Last night, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos bought a newspaper — specifically, The Washington Post — for $250 million. This came as shocking news to the media world, as it put Bezos in ownership of one of the largest metropolitan newspapers in the world.
However, Bezos is not the first person to invest his millions (or billions) into weird side projects that are, at least at face value, almost perpendicular to their main business. In fact, purchasing The Washington Post has more obvious implications, as compared to some of Bezos’ other investments.
3. Mark Zuckerberg invested in an anti-Facebook.
The CEO of Facebook backed part of a $200,000 fundraising round for an open-source social network of sorts, he said in an interview with Wired in 2010. It’s more of a distributed social network, rather than a massive single connected network like Facebook. When asked why, Zuckerberg told Wired he “thought it was a cool idea.”
4. Sergey Brin invested in test-tube burgers.
In addition to working on wearable computing, balloons that carry the Internet, and a whole host of other projects at Google’s secret lab Google X, Brin invested in a side project that would produce meat in a lab environment without harming animals. According to The Guardian, he invested more than 250,000 euros in the project.
The first prototype, apparently, had a texture that was a bit like cake. It was one of the first, after all, so there are still kinks to work out.
5. Brin, along with Google, also invested in his wife’s gene-sequencing startup.
Anne Wojcicki, Brin’s wife, runs a startup that basically completes human genome sequencing and gives individuals more information about their DNA — such as what things they might be at risk for as they become older.
6. In addition to a lot of philanthropy, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is a majority investor in TerraPower.
Gates serves as chairman for TerraPower, a nuclear energy technology company in Washington. The company focuses on nuclear reactor design, and spun out of Intellectual Ventures — an investment vehicle founded by ex-Microsoftie Nathan Myhrvold.
7. Larry Ellison bought an island, because why not?
The billionaire co-founder and CEO of Oracle, which built its empire selling massive server infrastructure, spent about $300 million to buy the island of Lanai off the coast of Hawaii. It’s not entirely clear what his plans for the land are yet.
8. Ellison has also invested millions in boat racing.
Ellison and Team Oracle spent about $100 million on the boat, crew, facilities, and support staff in a quest to recapture the Americas Cup for the United States, according to an earlier report by Bloomberg. The team competed in 2003 and 2007 before winning the famous yacht regatta in 2010.
9. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen backed SpaceShipOne, a private sub-orbital spacecraft.
Allen backed the ship, which became the first privately-owned and built spacecraft to reach sub-orbital altitude in 2004.
10. In addition to the Washington Post, Bezos also invested in an advanced clock.
Inside a mountain in west Texas, there’s a clock that ticks only once a year. It’s supposed to tell time for the next 10,000 years.
11. Bezos also invested in space flight.
Like Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, Bezos is trying to achieve private spaceflight through his side company Blue Origin.
12. Bezos also spends some of his billions scavenging the deep ocean.
As part of his side venture, Bezos Expeditions, which has invested in a number of companies like online business news site Business Insider and apartment-sharing site Airbnb, he’s also invested in recovering spaceflight parts from the deep ocean.
Most recently, Bezos Expeditions recovered an engine from the Apollo 11 rocket, the first mission that landed astronauts on the moon.