Science Nerd Turns Big Think Venture Capitalist
His [John Wolfe’s] Lux Capital’s current $350 million fund is modest by Silicon Valley standards, but the self-described science nerd turned VC has good company in the deep-think end of the investing pool, where billionaire luminaries like Bill Gates, Peter Thiel and Marc Andreessen are also playing these days. While much of the $48 billion invested by VCs last year — the most in more than a decade — went to quick-turn, quick-return software products, Wolfe’s portfolio reads more like the sci-fi he loves. The cash he guides from offices in New York and Menlo Park goes to companies that deal with hard science, fundamental stuff like biology and physics, but aimed at producing tangible products. “We used to say that Angry Birds” — the mobile game — “does not an economy make,” he says.
If that seems reminiscent of a famous Silicon Valley investor’s motto — Thiel’s “we wanted flying cars; instead we got 140 characters” — it is. Wolfe has co-invested with the Founders Fund guru and other big guns of the new economy, including Gates and Andreessen. All are part of a countertrend to app and software-related investments, one that eschews short-term thinking for blue-sky visions, says Harvard Business School professor Matthew Rhodes-Kropf: “People are excited about these things right now,” with enough investors satisfied that world-changing technology is both possible and lucrative.
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