I left my CTO job to work on longevity

I know the chances of success are ridiculous. But hey, there is nothing else I'd rather do with my life right now

I left my CTO job to work on longevity
Photo by Jonathan Diemel / Unsplash

I love technology: engineering, product, design, hiring, managing and everything in between. I've been working in the startup world for a decade and during all these years, life (people) has offered me great opportunities to do all that. I've worked with live video streaming, circular economies, e-commerce, last mile delivery, fintech and, for the past 2 years, electric vehicles. What I loved about all that was the process itself (building, growing and learning), but I haven't been really passionate about the mission. It could have been anything. And until now it has been more than enough.

But during the past couple of months I've had a change of heart. That's why I'm making a hard turn in my life and I want to share that journey with you. I'm leaving something that I'm good at to do something that I'm passionate about.

Saying goodbye

But before starting anything else, I first had to leave my job as CTO at Voltz. I guess I could bootstrap, but it wouldn't be real. I'm an "all in" type of person.

This decision was pretty hard for me, mostly because I had to part ways with a team of 50 people that I had built and nurtured from the ground up. Software and Hardware Engineers, Product Managers and Designers - all extremely talented and bright people who I will miss working alongside.

Technology & Engineering Christmas All Hands

Startups are hard. So much that sometimes they look like chaotic shit-shows. But despite the hard bits and the ridiculous chances of success, it's amazing how a team of talented people can build something and innovate. We did so many interesting things in the past two years. We worked with new electric motorbikes, e-commerce, connectivity, security, manufacturing and even some ADAS prototypes for next models. We launched the first battery swapping stations business for electric two wheelers in LATAM; something that has never been done in LATAM. That was pretty hard but in the end it made me comfortable venturing into missions that are not very common.

It has been a wonderful journey from which I sadly had to say goodbye. I had helped to scale technology teams in the past, but this was the first time I did it on my own. Sad.

And now what?

Do you remember when SpaceX successfully landed its first rocket? I do. I was watching it live with my brother. It was one of those few moments where I felt a sense of awe, euforia, amazement and even a little bit of dizziness all at the same time. I call that feeling Progress Vertigo. It was one of those few moments when, like in a strategy video game, I felt we were in a totally new era. I knew it was going to change literally everything even if I didn't know exactly how.

The second time I felt Progress Vertigo was some weeks ago when I tried ChatGPT for the first time. We are now in 2008 (2023). Big financial crash. The first iPhone (ChatGPT) was presented just last year. The first functional Android 1.0 phone will be presented in October later this year. Next 3-5 generations of ChatGPT and its future competitors will revolutionize literally everything in the same way smartphones did in the past 15 years. People who haven’t realized this today will do in the next 3 years.

These leaps are possible because passionate people at some point in their life decided to work on something that mattered to them more than anything else. Despite the ridiculous chances of success. Like Laura Deming starting The Longevity Fund when almost nobody was investing in longevity biotech. Or like Sam Altman starting OpenAI to work on AGI when people were rolling their eyes at the idea.

So what do I deeply care about? Longevity. Living as long as possible, as healthy as possible. I think it is one of the most important problems humanity should address right now (besides energy and AI). And for me longevity is the most important one.

Credit to Celine Halioua and her post What the aging field needs

Just to make it clear. This is not about immortality, nor about The Singularity, nor about anything that resembles greek mythology nor about avoiding death altogether. Those topics I leave to the philosophers and to more spiritual people. I'm an engineer. So this is only about increasing healthy lifespan.

Next steps

The day I came back from Undoing Aging Berlin in 2018 I sat down to reflect on what I wanted to do as my next steps. I remember thinking that I didn't know if I had enough to offer to the longevity field. So instead, I decided to focus my career on leading technology teams. That day I wrote on a Notion page my 5 year objective:

Become a technical and people leader able to lead technical teams in any company.

Improve technical skills in software, distributed systems and machine learning. Improve management, leadership & people skills. Improve product and business skills. Work on different projects in different markets.

Every decision I made since then led me to this moment and after 5 years, I have to confess, I kinda feel the same. But as Sam Altman would say: figure out the mission and THEN learn any skill you need to succeed at it. So here is my objective for the next year:

Launch a longevity biotech startup, gather a team of talented people and raise capital.

Starting a startup is hard enough. Imagine a longevity biotech one. Why start my own? I probably could go work with someone who has already started this journey. Well, for sure. Yeah. Or I could probably try to get more funding for the field. Of course. But I believe we need more people starting companies around longevity biotech. And I'm a builder with an entrepreneurial mindset: teams, startups, products, ventures, funding, engineering, software, hardware, etc. We also need new ideas and new approaches. I'm an engineer so coming from a different field could be an advantage. So what are my next steps? Well:

  1. I'm joining the first cohort of the Longevity Biotech Fellowship (thank you Nathan), where I hope to learn even more about the field, meet the longevity community (entrepreneurs, investors, advocates, and scientists) and maybe even help others in their longevity biotech journey.
  2. In the meantime, I'll be reaching out to some experts in order to figure out which of the many possible projects to carry forward to clinical development. I have some ideas but at the moment they are a bit fuzzy.
  3. I'll be reaching out to some founders to better understand the differences between starting software (or hardware) startups and biotech startups. I'm especially interested in talking to people who have started biotech startups recently. I'll reach out to some investors for the same reason.
  4. Make the necessary partnerships, launch a company, raise seed funding, gather a team and get to work!

I know the chances of success are ridiculous. This journey that I'm starting is just stupid. Startups are hard and biotech startups, especially those focused on longevity, are even harder. But hey, there is nothing else I'd rather do with my life right now.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

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Jamie Larson