How CoolChip Got $500K from Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund: A Salsa Story

It’s rare that chips and salsa lead to a startup funding deal. But this isn’t your average startup, and I’m not talking about the usual kind of chips and salsa.

CoolChip Technologies, a Boston-area tech startup looking to make data centers more energy-efficient, raised $500,000 in seed funding earlier this month. What the company didn’t reveal, however, was that the money comes from Founders Fund, the San Francisco venture firm started by PayPal co-founders Peter Thiel, Ken Howery, and Luke Nosek. What’s more, there is a bit of controversy and intrigue around the startup’s technology.

Here’s the story behind the financing deal. It begins with CoolChip CEO William Sanchez, an MIT lifer (undergrad, master’s, and PhD just weeks away) originally from the Bronx, who started the company in 2010. But long before that, Sanchez discovered salsa dancing as a sophomore in college and says it kept him sane while he adjusted to life in Boston. Over the years, he has kept it up and even formed a salsa teaching and performance company. He says he still dances about twice a month.

Why is this important? Because one of his good friends from salsa, Gleb Chuvpilo (a fellow MIT techie), used to work with Peter Thiel on a few different ventures over the years. For the uninitiated, Thiel—in addition to being PayPal’s former CEO—was Facebook’s first outside investor. In the interim, he founded a global hedge fund (Clarium Capital Management), helped start an analytics and data visualization software firm (Palantir Technologies), and more recently set up a fellowship to encourage college kids to drop out of school and start new businesses (20 Under 20). Chuvpilo worked with Thiel on finance at Palantir and managed portfolio risks at Clarium Capital.

So when Thiel visited MIT last spring to give a talk at the Stata Center, Chuvpilo and Sanchez signed up to be his “secret service” and … Next Page »

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Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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