Bryan Johnson: How He Is Getting Biologically Younger, Selling His Company for $800 Million, and More | My First Million with Sam Parr and Shaan Puri

Key Takeaways

  • Figuring out the system within the world of payments in 2007—3 things businesses were looking for:
    • Honesty—be honest, trustworthy, and transparent
    • Education—give the customer a clear understanding of their options—help them choose the right company
    • Reliable service—be reliable and competent; give an amazing experience
  • 3 important things on what it means to have money and how to best navigate this:
    • Transparency of intent— establish why you are doing what you are doing and the roles you are going to play with each other
    • Utilize it wisely— not on acquiring frivolous things but on solving fundamental problems of your time
    • Have an identity independent of your wealth
  • Cash is King — liquidity is really important for entrepreneurs 
  • Moving into science; could we build a global biological immune system?
    • We have a software immune system, but we do not have these same capabilities in biology, genetics, etc.
  • The idea behind Kernel — make brain measurements mainstream
    • “We have the technology to measure almost everything about ourselves in a fairly routine way except for our brains.”Bryan Johnson
    • Kernel Flow uses light to measure brain activity and the brain activity patterns are very informative
  • How to make humanity thrive?
    • Blueprint is the best answer he came up with and the best practical idea 
    • Blueprint is not about health, wellness, and anti-aging—like it can seem from the outside perspective. It’s a philosophical endeavor for the future of intelligence
  • The thought experiment behind Blueprint—would you accept an algorithm telling you what you eat and when you eat to obtain perfect health?
    • This is a big deviation from how society is structured right now—our minds have unquestioned authority in deciding what we eat
  • When we walk into the grocery store, “… we’re sized up against algorithms. It’s a totally unfair match in a society where we just gleefully allow this self-harm and so the individual is pitted against algorithms and capitalism… like, good luck individual.” Bryan Johnson

Intro

  • Bryan Johnson (@bryan_johnson) is the founder/CEO of Kernel & Blueprint, and founder of OSFund & Braintree
    • Bryan Johnson joins Shaan Puri and Sam Parr to talk about bootstrapping Braintree, making brain data mainstream via Kernel and his Blueprint blog—where he’s trying to reverse his biological age
  • Host: Shaan Puri (@ShaanVP), Sam Parr (@TheSamParr)

What’s My Age Again?

  • Bryan is trying to reverse his biological age (your organs, blood, etc.) faster than the chronological age (how old you are) goes up
    • Could he live forever?
  • He is blogging and sharing everything along the way (Blueprint blog)
  • He is 45 years old (chronological age)
    • Biologically, he is a few hundred different ages
  • The age of your heart is represented by a few dozen markers. The same thing goes for other parts of the body
    • We are actually a collection of a very large number of markers because different parts of the body age at different speeds
    • Life choices and environment also affect that

Background Starting W/Braintree

  • When Bryan was 21, he decided to do something meaningful for humanity
  • He grew up reading a bunch of biographies (over 200 biographies), especially historical biographies
    • The books helped him gain an understanding of reality that was much more nuanced and sometimes contrary to the mainstream narrative
    • “Always reject the first narrative that’s offered and understand it not for a factual statement but as a wishful attempt to be accepted.” – Bryan Johnson
  • Eventually, he found a job selling credit card processing services door-to-door and became their No.1 salesperson in a couple of months
  • The big startup opportunity
    • He had enough money from selling door-to-door to hire a team of software engineers to start Braintree (11 months of working)
    • Paypal had grown up during the Internet but they kinda stopped innovating for a few years; developers didn’t have the tools they liked
    • Braintree landed a big deal early on with OpenTable
    • OpenTable started accepting credit cards to increase the likelihood that the person would show up for the reservation
    • However, they didn’t want to store the credit card information because they had compliance issues
    • Braintree built a custom solution that allowed them to store credit card data on their side
    • They built the payment system from scratch. After OpenTable, they expanded it to more general merchants. They got clients like AirBnB and Uber
    • They grew very quickly and got to the point where high-tech companies wanted to use their software

System Deconstruction and Reconfiguration (Door-To-Door Sales)

  • Selling credit card processing services was out of financial necessity but it introduced Bryan to the world of payments
    • The thing that he enjoyed the most about sales was getting in and figuring out the system
    • It was never about doing the high-pressure sales tactics, trying to manipulate, perfect a skill, etc.
  • The world of payments in 2007 was defined by distrust
    • When a business owner got their monthly credit card invoice, it was so complicated that they had no idea what was going on
    • The providers made it even more complicated in how they report
    • The whole situation created an opportunity for people to be deceptive and create high commissions
  • Figuring out the system within the world of payments in 2007—3 things businesses were looking for:
    • Honesty—be honest, trustworthy, and transparent
    • Education—give the customer a clear understanding of their options—help them choose the right company
    • Reliable service—be reliable and competent; give an amazing experience
  • Once you figure out the system, it was easy to solve
  • The moment you walk in into a store, they know you are not a customer (how you walk, the way you dress, etc.), you are there to sell something and they immediately hate you
    • How did Bryan overcome this animosity from the get-go?
    • He offered them 100$ for one minute of their timeand if they say no to him, they could keep it
    • How did he sell?
    • Telling them the basic principles
    • Honesty, transparency
    • They don’t want to deal with deception, machine leases, changing everything again and again
  • System deconstruction and reconfiguration – the same skillset he tried to build again and again via every business he built, walking into a new world, trying to figure out what is going on, trying to deconstruct the system and maneuver within it

