Founders Fund, the VC firm whose highest-profile investment is Facebook, has published a manifesto of sorts, called “What Happened To The Future?”
The content will be familiar to anyone who’s been following Founders Fund co-founder Peter Thiel: it complains that the rate of technological innovation is slowing, and that we need more ambitious entrepreneurs solving very important challenges instead of working on rinky dink social media startups.
The manifesto’s subtitle is: “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.”
(It’s pretty funny that PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel disses Twitter while the inventor of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, is essentially trying to fulfill PayPal’s original vision of letting anyone control their money, with his new startup Square, which is going to kill the credit card.)
While some parts are debatable (we would argue that Twitter is more transformative than Facebook), it’s nice and important to see a VC firm stake a claim to ambition and audacity instead of just trying to chase the next money-making thing.
The manifesto, which is definitely worth reading in its entirety, lays out four areas of investment for Founders Fund:
- Aerospace & Transportation. The cost of sending 1kg in orbit has barely budged since the 1960s. With the retirement of the Concorde, for the first time in human history time to cross the Atlantic went up, not down. Clearly something needs to be done, here. Founders Fund is an investor in SpaceX, the rocket startup of PayPal co-founder Elon Musk.
- Biotechnology. It costs more and more to get a drug approved, because of regulation and because field trials are complex. If this is solved, we could have a new era of plentiful medicine.
- Advanced machines and software. This means robots, AI, and powerful analytical software to extract meaning from Big Data. Pretty obvious why this is a big opportunity.
- Energy. The big problem here, Thiel says, is that people have been trying to invest in the same energies like wind and solar for decades, and trying to get them to be as cheap as coal. That’s not ambitious enough. For clean energy to work, it needs to be a real breakthrough that’s much, much cheaper than fossil fuels.
- The Internet. The Internet’s not played out, says Founders Fund! Peter Thiel had been hinting otherwise for a while: his analogy was that the car had had the biggest social impact in the 1950s, but only one big car company was founded after 1945, so even though the internet looks like it’s bigger than ever maybe Facebook is the last big internet company.
And finally, “Our list is by no means exhaustive. The best companies create their own sectors.”