The things we know, the things we don’t. We have already presented you a list of 10 popular SV giants and the secrets behind them; this article lists several curious facts on the Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurs. Some of them are widely known, others are not. What connects them all is that knowing them will make your world a funnier place!

a16z

A lot of people who know that the URL of the Andreessen Horowitz’s webpage is a16z.com doesn’t actually know why it is a16z.com. The reason is simple; can you guess it yourself? A hint: there are sixteen letters between the “A” in “Andreessen” and “z” in “Horowitz”.

Hence, a16z.com.

Sam Altman’s Asperger?

Journalists interviewing Sam Altman — the mastermind behind Y Combinator — often ask him a question about his supposed Asperger; an Asperger he doesn’t actually have.

(It makes him mad.)

Aubrey De Grey’s Recent Engagement

The chief science officer at SENS Research Foundation and one of the most popular SV scientists ever, Aubrey De Grey, known for his bold claims that, 30 years from now, the science is going to end aging and make us live forever, is also known for his intemperate lifestyle. As of recent, however, the things are changing. Having finished the relationship with his wife (and two girlfriends), De Grey entered, yes, you’ve guessed it: a stable relationship! (He’s “engaged,” as he put it.)

Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Singled For Death?

In the book Homo Deus, by Yuval Noah Harrari, Sergey Brin and Larry Page were… singled for death. That’s correct! Discussing Google’s anti-aging program, Harrari noted that its progress is too slow to “solve death” in time to make Google’s founders immortal. “I was singled out for death!” Sergey Brin commented on one of the recent SV’s scientific conferences. There’s still no comment from Larry Page.

Peter Thiel’s New Zealand House

Since 2011, Peter Thiel is the citizen of New Zealand, where he bought a large plot of land; the plot is located near Lake Wanaka, and that’s where Thiel has built his new(est?) mansion. Which would not be all that interesting if not for his reasons; and these include the fear of the nuclear or environmental Armageddon. (For the same reason, Sam Altman, Thiel’s friend, bought a plot of land in California; both hope to survive the disaster in one of those places, should the disaster ever come. Both claim the reason that they are in business is to prevent it from happening.)

Young, Younger, the Youngest

Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, SpaceX, Hyperloop, and PayPal, to name a few, has nailed his first business opportunity at the age of… 12; he programmed a simple (yet entertaining!) videogame.

And you can still play it; it’s available here.

 

Unicorns vs. Virgins

In Silicon Valley jargon, startups that make it to $1 billion in worth are sometimes called “unicorns.” One popular SV joke is that it’s no longer possible to tell whether or not unicorns are rarer there than virgins out there.

The Death of the Californian Funeral Business

For years, James “Doug” Cassity, the head of the funeral business National Prearranged Services, was selling his preneed funeral contracts, $10.000 apiece, to the Californian bold and beautiful. He has amassed a fortune; only that, when it comes to being able to provide the services he’s been paid for, he was proven insolvent, his business revealed to be “a Ponzi scheme” (a pyramid scheme). This might be the worst event the American funeral business has faced ever (in terms of financial losses, it certainly is).

The Most Popular Startup Book

The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries, is a book that every startup entrepreneur should have on his bookshelf; it might not solve all of their problems, but it certainly offers a new, interesting perspective on how to do business in an environment such as SV. Not to mention it looks good. (It actually does look good.) The problem with it is that even now, 6 years after its publications, its theses haven’t been thoroughly validated. As a result, a number of startup founders claim it’s not only despite the implementation of the method in their startup, but due to it, that their businesses have failed.

The debate is pending; meanwhile, other startup books are written and released. The authors, at least some of them, Peter Thiel included, seem to have taken the lesson seriously, as they no longer talk of solving all the problems and openly admit that their theses are based primarily on an anecdotal evidence (rather than scientific research).

The Map and the Territory

Michel Houellebecq’s fifth novel, the Goncourt Prize-winning The Map and the Territory, opens with a scene of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs deciding on who takes what in the Valley; a paragraph later, it is revealed that the situation never happened and what Houellebecq describes is only a painting depicting these two. (The painting is fictional, too; it never existed.) The Map and the Territory may not be the first (and surely won’t be the last) work of fiction to feature a SV entrepreneur; it is possible, however, that it is the best, and Houellebecq is often named the future contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature (my bet is that he won’t get it). It would make Steve Jobs proud.

(As to Bill Gates, it’s hard to be sure.)

Afraid of Heights?

Elon Musk was rumored to be afraid of heights (he never commented on the rumor himself). Which would probably be nothing special if not for his ambitions to conquer and colonize Mars.

How will it affect SpaceX’s stock value remains to be seen.

Do you know any interesting facts on the Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurs that might be worth sharing? If so, let us know; write to us or leave a comment!

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This literature aficionado excels in stripping things naked & getting philosophical. (He calls it Die Hermeneutik der Faktizität.) Also: He claims to know who THE THOMAS PYNCHON are.

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