Bryan Johnson

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Bryan Johnson (born August 22, 1977) is an American entrepreneur [1] [2] and venture capitalist.[3] He is founder and CEO of Kernel, a company developing advanced neural interfaces,[4] and OS Fund, a venture capital firm that invests in early-stage science and technology companies.[5]

He was also founder, chairman and CEO of Braintree,[6] a company which specializes in mobile and web payment systems for ecommerce companies. Braintree was acquired by eBay for $800 million in 2013.[7]

Johnson lives in Los Angeles.[8]

Early life

Johnson was born in Provo, Utah,[9] and raised in Springville, Utah,[6] the middle child of three brothers and a sister. After his parents divorced, Johnson lived with his mother and his stepfather, the owner of a trucking company. At 19, Johnson became a Mormon missionary, customary for young men in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). He spent two years in Ecuador, where he proselytized and performed service projects in impoverished communities.[2]

Johnson says that his time as a missionary was transformative: Rather than helping impoverished individuals find a better life in heaven, he says he decided it would be better to improve their lives now.[10] To do that, he planned to build a company, earn enough money to retire by the time he turned 30, and use his resources to pursue that goal.[11]

Johnson graduated with a BA in International Studies from Brigham Young University in 2003 and an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business in 2007.[9] Booth awarded its 2016 Young Alumni Award to Johnson.[12]


Early Ventures

Johnson, who has been described as a “serial tech entrepreneur,” [6] launched three startups, whilst at university, between 1999 and 2003. The first, which sold cell phones, helped pay his way through Brigham Young University. In that business, Johnson hired other college students to sell service plans along with cell phones; Johnson earned about a $300 commission on each sale.[13]

Johnson also started two other businesses. Inquist, a VOIP company Johnson co-founded with three other partners, combined features of Vonage and Skype. It ended operations in 2001. Johnson has attributed the failure to an inability to secure funding following 9/11 as well as errors made by him and his co-founders.[2]

After that, Johnson joined his brother and another partner on a $70 million real estate project later in 2001. The project did not achieve sales goals and required additional capital. Johnson and his two co-founders moved on.[2]


Johnson formed the idea for Braintree while he was working at a part-time job selling credit card processing services to businesses, work that he took to help pay his bills while the real estate venture encountered difficulty.[14] Johnson became the top salesperson out of 400 nationwide, breaking previous sales records.[15]

When Johnson moved from Utah to Chicago to attend graduate school at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, he continued working for the same card-processing company. Nine months after accepting a management position at Sears, Johnson formed Braintree and approached some of his old customers to solicit their business.[2]

Johnson has said his goal was to improve customers’ payment experiences—something he saw lacking—and to build an “exceptional” company that both his team and their customers would love.[2][14][16]

Braintree’s rapid growth was spurred by clients in the technology industry including OpenTable, Uber, Shopify,[14] Airbnb,[17] and others. The company was 47th on Inc. magazine’s 2011 list of the 500 fastest-growing companies[18] and 415th in 2012.[19] That year, Braintree purchased Venmo, a startup that lets users send and receive money from each other electronically, for $26.2 million.[20]

While Johnson received $25,000 to start the company after winning a business plan competition from the University of Chicago in 2007,[21] he otherwise bootstrapped the company before raising venture capital — $34 million in a Series A investment from Accel Partners — in June 2011.[22] [23][24] At the time, Braintree was processing about $3 billion in credit card payments annually and generating $10 million in revenue.[21]

By September 2013, the company announced it was processing $12 billion in payments annually, with $4 billion of that on mobile.[25] Shortly afterward, on Sept. 26, 2013, the company was acquired by eBay for $800 million.[17] [26][27]

OS Fund

In October 2014, at 37, Johnson announced his creation of OS Fund, which he backed with $100 million of his personal capital.[6] The venture capital firm invests in early-stage science and technology companies led by "inventors and scientists who aim to benefit humanity through quantum leap discoveries at the operating system, or OS, level,” Johnson said.[28] In 2016 he launched an online video series, “Explorations,” featuring interviews with leaders of some of the companies backed by OS Fund.[29]

In an article on Medium announcing the fund, Johnson wrote:

“We are at one of the most exciting moments in history. At no other time has the distance between imagination and creation been so narrow. We now have the power to build the kind of world we could previously only dream of. With new tools such as 3D printing, genomics, machine intelligence, software, synthetic biology and others, we can now make in days, weeks or months things that previous innovators couldn’t possibly create in a lifetime. Where da Vinci could sketch, today we can build. And yet, there are still so many problems that we haven’t begun to solve, so many rich opportunities that lie in wait.”[28]

In 2015, in an effort to spark investment in emerging sciences, the fund publicly released the methodology it uses to evaluate whether to invest in companies involved in synthetic biology.[30]

Johnson – who has said he wants to take companies from “crazy to viable”[3] - expects future problem-solvers to come his direction. “I think the winds will shift,” he said. “There will be a shift in the kinds of things people aspire to do. Funding and supporting hard problems will become cool in a company in a couple of years.”[6]


Johnson started Kernel in 2016, making a personal investment of $100 million.[31] The company's goal is to build an implantable device to improve brain function in humans, such as memory, while interfacing with artificial intelligence (AI). Initially, the company is focusing on applications for patients with neurodegeneration such as memory loss.[32]

Patients with epilepsy are among the first to test the technology, which relies on algorithms that mimic the brain's natural electrical signals to improve communication between brain cells. Kernel refers to itself as a "human intelligence (HI) company"; Johnson, who has written that the combination of HI and AI will prove to be of great importance for the future of humanity, says his longterm objective is to improve both intelligence and quality of life as human lifespans grow longer.[33][34]

