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Bryan Johnson’s Antiaging Quest Has Made Headlines. However There’s Extra to His Story

On December 11, Johnson lastly launched his public assertion, a 16-minute video to YouTube entitled “My Ex-Fiancée Sued Me for $9,000,000” by which he solid himself as a sufferer of a #MeToo extortion scheme. (The $9 million referred to a letter that Southern’s earlier attorneys, engaged on contingency, despatched to Johnson in April 2021, looking for a settlement to keep away from a public authorized battle.) “Their technique was to inflict most ache and struggling on me in order that I’d pay up privately,” he stated. “They miscalculated my tenaciousness and resolve, and their technique backfired, inflicting collateral harm upon themselves.” He famous that he plans to place the cash that Southern is paying for his authorized charges right into a belief that she will entry completely for her future medical wants.

However individuals near Southern view the case and its end result in a different way. Anna-Marie Wascher, considered one of her closest pals, feels Johnson’s latest posts in regards to the case’s decision are “outlandish.” She advised Self-importance Honest, “This isn’t a he stated/she stated story. It’s considered one of management, energy, and the idolization of false personas powered by cash and/or social media—not by authenticity, compassion, or a optimistic contribution to society.”

Before the lawsuit, earlier than the most cancers, earlier than crossing paths with Johnson, earlier than anybody knew what a digital creator was, Taryn Southern was one. Within the aughts, she grew to become identified for her YouTube music video parodies within the fashion of “Bizarre Al” Yankovic and two channels with half one million subscribers. Charismatic, fairly, and blessed with a powerful singing voice—highly effective sufficient to propel her to the American Idol semifinals when she was a teen—Southern moved to Los Angeles after attending the College of Miami on a tutorial scholarship, graduating magna cum laude with a double BA in anthropology and blended media journalism. As her movies went viral, her popularity as a millennial advertising and marketing whiz on the nexus of leisure and know-how grew. She arrange a one-woman consulting firm, Pleased Cat Media, and was employed by firms starting from Ford to Marriott that wished to succeed in a younger and really on-line viewers. She was invited to talk at prestigious tech conferences, hosted the purple carpet on the Golden Globes, and even dabbled in performing, with visitor roles on fashionable reveals like New Woman. There have been segments she produced for At the moment, a late-night speak present on the Discovery Channel the place she labored as a correspondent, and a point out in a 2016 Self-importance Honest article about rising YouTube and Vine stars.

Southern’s YouTube content material attracted the eye of Johnson, who, in response to Southern’s pals, slid into her Fb messages in June 2016 and requested her out. On the time, Johnson was a divorced dad who was embracing his new id as a rich tech prophet after breaking away from Mormonism and rising from a decade-long bout with melancholy. “I attempted to remake myself as—I don’t need to say from scratch as a result of that’s too far of an overstatement—however I wished to remake myself so far as I might attain,” he tells Self-importance Honest.

Cash was scarce within the Johnson family as he was rising up in Springville, Utah. His father, a lawyer who was disbarred in 1992, was an addict and separated from Johnson’s mom, a substitute instructor, when Johnson was three. (In an August interview on the Diary of a CEO podcast, Johnson spoke about how shut he and his father have develop into in maturity, rising emotional whereas recounting how random individuals on the web made feedback about his father after the information of the three-way plasma swap broke.)

Johnson delayed school to be a Mormon missionary in Ecuador for 2 years. The expertise of seeing excessive poverty up shut impressed him to need to “make an infinite sum of money by the age of 30 after which work out a strategy to uplevel humanity,” he wrote on X, previously generally known as Twitter, in July.

When he returned from Ecuador, he enrolled in school at Brigham Younger College and parlayed a mobile phone gross sales job into his first profitable entrepreneurial enterprise: hiring school college students to promote mobile phone service for him. Though the corporate helped cowl his tuition, “it was not going to make me sufficient cash to retire by 30, so I needed to discover one thing greater,” he advised Tim Ferriss on a 2015 episode of his eponymous podcast. (The episode was known as “The Rags-to-Riches Thinker.”) Johnson’s subsequent transfer was beginning a VoIP firm that went out of enterprise, after which he tried his hand in an actual property growth enterprise that additionally failed. By 2006, he had moved to Chicago to get his govt MBA on the Sales space Faculty of Enterprise, the place considered one of his favourite thinkers, Nobel laureate Gary S. Becker, taught. Deeply indebted and with a household to assist, he took a job promoting bank card processing providers to retailers door-to-door. “The requirement was like: In the event you might fog a mirror, you might work for these guys,” he advised Ferriss.

