and happy to connect and explore. I always say that randomness and optionality are just the governing force of my life and you never know. So, I never know who I’m going to get to talk to.
Trey Lockerbie (00:59:54):
Fantastic. Josh, thank you so much. [crosstalk 00:59:56]. All right everybody, that’s all we have for you today. If you’re loving the show, please don’t forget to go to your favorite podcast app and follow us. Please also leave us a review and you can always find me on twitter @treylockerbie or go to asktheinvestors.com if you want to have a question answered on this show. And with that, we’ll see you again next time.
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