Home » “Out of selfishness, but no matter“: Frank Thelen bets on longevity

“Out of selfishness, but no matter“: Frank Thelen bets on longevity

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“Out of selfishness, but no matter“: Frank Thelen bets on longevity

It’s long been a hype in the USA: Longevity is also becoming an issue in the German startup scene. Already there as an investor: Frank Thelen. Why? Does he want to live forever?

Would like to live much, much longer: investor Frank Thelen. Eyecatchme Photography / Frank.io

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Who wouldn’t want to live longer? So: physically healthy and mentally fit. If only you could offer that, a long, good life. The market size would probably be gigantic.

In the USA, the promise of a long life has a name: Longevity. A lot of research is being done on this – and research is being established. Hype and criticism have been balanced so far – although it’s hard to resist the enthusiasm for eternal youth. You only have to look at the YouTube channel of biotech entrepreneur Bryan Johnson, THE longevity pope, who documents his anti-aging program there.

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The topic with the name Longevity, which is complicated in English and somewhat strange in German, is slowly seeping into the German startup scene. And someone who is already on it is Frank Thelen. He recently invested with his VC Freigeist in Biothrust, a startup that is developing a stem cell reactor. So we wanted to know from him: How does Thelen feel about the buzz around Longevity?

What would you do with extra years of life, Frank?

Endless. The older I get, the more I realize how lucky it is to work all day with bright minds on important and exciting topics. I learn every day what is possible. I combine that, get new perspectives on the world, talk to scientists and politicians. And if I could do this for longer – assuming, of course, that I remain mentally fit – that would give me a lot of joy. And I would say that I could also promote a few more minds from Europe who can do good things for humanity.

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So can you understand the enthusiasm for the topic of longevity?

If you have certain successes in life, I also experience this in your circle of friends, you have worked hard and also had a bit of luck. We’re talking about people who have built up a hundred million, two hundred million or maybe a billion in capital. And at the end of the day, a lot of them get to a point where they say, “Oh, shit. There is only one of me. I can buy anything, but my time here is limited.” These people then say: “I’ll now take a large part of my capital and invest it in health.” And I find that totally understandable. That’s why I think longevity is a big trend. First of all out of selfishness, but that doesn’t matter because in the end we all benefit from it.

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Some say it’s just a buzzword.

I’m a bit older and have seen that there are so-called buzzwords all the time. Multimedia used to be one of those things. What should multimedia be? Back then I had never heard of the word multimedia, but I had been producing CD-ROMs for a long time. I was simply driven by the fact that I wanted to know: How can I get data into the graphics memory in the best possible way with 300 kilobytes per second on the CD-ROM in order to display an animation – and then someone called it multimedia.

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What I want to say: Longevity may also be a buzzword. The issue itself, whatever you call it, is in my opinion just beginning and becoming huge. In some cases this just means a pill that you take to supposedly live longer. Longevity can basically be achieved by simply eating healthier and exercising. It just requires discipline, so people prefer to swallow a “longevity pill” every day. In other cases, longevity is about science and advanced technology. Only that people who come from research would never say that they are on the longevity hype.

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What advice would you give to founders starting out in the longevity sector?

Question is: What do they want to achieve? If you “just” want to make quick money in this area, your best bet is to make some hipster pill with vitamin C and market it properly. Large-scale marketing campaign with as many influencers as possible, sales via Amazon, using the right keywords there. However, if you really want to make a difference in the area of ​​longevity, you have to be clear: it’s hard work. You have to be willing to sacrifice a lot of your life – even if you don’t feel like it’s a sacrifice – to solve a really big problem. It takes a very good scientific background.

Fortunately, we still have good research in Europe – bad execution, but good research. And especially in Germany: The regulations are strict, there are hardly any good biotech investors, and the hotspot for longevity is clearly in the USA. If you want to increase your likelihood of success, you have to go to the USA. Anyone who founds a biotech startup in Germany is either crazy or has made a really important discovery. Then you can do it here too, see Biontech. Maybe we’ll see with Prosion or BioThrust (Editor’s note: both in Thelen’s portfolio) yes, the next big success in the biotech sector, made in Germany.

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