Visionary tech investor has her eye on online health

13 Dec 2011

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Into the cosmos: Esther Dyson experiences weightlessness with Zero-G, a company in which she has a holding

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Esther Dyson is like the ‘A’ list of angel investors in the IT space. Tomorrow evening, she’ll be speaking at Science Gallery Dublin about her latest investing focal point: online health.

The founding chairman of ICANN, Dyson has one of the keenest eyes in the business for detecting the most promising technology start-ups that are destined to make it. She’s also a philanthropist and a digital technology guru.

Dyson’s past investments have included Medstory, which was subsequently sold to Microsoft in 2007. She also invested in Flickr, which was sold to Yahoo! in 2005 for a reported US$35m, and del.icio.us, also acquired by Yahoo! in that same year. Brightmail was another start-up Dyson saw potential in, as she invested in the email filtering company that was acquired by Symantec in 2004 for US$370m.

Dyson has now turned her angel investing attention to online health. She’s chairman of EDventure Holdings, a company she purchased off her former employer and which she sold to CNET Networks in 2004.

Tomorrow night at Science Gallery Dublin, Dyson will be speaking about why she is investing in health and not healthcare, a difference she is keen to emphasise. Dyson will speak about how she expects the online health marketplace to develop.

Her talk, ‘Getting to the proof: why I’m investing in health, not healthcare’, will take place from 6-7pm.

Health investments

Dyson’s current health investments include Applied Proteomics, Genomera, Habit Labs, HealthEngage, Health Loop, HealthRally, HealthTap, Keas, Medico, Medivo, Omada Health, Organized Wisdom, PatientsLikeMe, PatientsKnowBest (UK), Resilient, Tocagen and Valkee (Finland).

Space investments

Interestingly, aerospace is another area Dyson is honing in on, both in a personal and business capacity. Between 2008 and 2009, for instance, she spent almost six months training as a back-up cosmonaut in Star City outside Moscow, Russia.  

She’s an active investor in air and space, with holdings in Space Adventures and Zero-G Corporation, as well as XCOR Aerospace, Constellation Services International, Coastal Technologies Group, Dopplr.com, Airship Ventures and Icon Aircraft.

Says Dyson on her website: " … I’m active in fostering the emergence of start-ups in air and space – air taxis, online markets for travel, new forms of air traffic management, commercial space start-ups, space tourism and the like. I have flown weightless three times and will be doing so again in mid-February."

Dyson says she is "eager to go into space as soon as I can figure out how (to finance it!)"

She is also an active board member for a plethora of start-ups, including 23andMe, Airship Ventures, Eventful, Evernote, IBS Group (advisory board), Meetup, NewspaperDirect, Voxiva (the company behind text4baby.org in the US and Russia), XCOR Aerospace and Yandex.  

In addition, Dyson sits on the boards of several non-profits, including the Eurasia Foundation, the Sunlight Foundation, the Personal Genome Foundation, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation and StopBadware.org.

Dyson herself was born in Zürich, Switzerland, the daughter of the physicist Freeman Dyson and the mathematician Verena Huber-Dyson. In the past she has also worked as a journalist and a Wall Street technology analyst.

Dyson has a BA in economics from Harvard University and was founding chairman of ICANN from 1998 to 2000. She wrote the widely translated book Release 2.0: A Design for Living in the Digital Age, published by Broadway Books in 1997. 

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Carmel was a long-time reporter with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com