Perk up, Peter Thiel: if our brains aren’t transplanted into robot bodies some time soon, we can always bank on human immortality. Researchers at Kiel University in Germany believe they’ve discovered a gene that is linked directly to the aging process. This opens up new opportunities for research focusing on how to prolong human life.
The Principal of New York
Before Mayor Bloomberg signed up for Codecademy, before General Assembly signed its first lease in the Flatiron—even before Peter Thiel started paying kids to skip school—Skillshare founder and CEO Mike Karnjanaprakorn was trying convince New York investors to finance his peer-to-peer learning startup. He billed the company as the Etsy of education, since it set up a market for anyone to teach—and learn—practical skills through an affordable hands-on class, starting at $25 a night. (The hybrid online classes that Skillshare launched this August, with Livestream office hours, start at just $20 a night.)
When news broke this morning that Airbnb had supposedly raised a $117 million Series C, the only possible response was: Damn, that’s a nice chunk of change, and one in line with expectations. However, it appears that, in all the anticipation over another major round, the gun has been jumped.
When we reached out for comment, Airbnb gave us the following statement of denial:
TechCrunch points us to a delightful discovery: “Marijuana Majority,” a cunningly named campaign that attempts to convince the American public that tokers aren’t all lazy longhairs and shiftless teenagers and rakish rappers, thereby making it safe for average Joes to come out in favor of decriminalization. On the website, you’ll find a long list of prominent individuals of all stripes who’ve expressed some kind of support for legalizing it.
It comes complete with ready-t0-share image macros, which you can post to your Facebook wall like a little thinking-of-you card for the stoners in your life.
I’ll Take Stingy for $5, Alex We’ve heard of venture capitalists who drive a hard bargain when it comes to their term sheets, but not so much when they drive off Sand Hill Road. So we were dismayed to learn that a VC at a very prominent 36-year-old venture capital firm asked the non-profit(!) meetup group Hacks/Hackers, which brings together journalists and technologists, to waive a $5 attendance fee for an event. To put that number in context: the firm has more than $400 million under management.
Hacks/Hackers has a very welcoming attendance policy and routinely waives fees for students so that no one gets shut out. But if your portfolio’s aggregate revenue teeters up into the billions, just pry your hands off the fiver, dude.
Alley vs. Valley vs. Beach
“You don’t want your analytical efforts to be obvious because voters get creeped out.” Data mining in politics is harder than it looks. [New York Times]
It’s “20 under 20″ time once more! If you’ve just gotten to freshman year and you absolutely hate it and you’ve already got a good idea for something you’d like to do instead, the Peter Thiel Foundation probably wants to see your application. [TNW]
Late Friday afternoon, Gawker’s Adrian Chen released the results of his epic trollhunt: “Unmasking Reddit’s Violentacrez.” You’ll no doubt be shocked to learn that he’s pretty much as expected. [Gawker]
It sounds like the whole matter has been one long headache for Reddit HQ, but it doesn’t seem to have made so much as a dent in Alexis Ohanian’s confidence in the world-improving powers of the Internet. [The Verge]
Sprint has agreed to sell a majority stake to Japanese telecom SoftBank–pending regulatory approval, of course. [Dealbook]
Has Microsoft finally stumbled onto a good idea? The company is launching Xbox Music, a streaming music offering 30 million songs strong. [New York Timess]
Be Cool Stay In School
As residents of Silicon Alley (a clever knockoff of California’s original Silicon Valley), we don’t have much room to mock other cities around the country for attempting to claim a piece of the tech pie all for themselves. But we couldn’t help but notice in a Wall Street Journal real estate feature that Los Angeles–despite the fact that it’s already well-known for being the entertainment capital of the world–is still trying to make “Silicon Beach” a thing. SMH.
Minority Report is a guest column by Sarah Kunst, who does business development and product at fashion app Kaleidoscope. She’s a black, non-engineer female in tech, but plans to IPO anyway.
Few founder origin stories capture the nerd mind like “Hacker as dropout.” From Bill Gates at Microsoft to Box’s Adam Levie, and of course a little-known CEO named Zuck, the allure of leaving the dorm room behind to rake in billions seems irresistible.
Recently, this middle finger to the establishment of higher education has been codified by billionaire rabble rouser Peter Thiel. This past Sunday, for the second time in three months, the New York Times found cause for a close examination of the virtues of Mr. Thiel’s 20 under 20 Fellowship as a way for exceptional teenagers to pass college and collect $100,000 to spend on changing the world. Granted, participants aren’t your typical undeclared freshmen at State College U. Rather, they’ve already exhibited Mensa-level intelligence, with a work ethic to match.
What doesn’t coordinate quite as well? Their social lives. A recent night saw several Thiel fellows–all under legal drinking age–at a San Francisco house party described by one attendee as “tech hippies doing drugs and sitting in a cuddle pile.”
IP Uh Oh
Thrive Capital, the New York-based venture capital firm helmed by 26-year-old Josh Kushner*, announced today that it has successfully raised a $150 million fund for early and later stage startups. The news comes almost a year to the day after Thrive announced a $40 million raise from investors like Princeton University. The fresh $150 million comes from a slew of some of the same investors, including Princeton, Wellcome Trust and Hall Capital Partners.
Back in May, when the Facebook IPO still seemed the like largest driver of wealth creation this side of the Gold Rush, Peter Thiel opted to sell only half his position in the social network, restricted somewhat by a lockup agreement requiring early shareholders to hold on to some of their stock.
However, financial documents filed today with the Security and Exchange Commission show that Mr. Thiel rushed to sell “nearly all” of his shares once the lockup expired by last Thursday, netting $395.8 million last week. That’s in addition to the $638 million he made in May selling 16.8 million shares during the IPO, which brings Mr. Thiel’s total earnings to more than $1 billion and counting.
Not bad for a $500,000 investment made in 2004, especially considering public shareholders have watched the stock’s value drop almost 50 percent from the misguided IPO price of $38 per share.