Earlier than lengthy, Johnson was the corporate’s primary salesperson, and he had a brand new concept to disrupt the fragmented, opaque bank card processing enterprise. He known as it Braintree, after the hometown of considered one of his heroes, John Adams, and entered it in a enterprise faculty competitors, which he gained. Braintree grew by way of bootstrapping as firms starting from Github to Airbnb grew to become purchasers till 2011, when the corporate, with about 40 staff and some million {dollars} in annual income, took on a $34 million Sequence A funding from the distinguished enterprise agency Accel Companions. Johnson took a multimillion-dollar payout and stored a stake within the enterprise. Just a few months later, Braintree formally introduced that Johnson would get replaced as CEO by Invoice Prepared, who had been Accel’s govt in residence. (Prepared is now the CEO of Pinterest.) In 2013, when the corporate was bought, Johnson alongside together with his two brothers—one served as Braintree’s CFO and the opposite was on the gross sales crew—and his sister, an accountant for the corporate, all exited.

In interviews, Johnson takes credit score for the sale of Braintree. And positively he deserves credit score for noticing a niche out there for clear funds processing, rising a loyal crew, and build up a ebook of enterprise that made it enticing sufficient for Accel Companions to put money into. Nevertheless it was Prepared who orchestrated Braintree’s $26.2 million acquisition of Venmo in 2012. Sooner or later, there was a major enterprise disagreement, in response to a number of sources, and within the months earlier than Braintree was acquired by PayPal, Johnson was barred from getting into the corporate’s headquarters. Johnson says “that disagreement” led the CEO to “taking an motion that I disagreed with,” however that Johnson “selected to not make an enormous deal about it as a result of it was in the very best curiosity of the corporate that we have now the dialogue with eBay,” which on the time owned PayPal. In 2013, Braintree was bought to PayPal for roughly $800 million in money, of which Johnson says he netted near $400 million. Invoice Prepared and PayPal president David Marcus have been photographed on the Nasdaq on the day the deal was introduced. Johnson wasn’t talked about within the press launch.

Partwork of Johnson’s self-mythology, which he speaks about usually, is how the every day grind of entrepreneurship took its toll on his psychological and bodily well being. “I had been [for] 14 years beneath the crushing stress of constructing a number of firms. I used to be in a nasty relationship. I used to be making an attempt to depart my born-into faith. I wasn’t sleeping. I used to be 50 kilos chubby. I had been depressed for 10 years. And so I used to be not in tip-top form,” he tells me. When a good friend took him to a Brooklyn warehouse social gathering to cheer him up after promoting Braintree, he remembers feeling so liberated that he danced for seven hours straight. “When the music stopped within the morning, I used to be disenchanted as a result of I wished to bounce extra,” he says, including that he was not beneath the affect of any medication on the time.

He lastly was feeling that sense of launch that comes with by no means having to fret about cash once more. His subsequent step was the “upleveling humanity” part of his life plan, which started with the allocation of $100 million of his personal cash in an funding fund, known as the OS Fund, with the mission to again concepts that appear unimaginable: “I need to get an organization from ‘loopy’ to ‘viable,’ ” Johnson advised Fortune journal in 2014. His most profitable guess, he says, was an early funding in Ginkgo Bioworks, a Boston-based biotech firm that was valued at $15 billion when it went public in 2021. “His curiosity has been getting in on the floor degree, seeing issues that others don’t see, and with the ability to take up threat to assist these basic applied sciences evolve,” says Jason Kakoyiannis, a serial biotech founder, adviser to Ginkgo Bioworks, and good friend of Johnson’s.

After launching OS, Johnson backed his personal ardour mission, Kernel, which initially deliberate to develop computer-brain interfaces just like Elon Musk’s Neuralink however has since pivoted to noninvasive applied sciences.

Johnson was dwelling in Los Angeles and serving as chief govt of Kernel when he first messaged Southern on Fb to ask her out. What was alleged to be a fast drink at an LA restaurant was hours of deep dialog, throughout which Johnson advised her that he “cherished the best way her mind labored” and that he felt “an intense need to maintain her,” in response to her lawsuit. “I keep in mind [Taryn] saying she felt like she related with him in an mental approach. For somebody as sharp as her, that was troublesome to return by,” remembers a good friend who spoke to Southern proper after the date. (Like many individuals interviewed for this story, she didn’t need to be named as a result of she fears retribution from Johnson.) Inside weeks, Johnson launched Southern to his three kids, who have been visiting Los Angeles. For Southern’s thirtieth birthday, lower than a month after they met, Johnson took her and three of her pals on his jet to Lake Tahoe, the place they rented a home and went waterskiing. “He love-bombed absolutely the shit out of her,” remembers Southern’s good friend Bella Acton, who was on the birthday occasion. “I don’t suppose ‘love-bombing’ even does justice to simply how full-on he was: You’d be sitting there speaking to Taryn and he’d be like, kissing her face, and also you’re pondering, May you possibly cease doing that?”