Most investors want to find a startup idea that will going to make money. To do this, they shy away from companies that might seem a bit crazy, choosing the safer bets instead.
But Bryan Johnson isn’t one of those investors. Instead, the serial tech entrepreneur turned investor goes after those ideas that seem impossible. He tells Fortune:
“I want to get a company from ‘crazy’ to ‘viable.’ With today’s technology, we can now create in days, weeks or months what previous generations couldn’t do in a lifetime. Where DaVinci could sketch, we can build. Yet, we don’t have sufficient resources and people pursuing these goals.”
To date, he has invested $15 million in seven startups. One of those companies is Planetary Resources, which wants to mine asteroids for precious metals. Vicarious, which is building a computer system that learns like the human brain, is another. And Human Longevity aims to lengthen the average human lifespan to 120 years.
These are admirable goals, and certainly could have huge impacts if successful. But the likelihood of that happening is low, Johnson admits. And it’s also harder to measure the likelihood and risk for companies that don’t fit into an existing market.
When looking at companies like tech startups, investors are able to assess a business’s ability to succeed and make money fairly easily. There are already tried and true ways for products like apps and services like social networks to bring in revenue. So investors can make some pretty good estimates about whether or not a company is likely to be successful, just by examining its business plan.
But a company that wants to mine asteroids for precious metals is going to be a little tougher to evaluate. The risk doesn’t stop him though. Johnson is more concerned with ambition and big ideas. He says:
“I invest in entrepreneurs who understand generally where the world is going, the enormous power of their tools and the enormous stakes that we have.”
While taking the easy path with your business might help you better gauge your future success, pursuing a less conventional approach might bring even greater rewards in the long run.
Don’t forget about the insane success experienced by companies like Google and Apple. Maybe your next business idea should be a little bit crazy too.
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