The industry has attracted investment from technology notables such as Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg. But some in the scientific community, noting the complexity of the effort and humans' limited knowledge of the brain, have questioned whether the effort will succeed.[10][35]

Personal life

Johnson has three children.[9] Johnson was raised in the Mormon faith, but has said he left the LDS Church when he was 34.[36]He is an experienced outdoor enthusiast: Johnson has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, as well as Toubkal, the highest peak of North Africa.[9] He is also a pilot and has written a children’s book, Code 7.[37]

"If humanity were to identify a singular thing to work on, the thing that would demand the greatest minds of our generation, it's human intelligence," he has said. "Specifically, the ability to co-evolve with artificial intelligence."[38]

On March 17, 2018, he became engaged to his girlfriend, Youtuber and model Taryn Southern.[39]

Bryan is also friends with Lincoln Cannon (a Mormon transhumanist) and has spoken at and attended Transhumanist conferences and organization meetings. While not publicly talking about himself as a transhumanist, his work is focused exclusively on the human brain from a 'transhuman' perspective.

Boards and other posts

  • Board member, Planetary Resources[40]
  • Member, Innovation Board, XPRIZE[41]


  1. Altucher, James (May 4, 2013). "How To Go From $0 To $1,000,000 In Two Years". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Kravitz, Seth ({{{date}}}). "How Bryan Johnson has Taken Braintree to Explosive Growth in Three Years". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  3. 3.0 3.1 Mims, Christopher (October 20, 2014). "Humanity’s Last Great Hope: Venture Capitalists". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  4. {{{last1}}}, {{{first1}}} (2017-03-28). "Elon Musk's latest target: Brain-computer interfaces". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  5. {{{last1}}}, {{{first1}}} ({{{date}}}). "OS Fund LLC: Private Company Information". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Mangalindan, JP ({{{date}}}). "Crazy, insane start-ups are this tech investor’s meat and potatoes". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  7. Hardawar, Devindra ({{{date}}}). "Ebay buys payments startup Braintree for $800M, yet another win for PayPal". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  8. {{{last1}}}, {{{first1}}} ({{{date}}}). "Twitter". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 {{{last1}}}, {{{first1}}} ({{{date}}}). "Bryan Johnson". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  10. 10.0 10.1 Richardson, John (November 16, 2017). "Inside the Race to Hack the Human Brain". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  11. Dameron, Emerson (October 21, 2014). "Departed Braintree founder starts $100 million venture fund". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  12. {{{last1}}}, {{{first1}}} ({{{date}}}). "Bryan Johnson". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  13. Template:Cite podcast
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 {{{last1}}}, {{{first1}}} (July 12, 2012). "Founder Stories at 1871: Braintree's Bryan Johnson". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  15. Linderman, Matt (March 8, 2011). "Bootstrapped, Profitable, & Proud: Braintree". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  16. {{{last1}}}, {{{first1}}} ({{{date}}}). "About". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  17. 17.0 17.1 Barr, Alistair (September 26, 2013). "PayPal agrees to acquire Braintree for $800 million". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  18. {{{last1}}}, {{{first1}}} ({{{date}}}). "The 2011 Inc. 5000". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  19. {{{last1}}}, {{{first1}}} ({{{date}}}). "The 2012 Inc. 5000". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  20. Wortham, Jenna (August 16, 2012). "Braintree, a Payments Company, Buys Venmo for $26.2 Million". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  21. 21.0 21.1 Pletz, John (June 29, 2011). "Startup Braintree gets funding from Accel Partners". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  22. Kim, Ryan (October 17, 2012). "With $35M in new funding, Braintree wants to take payments global". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  23. King, Rachel (October 17, 2012). "Digital payments platform Braintree raises $35M in VC funding". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  24. Lynley, Matthew (October 19, 2012). "Q&A With Payments Start-Up Braintree, Flush With $35 Million". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  25. Deamicis, Carmel (September 20, 2013). "Mobile payments are one-third of Braintree’s business". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  26. Chowdhry, Amit (September 26, 2013). "eBay Buys Braintree For $800 Million To Accelerate Its Mobile Payments Revenue". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  27. Bomkamp, Samantha (September 26, 2013). "EBay buying Chicago-based Braintree". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  28. 28.0 28.1 Johnson, Bryan (October 20, 2014). [{{{url}}} "Rewrite the OS, Change the World"]. {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  29. {{{last1}}}, {{{first1}}} ({{{date}}}). "Explorations". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  30. Knapp, Alex (September 15, 2015). "Braintree Founder Unveils Open Source Playbook For Science Investors". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  31. Mannes, John (October 20, 2016). "Bryan Johnson invests $100 million in Kernel to unlock the power of the human brain". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  32. Hamzelou, Jessica (October 20, 2016). "$100 million project to make intelligence-boosting brain implant". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  33. Dwoskin, Elizabeth (August 15, 2016). "Putting a computer in your brain is no longer science fiction". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  34. {{{last1}}}, {{{first1}}} ({{{date}}}). "Kernel". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  35. Hamzelou, Jessica (October 20, 2016). "$100 million project to make intelligence-boosting brain implant". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  36. Template:Cite podcast
  37. {{{last1}}}, {{{first1}}} ({{{date}}}). "Bryan Johnson". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  38. Statt, Nick (February 22, 2017). "Kernel is trying to hack the human brain-but neuroscience has a long way to go". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  40. Johnson, Bryan (April 29, 2015). "After the Biofuel Failure, Does Synthetic Biology Have A Future?". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  41. {{{last1}}}, {{{first1}}} ({{{date}}}). "Innovation Board". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"


See also


External links