9 Cool Facts About the X PRIZE Foundation

Many people, especially those who read this blog regularly, know the basics of what the X PRIZE does: offer big prizes to accomplish big things. But how much do you really know about the Foundation, and how we got our start? I've taken the liberty of putting together a list of things about the Foundation that people might not know, and hopefully to clear up some misconceptions people might have about the Foundation.

1. The entire idea of X PRIZEs came about because Dr. Peter Diamandis read a book called the Spirit of St. Lousis, which was meant to inspire him to get his pilot's license. Instead, it inspired him to change the world.

2. Peter found the Ansari family, the sponsors of the Ansar X PRIZE, in a magazine in which Anousheh was talking about how much she wanted to go to space. He decided right there that she would be the perfect person to share his dream.

3. The X PRIZE Foundation is an educational non-profit. In addition to creating brekathroughs, all of our prizes are designed to educate the public about the challenges we are trying to solve, and each prizes is always thinking of ways to engage and interest students.

4. The X PRIZE Foundation is NOT owned by Google (or any of our sponsors). This is a common misconception, especially when talking about the Google Lunar X PRIZE. We are an independent organization. Google (and Progressive, and Archon) provide the prize money, and help us in our efforts, but we design and run these competitions, not our sponsors.

5. We don't have a warehouse in back full of people building stuff, trying to win our prizes. We don't actually build anything to win these prizes. Our teams are spread out all over the world, and they work independently of us. If you were to come to our headquarters in Santa Monica, you'd see a long office full of clean people sitting in front of computers, not a group of oil-covered mechanics and engineers with tools in hand.

6. Despite the fame of the Ansari X PRIZE and the Google Lunar X PRIZE, we're not a space-exploration organization. That is only one facet of what we do. In addition to our non-space prizes (the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE and the Archon X PRIZE for Genomics), we are exploring to prizes in Education, Energy and Environment, Exploration, Global Entrepreneurship and Life Sciences.

7. We have a top-notch Board of Trustees, helping to make sure that we remain on the right track with our breakthroughs. Some members include Anousheh Ansari, the first private female astronaut, Ray Kurzweil, the inventor, Larry Page, co-founder of Google, and Ratan Tata, the top industrialist in India.

8. The "X" in the first X PRIZE was originally meant as a placeholder for the name of the sponsor. However, it took Peter Diamandis so long to find the right sponsor that the name "X PRIZE" was already established as the de facto name. So when the Ansari family came on, they decided to just name the prize the "Ansari X PRIZE."

9. The X PRIZE Foundation was originally based in St. Louis.

If you've got any questions about the X PRIZE Foundation and what we do, feel free to leave them in a comment, and I'll do my best to find an answer for you.

Until next time!

Anonymous said...

Hey Jean,

I have two quick questions. First, what are some future prizes/areas of interest that you are seeking sponsors for.

And second, would you allow a non-US government agency to sponsor an X-Prize?

Jean Levasseur said...


Thanks for your questions! I'll answer in order.

1. We can't actually say what specific prizes we're looking to find sponsors for, but we can say that we're developing prizes in the areas of education, energy and environment, exploration, global entrepreneurship, and life sciences. Two prizes that we have announced we're actively exploring (neither of which has a sponsor) are an Alternative Jet Fuels PRIZE and a Village Utility X PRIZE.

2. There's nothing to say that we wouldn't accept a US or non-US government agency from sponsoring a prize. Governments are just not allowed to sponsor or fund teams competing for prizes. However, we do have guidelines on the limits of sponsorships, so we take all sponsor requests on a case by case basis.

Hope that answers your questions!

Anyone else?

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