Exponential ROI: 23andMe acquires CureTogether

Investing in intertwined exponential technology trends is my specialty. It leads to amazing exits. Recently 23andMe acquired CureTogether. I was the lead investor.

Marc Andreessen once said “software is eating the world”. Recently his venture company invested 100 Million into Github at a 750 Million valuation to back his vision. He’s right of course, but no one ever bothered to ask why.

Technology is growing at an exponential pace. Which means it doubles its capability, for the same cost, every 8 to 18 months. What most people don’t realize that if you keep doubling, at 10 generations the improvement is 1000 fold, at 20 a million fold.

What is even more fundamental is that as technology doubles, its not just twice the previous generation, its matches ALL the previous generations combined. This year we will create more digital, knowledge and data content than all the other previous years combined.

Imagine being able to build what was a million dollar house in 1990 for $1 today. This is why “software is eating the world.” We simply can do so much more with so much less – on an unimaginable scale.

What technologies are on these growth curves? It turns out many – Computers, Internet, Mobile, Genetic Sequencing, Synthetic Biology, Artificial intelligence, Robotics, 3D Printing, Solar, Crowd Sourcing, Social Networks, Cloud Computing, and others. The real potential is realized when technology trends become intertwined.

This is where the iPad came from – the intersection of growth curves.

CureTogether is a crowd sourced chronic condition company started by two Canadians. They used the experiences and knowledge of the public to address what medical science could not solve. CureTogether built a database of 4 million data points from tens of thousands of motivated people. These are called phenotypes.

23andMe, the consumer genetics company with 150,000 customers, uses DNA chips. They look at a million mutations in your DNA for only a few hundred dollars. With this crowd sourced knowledge, they can discover things unimagined a decade ago. What they do is called genotypes.

23andMe acquired CureTogether recently. Or more specifically, crowd sourced genotypes + phenotypes will make a great combination. The acquisition is brilliant as the value in combining databases isn’t A plus B, its A times B.

To be more succinct: “All Questions are Shallow given Sufficient Data.”

Three years ago as I invested in CureTogether and predicted this outcome down to the buyer. By putting together the following ingredients: open sourced software, cloud computing, DNA SNP chips and crowd sourcing, its possible to foresee a critical mass of genotypes and phenotypes. Financial terms were not disclosed.

A friend of mine once said “The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself.”

Investing in technology comes down to identifying and understanding technology trends, envisioning their reinforcing and amplifying combinations, and then realizing their applications towards solving the world’s grand challenges.

In 2009 I helped create Singularity University as one of the Associate Founders. It is a very special school, specializing in technology trends located in the heart of Silicon Valley. You will not find a better place to learn about future technology and its impact.

This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, the geometric technology future is only a few generations away…


About the Author:

Geoffrey Shmigelsky is CEO of Think Exponential and an Associate Founder of Singularity University.

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