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Kevin Rose Built an App That Tracks His 16-Hour Fasts and Wears a Ring That Tracks His Sleep

Someday, he says, you will too.

Portlander Kevin Rose really likes data.

Rose wears a ring made by a company he invested in called Oura that tracks his sleep. Every week, he sticks a new Dexcom glucose sensor into his abdomen to see how well he's metabolizing sugars. Rose fasts for 16 hours every day, and he tracks the time on an app called Zero (which he built, by the way).

Why does a 43-year-old in good health care so much about his metabolism? Because before Rose's father died of a heart attack at 72, he spent a lot of time in hospitals. He had two bypass surgeries, two stents and some angioplasty, and suffered a lot of neuropathy.

"It was not fun," Rose says.

If you're not fasting yet, Rose bets that you will be soon. Studies show that calorie deprivation makes mice live a lot longer. Dr. Satchidananda Panda of the Salk Institute calls it time-restricted eating. Confining caloric consumption to an eight- to 12-hour period could help prevent high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity, Panda says. Do that and you live longer.

Rose is a venture capitalist. He is a partner at a firm called True Ventures. Before that, he was an angel investor. And before that, he founded Digg, an aggregator that was Reddit before Reddit. For a couple of years, Rose was considered the leader of the brat pack in Silicon Valley. His youthful face popped up on the covers of Businessweek and Inc. magazine. Rose's colleagues, according to Business Insider, "paint a picture of Rose as a brilliant product designer with an uncanny sense for the perfect user experience."

Rose, who settled in Portland in 2018, plans to talk about venture investing and the future of health technology at Willamette Week's virtual TechfestNW on Dec. 2-4.

Rose has been tech savvy all his life. He remembers his first computer: a 286SX16 Packard Bell. "My dad bought it for me," Rose says "We got it used. It came with four megs of RAM."

Rose went to a technical high school in Las Vegas, where he taught himself how to do simple computer animation. Next, Rose went to work at the Nevada Test Site, 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas, where the Department of Energy detonated atomic bombs and the Air Force tests super-secret aircraft. They needed people to do more mundane things, like network their computers, too, but few of the old-timers knew how. It was heaven for a geek. He dropped out after one semester at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas and went full time, working four 10-hour days a week in the middle of nowhere.

"You take an unmarked bus out there, and you have security clearance and all that good stuff," Rose says. And you get to be near the infamous Area 51, where conspiracy theorists suspect the government is holding crashed alien spacecraft and perhaps alien cadavers.

Around 1999, Rose started reading about the tech boom in Silicon Valley and decided he had to go there. He landed a job as a production assistant at TechTV, a cable channel funded by the late billionaire and Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen. One day, he found a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows and went on air to talk about it. That led to more spots and, eventually, a job as host of his own show, Screensavers.

In 2004, Rose started working on a pet project called Digg that let users share news stories and other content. Other websites started adding Digg buttons to their pages to make sharing easier, and the site took off. At the same time, Rose started a video podcast company called Revision3, inspired by TechTV, which had been sold to Comcast.

Both Digg and Revision3 attracted venture capital. Better yet, Google agreed to buy Digg for $200 million, but the deal fell apart during the due diligence. In the end, Rose and his partners sold Digg in pieces. Rose's investors lost most of their money.

Revision3 did much, much better. It sold to the Discovery Channel for $35 million. By this time, Rose had gotten to know lots of tech CEOs. He took his money and put it into fledgling companies, including Square, Twitter and Facebook. Modest about his accomplishments, he doesn't like to talk about how much he made on those deals.

Others, though, say he has unique skills, even in an industry ruled by people with big brains and lots of guts. Fellow angel investor and author (The 4-Hour Workweek) Tim Ferriss told WW that Rose is "unfairly good" at venture investing because he can pick winning companies whether they are at the napkin stage or doing later rounds of financing.

"I honestly don't know how he does it," Ferriss says.

Rose is also resilient. "Everyone playing in these games strikes out sometimes," Ferriss says, including Rose. "It's a huge advantage, in business and in life, to be able to splash water on your face and quickly move on to the next big thing."

(You can watch Rose and many other fantastic speakers, along with startups from around the world pitching their ideas at virtual TechfestNW.  Tickets are only $20 and all ticket revenue goes to three local non-profits!)