Financial Plans and Life Changes

  • He didn’t have a long list of things he wanted to buy
  • Even his most aggressive expectations of how life would change weren’t even close
  • Your relationship with the world fundamentally changes (power dynamics)
  • 3 important things on what it means to have money and how to best navigate this:
    • Transparency of intent— establish why you are doing what you are doing and the roles you are going to play with each other
    • Utilize it wisely— not on acquiring frivolous things but on solving fundamental problems of your time
    • Have an identity independent of your wealth

What Does Bryan Do With His Money?

  • Cash is King — liquidity is really important for entrepreneurs 
  • Moving into science; could we build a global biological immune system?
    • We have a software immune system, but we do not have these same capabilities in biology, genetics, etc.
    • We can’t deploy millions of people who can engineer biology at a moment’s notice
  • Bryan wants to invest in companies that would serve as the foundational building blocks for humanity — building an infrastructure to engineer atoms, molecules, and organisms
    • It would be amazing if we had these capabilities in case of another pandemic— the biological infrastructure of detection, vaccine creation, remediation, etc.
  • Key companies Bryan invested in:
    • Ginkgo Bioworks —one of his first investments, the engineering of microorganisms (mRNA vaccine)
    • NuMat metal-organic frameworks (MOFs)
    • Catalog storing information in DNA— nature’s hard drive
  • Bryan wanted to understand the engineering of science so it was a great educational experience for him to go deep into the trenches with many different Ph. D.s

Kernel—Brain Measurements for Everyone!

  • The idea behind Kernel — make brain measurements mainstream
    • “We have the technology to measure almost everything about ourselves in a fairly routine way except for our brains.”Bryan Johnson
  • Wearables are a familiar concept; we wear them on our bodies and they give us data like sleep stats, respiration rate, heart rate, cardiovascular expenditure, etc.
    • These data are easy to acquire and we use this information to better understand our health
    • Currently, we can’t do that for our brains— Are you in the early stages of cognitive decline? Do you have anxiety, what kind? Do you have depression? What is your emotional reaction to things?
  • “Most people think that their self-awareness is basically the center system that captures their brain. Because I am conscious and because I can feel when I have a headache it is a robust enough sensor system to do it and that is not correct.” – Bryan Johnson
    • So much happens in our brain that we are not aware of and there’s so much data in our brain that is informative 
  • Kernel built a neural imaging helmet called the Kernel Flow
    • Kernel Flow uses light to measure brain activity and the brain activity patterns are very informative
  • What does ketamine do to your brain? We can’t yet give a precise answer
    • Subjective self-assessment, your memory state, you don’t really know
  • This measurement system is basically meant to standardize the measurement of the brain
  • A big part of the challenge was to identify the technology that can be built that makes brain measurement mainstream and find the applications for early markets
  • We are accustomed to the idea of society having engineering standards
    • We know that when we buy an appliance it’s going to fit through our front door— we know that the door size is standard and the appliance size is standard
    • We have millions of invisible standards like these in our society but have very few for our brains because we can’t efficiently measure
    • We know the appropriate timing for green, red, and yellow light because we know the reaction time of humans to lights, braking power, stop times
    • This is because we have data, and we do not have engineering standards around the brain
    • There is no measurement of cognitive decline, depression, anxiety, etc.
  • We begin with measurement, and once you have numbers, ecosystems form around that
    • With numbers, there is an opportunity to build solutions around those problems

Bryan Johnson’s Blueprint Blog

  • How to make humanity thrive?
    • Blueprint is the best answer he came up with and the best practical idea 
  • Blueprint is not about health, wellness, and anti-aging—like it can seem from the outside perspective. It’s a philosophical endeavor for the future of intelligence
  • The thought experiment behind Blueprint—would you accept an algorithm telling you what you eat and when you eat to obtain perfect health?
  • The measurements of our heart, liver, lungs, and DNA methylation patterns directly ask for what we need via data
  • Bryan wonders why we accept this ferocious social system that asks everyone to commit self-harm
    • Walking into the grocery store is violence via the representation of advertising and ingredients and sugar
    • When we walk into the grocery store, “… we’re sized up against algorithms. It’s a totally unfair match in a society where we just gleefully allow this self-harm and so the individual is pitted against algorithms and capitalism… like, good luck individual.” Bryan Johnson
    • Trying to win this game with willpower is a losing game
  • Bryan had a problem with overeating. Every day and every night at 7 PM he would overeat
    • Now he only eats what his body asks for according to data and science
    • This is a big deviation from how society is structured right now—our minds have unquestioned authority in deciding what we eat
    • Blueprint changes that and gives all the incentives to the body. The mind has zero authority
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