Australian who helped Peter Thiel bankrupt Gawker sues ex-business partner | Australia news – Blog – 10 minute

The Australian man who helped tech billionaire Peter Thiel bankrupt the news website Gawker by funding a defamation case brought by pro wrestler Hulk Hogan has launched legal action against his former business partner.
Aron D’Souza, who was dubbed “Mr A” in media coverage of the Gawker case, is suing his former business partner, Phillip Kingston, and two tax-haven companies for allegedly failing to pay $2m due to him after he sold out of financial services company Sargon Capital.
D’Souza and Kingston founded Sargon in 2015 with grand plans to revolutionise superannuation and other financial services through the use of technology, and recruited a star-studded board that includes former Crown Resorts chairman Rob Rankin and Labor right powerbroker Stephen Conroy in preparation for a hoped-for float on the stock exchange that would value the company at $1bn. However, in July D’Souza quit the Sargon board.

This followed an agreement struck in January last year that he would sell his Sargon shares – a deal that is at the heart of a lawsuit filed by a company controlled by D’Souza in the Victorian supreme court on Wednesday.
D’Souza’s court filings do not reveal who was to buy his stake in Sargon or what they were to pay for it, but in them he alleges the deal was guaranteed by Kingston personally, as well as by a Hong Kong company called Trimantium, which company documents show Kingston owns and controls, and a British Virgin Islands company called Explosive Growth.
Part of the agreement was that his company would receive a series of “deferred” payments, D’Souza claims. He claims two payments due in November and December and totalling $2m were not paid and has asked the court to order Kingston, Trimantium and Explosive Growth to hand over the money, plus interest calculated at 8% a year.
Kingston said via a spokeswoman: “I am surprised to hear this and will need to look into it further.”
D’Souza has been contacted for comment through his lawyer, Corrs Chambers Westgarth partner Matthew Critchley, who said his client was travelling.
The Oxford-educated D’Souza shot to prominence in 2018 when Buzzfeed reported he was the mastermind of Thiel’s elaborate plot to destroy Gawker by funding Hogan’s defamation lawsuit.
Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, launched the lawsuit in Florida in 2012 over Gawker’s publication of parts of a video of him having sex with the then-wife of his friend, radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge.
In 2016, a jury awarded Hogan US$140m. Gawker filed for bankruptcy protection because it could not afford to lodge a US$50m appeal bond.
Most of Gawker’s assets were bought by Univision, but the main Gawker website was shut down.
Thiel, a venture capitalist and Facebook board member who is a supporter of Donald Trump, secretly funded the Hogan lawsuit to the tune of US$10m. The website had long been a critic of Thiel, venture capitalism and the culture of Silicon Valley, and in 2007 published a piece headlined “Peter Thiel is totally gay, people”.

D’Souza came up with the idea of funding a lawsuit against Gawker and acted as a conduit between Thiel and the lawyer who ran the case, Charles Harder, Buzzfeed reported.
He is also the co-founder, with Kingston, of Good Super, a retail super fund which offers ethical investment options that screen out companies involved in “tobacco, weapons and armaments, gambling, alcohol, pornography and human rights abuses” and, according to his website, is honorary consul of the Republic of Moldova.
His biggest venture with Kingston was Sargon, which has steadily gobbled up other financial services companies since it was founded in 2015. In April last year Sargon reportedly hired UBS and Deutsche Bank to help it prepare for a stock market float by the end of the year. However, the company is yet to have an initial public offering.
Accounts filed with the corporate regulator show that in the 2017-18 financial year it declared a loss of $5.6m, down from $18.7m the previous year.

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This Thiel Fellow thinks he can help scooters, drones, and delivery robots charge themselves with sunlight – gpgmail


From the time he was a high school student, Rohit Kalyanpur thought it was peculiar that although it’s possible to create energy from a solar panel, the panels have long been used almost exclusively on rooftops and as part of industrial-scale solar grids. “I hadn’t seen [anything solar-powered] in the things people use every day other than calculators and lawn lights,” he tells us from him home in Chicago — though he’s moving to the Bay Area next month.

It wasn’t just a passing thought for Kalyanpur. Through research positions in high school, he continued to learn about energy and work on a solar charging prototype — initially to charge his iPhone —  while continuing to wonder what other materials might be powered spontaneously just by shining light on it.

What he quickly discovered, he says, is there were no developer tools to build a self-charging project. Unlike with hardware projects, where developers can turn to the open-source electronic prototyping platform Arduino and Raspberry Pi, a now seven-year-old, tiny computer the size of a credit card and was created to help students understand how computers work, there was “nothing you could use to optimize a solar product,” he says.

Fast forward, and Kalyanpur says there is now.

After attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for two years and befriending a fellow student, Paul Couston, who helped manage and invest the university’s $10 million green fund, the pair dropped out of school to start their now four-person company, Optivolt Labs. Entry into the accelerator program TechStars Chicago was the impetus they needed, and they’ve been gaining momentum since. In fact, Kalyanpur, now 21, was recently given a Thiel Fellowship, a two-year-long program that includes a $100,000 grant to young people who want to build new things, along with a lot of mentorships and key introductions.

Now, the company has closed on a separate $1.75 million round of seed funding from a long list on notable individual investors, including Eventbrite cofounders Kevin & Julia Hartz: TJ Parker, who is the founder and CEO of PillPack (now an Amazon subsidiary); Pinterest COO Francoise Brougher: and Jeff Lutz, a former Google SVP.

What they’re buying into exactly is the promise of a scalable technology stack for solar integration. Though still nascent, Optivolt has already figured out a way to provide efficient power transfer systems, solar developer and simulation tools, and cloud based API’s to enable fleets of machines to self charge in ambient light, says Kalyanpur. Think e-scooters, EV’s, drones, sensors, and other connected devices.

Kalyanpur is hesitant to dive into too many specifics, but he says the company is will begin testing its technology soon with a number of “enterprise fleets” that have already signed on to work with Optivolt in pilot programs.

If it works as planned, it sounds like a pretty big opportunity.

Though some companies have begun making smaller solar-powered vehicles, you can imagine that there are plenty of outfits that would prefer to find a way to retrofit the hardware they already have in the world, which Kalyanpur says will be possible. He says they can use their existing batteries, too — that the solar won’t just power the devices or vehicles in real time but allow them to store some of that energy, too.  Optivolt’s technology “seamlessly integrates into everyday products, so you don’t have to change the product design meaningfully,” he insists.

We’ll be curious to see if see if it does what he thinks it can. Sounds like we aren’t the only ones, either.

Asked about Optivolt’s road map, Kalynapur suggests that one is coming together.

The company’s top priority, however, it to see first how it works in the field.


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