The growth of the tech private investment office

  Pierre Omidyar's investment office is fast setting the standard in impact investing    (Photo by Brian Harkin/Getty Images News / Getty Images)

Pierre Omidyar's investment office is fast setting the standard in impact investing   (Photo by Brian Harkin/Getty Images News / Getty Images)

A few weeks ago, Travis Kalanick, the co-founder of Uber, launched an investment office. Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, has an investment office that is fast becoming one of the most influential philanthropic-led investment groups ever. Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal and tech impresario is involved in a number of investment offices/venture groups where he’s making some of the most influential investments of any individual on the planet.

Say hello to the private investment office led by tech billionaires that are fast changing the world. In many ways these are the family offices of the 21st century, making perhaps the most influential investment decisions of all the global private investment groups of the world’s wealthiest individuals and families. Like the individuals who founded them, these groups are hugely entrepreneurial, quick to make decisions and tuned into the next big thing in tech and philanthropy/impact investing. Here are some of most prominent and why they’re making a mark.


Omidyar Network

The unofficial “impact investing” private investment office leader, Omidyar Network is certainly trying to make a difference with its plethora of impact/philanthropic investments. Founded in 2004 by Pierre Omidyar, the co-founder of eBay and his wife, Pam, Omidyar Network is certainly making a mark just in with the sheer number of investments it’s making. Already this year, the investment office has made 11 investments, most of which have a social impact aspect to them.

Here is what Omidyar Network says about its aims: “We...believe that businesses can be a powerful force for good. Pierre Omidyar experienced this firsthand as the founder of eBay. Just as eBay created the opportunity for millions of people to start their own businesses, we believe market forces can be a potent driver for positive social change. That’s why we invest in both for-profit businesses and nonprofit organizations, whose complementary roles can advance entire sectors.”

Omidyar Network is fast becoming the benchmark of the increasingly prevalent trend of family offices allocating more of their assets to impact-like investments. Expect this trend to continue to grow over the new few years - and Omidyar Network to be at the forefront.

 

Bezos Expeditions

Bezos Expeditions, the private venture investment group set up by the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, is, unsurprisingly, making some investments that could have significant consequences of how the world operates in the future. Perhaps one of its most prominent investments in this respect is the robotics group, Rethink Robotics. The Boston company is at the forefront of robotics developments, and Bezos Expeditions is one of its biggest investors. Other notable investments by the group include Unity Biotechnology, which is involved in producing therapeutics that could prevent, halt, or reverse numerous diseases of ageing. In fact, pretty much every one of the 50-plus investments Bezos Expeditions has made has some “game changer” aspect to them.

 

Peter Thiel: Mithril Capital Management, Thiel Capital, and Founders Fund

All three investment groups are linked to Peter Thiel, one of tech’s foremost investors, and all three are making some very interesting investments in terms of being game-changing to parts of the world economy in the future. Thiel Capital, effectively the private investment group for the tech billionaire, is managed by Eric Weinstein, a prominent economist and writer, who is an active user of Twitter, commenting on a wide variety of subjects. Under Weinstein’s management, Thiel Capital has been a big investor in biotech startups and overseen some of Thiel’s investments channelled through the other two investment groups he’s linked to.

Mithril Capital Management is a venture capital firm set up by Thiel and Ajay Royan in 2012. And perhaps Mithril’s most interesting investment to date is in the robotic health company, Auris Health. The Californian-based group was founded by Fred Moll, the inventor of the da Vinci Surgical System, and one of the leading global experts in robotic surgical procedures. Founders Fund, a venture firm, was co-founded by Thiel in 2005, and has since gone on to back some of the biggest successes in tech, including Facebook, Airbnb, SpaceX, and Spotify. Recently, the fund has backed, like Bezos Expeditions,  Unity Biotechnology.