Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, the “Winklevoss twins” who once claimed that the idea for Facebook had been stolen from them, have reportedly invested in a startup with ambitions reminiscent of “Jurassic Park.”
The startup is called “Colossal,” and, under the leadership of Harvard geneticist George Church, it is aimed at “de-extinction,” that is, at bringing back into the world species that died out ages ago.
A particular concern is the wooly mammoth. If the company’s projections bear out, lab-grown wooly mammoth calves will be walking about in six years.
Novelist Michael Crichton and, after him, director Steven Spielberg famously imagined dinosaurs being brought back to earth because their DNA exists within mosquitoes caught in amber. That isn’t Church’s plan, though.
Genetic Engineering and Jeffrey Epstein
The wooly mammoth is a close relative of the Asian elephant of today. Church’s plan, hatched in collaboration with that of tech entrepreneur Ben Lamm, is to re-engineer the genome of Asian elephants into something more akin to the mammoths’.
This will allow the new mammoths to roam a large part of the earth where there are hardly any human inhabitants: Northern Canada, parts of Alaska, and Siberia. That, in turn, could limit the melting of the permafrost in that vast region, which would also keep methane from being released into the atmosphere. The release of methane threatens to speed global warming.
Colossal is described as a for-profit enterprise, but it isn’t yet clear how the monetization will occur. Lamm told CNBC, “none of our investors are focused on monetizing right now, which is great.”
George Church has become a controversial figure because his genetics research was partly funded 2005-07 by the Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation. This was part of a calculated strategy by Epstein to buy himself the protection of powerful people by making his name known in connection with the support of cutting-edge science.
Of the many scientists who inadvertently assisted Epstein in this way, Church was the first to offer a public apology.
The Winklevoss Twins as VCs
The Winklevoss twins have been in the venture capitalist business since 2012, when they created Winklevoss Capital precisely for this purpose, to offer angel investments to early stage companies.
In April 2013, the twins announced that they owned approximately $11 million in bitcoin through Winklevoss Capital. There were rumors that they may have owned 1% of all the bitcoin in circulation.
Bitcoin has been a very volatile asset. Indeed, shortly after that announcement, its price fell from $180 to $80 in a single week. There have been a lot of ups and downs since, but the Winklevoss twins have stayed in it for the long haul, and bitcoins are now worth more than $44K.
They sold some of their bitcoin in 2015, to raise the cash necessary to create a new cryptocurrency exchange, Gemini.
Gemini has developed a reputation as one of the safer places to buy, store or sell the alt currencies. It is licensed by the New York State Department of Financial Services.
That is an important license. New York has some of the most stringent crypto reguirements in the United States. As a consequence, few platforms operate there.
The Winklevoss twins have deepened their footprint in the crypto world of late by getting an early start in non-fungible tokens (NFTs). They bought Nifty Gateway, a digital art auction platform, in November 2019 from its founders, Duncan and Griffin Cock Foster. The two Fosters are also twins.
The Winklevoss brothers have done very well with Nifty Gateway. Under the Cock Fosters, monthly sales were beneath $100,000. They are now in the millions. Indeed, this February Nifty Gateway accounted for $75 million of the $91 million in NFT art auctioned on the seven top online platforms.
With results like that, the Winklevoss twins can afford to contribute to some wooly mammoth causes.