Bryan Johnson (born August 22, 1977) is an American entrepreneur and venture capitalist. He is founder and CEO of Kernel, a company developing a neuroprosthetic device to improve brain function, and the OS Fund, a $100 million fund that invests in science and technology startups that promise to radically improve quality of life.
He was also founder, chairman and CEO of Braintree, an online payment system. Braintree was acquired by eBay for $800 million in 2013.
Johnson lives in Los Angeles.
Johnson, who has been described as a “serial tech entrepreneur,” launched three startups, whilst at university, between 1999 and 2003. The first, which sold cell phones, helped pay his way through Brigham Young University. In that business, Johnson hired other college students to sell service plans along with cell phones; Johnson earned about a $300 commission on each sale.
The next two businesses he started weren’t as successful. Inquist, a VOIP company Johnson co-founded with three other partners, combined features of Vonage and Skype. It collapsed in 2001. Johnson has attributed the failure to an inability to secure funding following 9/11 as well as errors made by him and his co-founders.
Following that failure, Johnson joined his brother and another partner on a $70 million real estate project later in 2001. The project struggled to achieve sales goals and required additional capital. Johnson and his two co-founders moved on.
Johnson formed the idea for Braintree while he was working at a part-time job selling credit card processing services to businesses, work that he took to help pay his bills while the real estate venture foundered. Johnson became the top salesperson out of 400 nationwide, breaking previous sales records.
When Johnson moved from Utah to Chicago to attend graduate school at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, he continued working for the same card-processing company. Nine months after accepting a management position at Sears, Johnson formed Braintree and approached some of his old customers to solicit their business.
Johnson has said his goal was to improve customers’ payment experiences—something he saw lacking—and to build an “exceptional” company that both his team and their customers would love.
Braintree’s rapid growth was spurred by clients in the technology industry including OpenTable, Uber, Shopify, Airbnb, and others. The company was 47th on Inc. magazine’s 2011 list of the 500 fastest-growing companies and 415th in 2012. That year, Braintree purchased Venmo, a startup that lets users send and receive money from each other electronically, for $26.2 million.
While Johnson received $25,000 to start the company after winning a business plan competition from the University of Chicago in 2007, he otherwise bootstrapped the company before raising venture capital — $34 million in a Series A investment from Accel Partners — in June 2011. At the time, Braintree was processing about $3 billion in credit card payments annually and generating $10 million in revenue.
By September 2013, the company announced it was processing $12 billion in payments annually, with $4 billion of that on mobile. Shortly afterward, on Sept. 26, 2013, the company was acquired by eBay for $800 million.
Johnson started Kernel in 2016, making a personal investment of $100 million. The company’s goal is to build an implantable device to improve brain function in humans, such as memory, while interfacing with artificial intelligence (AI). Initially, the company is focusing on applications for patients with neurodegeneration such as memory loss.
Patients with epilepsy are among the first to test the technology, which relies on algorithms that mimic the brain’s natural electrical signals to improve communication between brain cells. Kernel refers to itself as a “human intelligence (HI) company”; Johnson, who has written that the combination of HI and AI will prove to be of great importance for the future of humanity, says his longterm objective is to improve both intelligence and quality of life as human lifespans grow longer.