Jeff Bezos is well-known as the founder of retail behemoth Amazon, but like many billionaires, he’s not a one-trick pony. In addition to the company that brought Bezos untold wealth and fame, the billionaire has numerous pet projects that could very well change the world — including one that will see him leaving earth briefly on July 20th.
And Bezos is certainly not alone in these endeavors. Many of his fellow billionaires, from Elon Musk to Mark Zuckerberg, have various side projects that allow them to explore ventures that may be more personal to them. Here’s a look at some of the biggest pet projects currently being worked on by some of the world’s most famous billionaires.
Jeff Bezos: Blue Origin
One of the most famous pet projects of Jeff Bezos is his spaceflight company, Blue Origin. Bezos told Business Insider that Blue Origin was the most important work that he was doing, and he’s been backing it up with some big investments.
Bezos has been liquidating $1 billion of Amazon stock annually to pour into Blue Origin, which isn’t just a space tourism company. Rather, Bezos wants to use Blue Origin to colonize the solar system. The company has been working hard to secure various contracts with NASA for future spaceflight, competing with another billionaire’s pet project, Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
Blue Origin’s first human flight, with Bezos aboard, will occur on July 20th, 2021. Though he’ll beat Musk to the final frontier, Richard Branson was the first to rocket into the sky, where he “hovered over an invisible boundary between the planet’s atmosphere and outer space,” The Atlantic reported.
Branson’s flight took him 50 miles above earth; Bezos will aim for 62 miles, according to Wired.
Peter Thiel: Breakout Labs
Peter Thiel’s Breakout Labs funds early-stage medical companies in an effort to bring to market radical, life-changing discoveries and inventions.
Breakout Labs provides grants of up to $500,000 to promising science startups. Some of the developmental companies in the Breakout Labs portfolio include Positron Dynamics, which is researching antimatter for space propulsion systems, and UbiQD, which uses quantum dots to harvest sunlight to create power.
Mark Zuckerberg: Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
In 2015, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan founded the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, designed to help funnel some of the couple’s billions of dollars into transformative programs across the world.
The CZI has three primary focus areas: education; justice and opportunity; and science. Since its launch, the CZI has invested over $2 billion in grants to help support ventures in these areas. The CZI also offers an engineering team to assist ventures in its focus areas and supports community movements and political change to help achieve its objectives.
Jeff Bezos: Day One Fund
Another Jeff Bezos pet project is the Day One Fund, which was funded with $2 billion in 2018. The Fund is divided into two main categories. The Day 1 Families Fund focuses on funding existing nonprofits that help families experiencing homelessness. The Day 1 Academies Fund is dedicated to creating a network of new, nonprofit tier-one preschools in low-income communities.
In 2020, the fund granted $105.9 million to 42 recipients in 24 states, with some organizations receiving up to $5 million each.
Find Out: How Much Is Jeff Bezos Worth?
Elon Musk: SpaceX
Elon Musk is perhaps best known as the outspoken CEO of electric vehicle maker Tesla, but his work with pet project SpaceX is rapidly growing in importance. SpaceX has recently been outdueling fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin for key NASA contracts. Specifically, on April 16, 2021, NASA selected SpaceX’s Starship to land the first astronauts on the moon since the Apollo program.
In addition to launching satellites into Earth orbit, SpaceX has also brought astronauts to the International Space Station on its Crew Dragon spacecraft. SpaceX is also hoping for the first all-civilian space flight in history later in 2021.
George Lucas: The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art
Forbes magazine estimates the net worth of Star Wars creator George Lucas to be $7.3 billion. As a towering figure in the motion picture industry, it’s perhaps not surprising that Lucas has set aside $1 billion to build the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles.
Expected to open in 2023, the museum will present everything from cutting-edge digital technologies to traditional paintings by artists like Degas. Numerous educational opportunities for visitors of all ages will be highlighted in the groundbreaking building, which will offer 100,000 square feet of exhibit space, two state-of-the-art theaters and various restaurants and retail spaces surrounded by an 11-acre park.
Elon Musk: Neuralink
Elon Musk may already have his hands full with Tesla and SpaceX, but those aren’t his only businesses. Another pet project of Musk’s is Neuralink, which is designing the first neural implant that will allow humans to control computers or mobile devices via an implant known as the Link. This device will be implanted directly into your brain and will process, stimulate and transmit neural signals. Ultimately, Musk says he hopes the device can be used to cure ailments ranging from hearing loss and insomnia to depression and memory loss. The company has already begun trials on pigs.
Bill and Melinda Gates: Gates Foundation
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has focused more and more on philanthropy as he ages, and the Gates Foundation is now one of the largest charitable foundations in the world. As of Q4 2019, the foundation had distributed $54.8 billion.
In fact, in 2020, Gates announced he was stepping down from the board of Microsoft to focus on philanthropic activities. His foundation primarily focuses on eradicating poverty and improving healthcare around the world, but education and climate change are also areas of importance for Gates. In 2020, it put its “total attention” on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Gates.
Richard Branson/Elon Musk: Hyperloop
Elon Musk has no shortage of ambitions, and his Hyperloop company is one of the most ambitious of all. Musk plans to use Hyperloop to transport passengers at ultra-high speeds in vacuum tubes, getting commuters from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore in just 15 minutes, for example.
However, it appears that billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Hyperloop has taken the crown away from Musk. While Virgin’s Hyperloop actually completed the world’s first hyperloop test with human passengers in November 2020, as of April 2021, it appears that Musk’s Hyperloop may not be viable — or at least delayed — as Musk’s Maryland and Los Angeles tunnels are not being dug, and mentions of the two have been scrubbed from the Musk’s Boring Company website, according to Bloomberg.
Jeff Bezos: Bezos Earth Fund
Much like his fellow billionaire Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos has no shortage of side projects. The Bezos Earth Fund is dedicated to using its $10 billion war chest to support organizations and scientists combating the effects of climate change.
Launched in February 2020, the Bezos Earth Fund announced its first 16 recipients in November. The first $791 million in donations went to organizations ranging from The Nature Conservancy to the World Wildlife Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the World Resources Institute. The Bezos Earth Fund follows in the footsteps of Bezos’ Amazon, which in September announced it was investing $2 billion in sustainable and decarbonizing technologies.
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