- Tej Kohli is an Indian-born tech billionaire, VC, and entrepreneur who made the majority of his fortune through the e-commerce and real estate industries.
- Since 2010 he has served as chairman of his eponymous VC firm, Tej Kohli Ventures, which invests in artificial intelligence, robotics, genomics, fintech, and e-sports.
- Speaking to Business Insider, Kohli explained why his two teenage children will live to between 125 and 150 years old.
- He said tiny disease-fighting robots, DNA reprogramming, and artificial blood will all play a role in prolonging life — and he’s actively investing in this biotech.
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Tech billionaire Tej Kohli says his 16-year-old son and 14-year old daughter will live to between 125 and 150 years old, describing it as "inevitable" they will surpass a century thanks to advances in technology.
Kohli made the majority of his money from white-label technology and payment-processing providers clustered around Grafix Softech, the e-commerce firm he built up in the 1990s. This portfolio was sold in a management buyout in 2007 worth around $500 million.
The majority of Kohli’s wealth was then invested in the markets and real estate, with a focus on commercial and residential property in emerging tech hubs in Berlin, Abu Dhabi, and India. He also invests through his VC firm Tej Kohli Ventures.
Forbes put his net worth at $6 billion in 2016 and his wealth was examined by Harvard as part of a $2 million donation he made to its research on corneal blindness this week. This donation underlines his fascination in medical advances, which form an active part of his investment portfolio.
By today’s standards, 125 years old would make Kohli’s children the oldest people to have ever lived: Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment is officially the oldest person ever, having died in 2001 aged 122 (and, even then, there was debate surrounding how old she really was).
Kohli thinks human DNA is reprogrammable
Speaking to Business Insider, Kohli said "a part" of why he holds this view is his confidence in the future development of nanorobotics, whereby tiny robots are inserted into the bloodstream to fight diseases (nanorobotics remains in its infancy, and has not yet been tested on humans). A bigger reason, he said, is the fact that DNA can be reprogrammed.
"All DNA is programmable," explained Kohli. "What that really means, in effect – without getting too technical – is that we have to generate more red blood cells than white blood cells, to ensure that fewer diseases come into play.
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"Look at what’s happened in the last 20 years – and this is not planned, because of advanced medicine – it’s now the norm to live to 80; 85 years. If you said that to my dad’s generation, he wouldn’t believe you. He died when he was 58."
Kohli admitted the reprogramming of human DNA gives rise to ethical considerations – in particular, the debate about so-called ‘designer babies’. His attitude, however, is to develop tech first and regulate later. "I’m more into ‘let’s get the thing happening and then we will monitor it,’" he said.
"I’m interested in – and looking to acquire – lots of companies who are going and reprogramming people’s DNA. Having more red blood cells is just one small part of it."
Kohli is backing a US-based firm developing a form of artificial blood
Kohli also believes artificial blood will play a role in extending human life. Kohli Ventures and Cascade Global invested $100 million in Detraxi, a biotech firm that’s developing artificial blood, as well as a system for preserving and regenerating human organs.
"Detraxi’s artificial blood conforms to all blood types, and we are trying to come up with the right formula so that we get all the proper approvals," he explained. "We’re not quite there, as yet, but we will be very soon, hopefully.
"When that happens, that’s the type of thing that extends life. With biotech and genomics, the way they are working towards advancing people’s lives is very much in the making, and is at quite advanced stages.
"It is beginning to start affecting people positively in that direction. Therefore, [taking] all this in combination, it’s a no-brainer [that my children will live to 125]."
Kohli is not the only tech billionaire to anticipate drastically longer human lives. In 2014, PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel said he hopes to live for 120 years, and has invested heavily in technologies he believes could enable people to cheat death entirely, as has Oracle CEO Larry Ellison.
Though Kohli is unsure whether Thiel will reach 120 – the PayPal cofounder is currently 51 – he remains certain his children’s generation will surpass that milestone.
He added: "If somebody asked him [Thiel] how he would live so long, he went into great detail. I don’t know if he will or not, but I’m sure the younger people – maybe you, and certainly my children – will live for a long period of time, for all these reasons.
"Peter Thiel can say that five years ago and give you lots of reasons. I think we have come a long way in the last 5 years. It is inevitable [my children] will live to 125 years old."
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