Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • Peter Andreas Thiel is an American entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and hedge fund manager.

  • Thiel cofounded PayPal with Max Levchin and Elon Musk and served as its CEO. He also cofounded

  • Palantir, of which he is chairman. He serves as president of Clarium Capital, a global

  • macro hedge fund with $700 million in assets under management; a managing partner in Founders

  • Fund, a venture capital fund with $2 billion in assets under management; and cofounder

  • and investment committee chair of Mithril Capital Management. He was the first outside

  • investor in Facebook, the popular social-networking site, with a 10.2% stake acquired in 2004

  • for $500,000, and sits on the company's board of directors. Thiel was ranked #293 on the

  • Forbes 400 in 2011, with a net worth of $1.5 billion as of March 2012. He was ranked #4 on the

  • Forbes Midas List of 2014 at $2.2 billion. Thiel lives in San Francisco, California.

  • Early life Childhood

  • Born to German parents in Frankfurt am Main, West Germany, Thiel moved to the United States

  • with his parents when he was a toddler, and was raised in Foster City, California. Thiel

  • was a US-rated Chess Master and one of the highest ranked under-21 players in the country.

  • College and law school Thiel studied 20th-century philosophy as an

  • undergraduate at Stanford University. He received his B.A. in Philosophy from Stanford in 1989

  • and acquired a J.D. from Stanford Law School in 1992.

  • An avowed libertarian, he founded The Stanford Review in 1987 along with Norman Book. The

  • Stanford Review became famous for challenging campus mores including political correctness

  • and laws against hate speech. The Stanford Review is now the university's main conservative/libertarian

  • newspaper. Thiel formed friendships with other students

  • at Stanford, many of whom contributed to the Stanford Review. These include Keith Rabois,

  • David O. Sacks, and Reid Hoffman. Some of these friends later took up jobs at PayPal

  • and became part of the PayPal Mafia. While studying at Stanford, Thiel also encountered

  • René Girard, whose mimetic theory influenced him.

  • Career Early career

  • Thiel clerked for Judge J.L. Edmondson of the United States Court of Appeals for the

  • 11th Circuit. From 1993 to 1996, he traded derivatives for Credit Suisse Group. He founded

  • Thiel Capital Management, a multistrategy fund, in 1996.

  • PayPal In 1998 Thiel co-founded PayPal, an online

  • payments system, with Max Levchin. The company later merged with X.com, then headed by Elon

  • Musk. PayPal went public on February 15, 2002, and was sold to eBay for $1.5 billion later

  • that year. Thiel's 3.7 percent stake in PayPal was worth approximately $55 million at the

  • time of the acquisition. According to Eric Jackson's account of PayPal

  • in his book The PayPal Wars, Thiel viewed PayPal's mission as liberating people throughout

  • the world from the erosion of the value of their currencies due to inflation. Jackson

  • recalls an inspirational speech by Thiel in 1999:

  • "We're definitely onto something big. The need PayPal answers is monumental. Everyone

  • in the world needs moneyto get paid, to trade, to live. Paper money is an ancient

  • technology and an inconvenient means of payment. You can run out of it. It wears out. It can

  • get lost or stolen. In the twenty-first century, people need a form of money that's more convenient

  • and secure, something that can be accessed from anywhere with a PDA or an Internet connection.

  • Of course, what we're calling 'convenient' for American users will be revolutionary for

  • the developing world. Many of these countries' governments play fast and loose with their

  • currencies," the former derivatives trader [referring to Thiel] noted, before continuing,

  • "They use inflation and sometimes wholesale currency devaluations, like we saw in Russia

  • and several Southeast Asian countries last year [referring to the 1998 Russian financial

  • crisis and 1997 Asian financial crisis], to take wealth away from their citizens. Most

  • of the ordinary people there never have an opportunity to open an offshore account or

  • to get their hands on more than a few bills of a stable currency like U.S. dollars. Eventually

  • PayPal will be able to change this. In the future, when we make our service available

  • outside the U.S. and as Internet penetration continues to expand to all economic tiers

  • of people, PayPal will give citizens worldwide more direct control over their currencies

  • than they ever had before. It will be nearly impossible for corrupt governments to steal

  • wealth from their people through their old means because if they try the people will

  • switch to dollars or Pounds or Yen, in effect dumping the worthless local currency for something

  • more secure."

  • Clarium Capital Immediately after selling PayPal, Thiel launched

  • a global macro hedge fund, Clarium Capital, pursuing a global macro strategy. In 2005

  • Clarium was honored as global macro fund of the year by both MarHedge and Absolute Return,

  • two trade magazines. Thiel’s approach to investing became the subject of a chapter

  • in Steve Drobny’s book, Inside the House of Money. Thiel successfully bet that the

  • U.S. dollar would weaken in 2003, and gained significant returns betting that the dollar

  • and energy would rally in 2005. After significant losses starting in 2009, Clarium dropped

  • from $7 billion in assets in 2008 to around $350 million in 2011.

  • In 2004, well before the financial crisis of 2007–2010 bore him out in general terms,

  • Thiel spoke of the dot-com bubble of 2000 having migrated, in effect, into a growing

  • bubble in the financial sector. He specified General Electric, with its large financing

  • arm, and WalMart as vulnerable. To illustrate, in 2004, he reported having backed away from

  • buying Martha Stewart's Manhattan duplex for $7 million in the winter of 2003-2004. While

  • the apartment did sell in 2004 for $6.65 million to another buyer, it was on the market but

  • unsold in early 2010 at $15.9 million, and later at the reduced price of $13.9 million.

  • Facebook In August 2004, Thiel made a $500,000 angel

  • investment in the social network Facebook for 10.2% of the company and joined Facebook's

  • board. This was the first outside investment in Facebook, and Thiel went on to be portrayed

  • in The Social Network by actor Wallace Langham. In his book The Facebook Effect, David Kirkpatrick

  • outlines the story of how Thiel came to make his investment: former Napster and Plaxo cofounder

  • Sean Parker, who at the time had assumed the title of "President" of Facebook, was seeking

  • investors for Facebook. Parker approached Reid Hoffman, the CEO of work-based social

  • network LinkedIn. Hoffman liked Facebook but declined to be the lead investor because of

  • the potential for conflict of interest with his duties as LinkedIn CEO. He redirected

  • Parker to Thiel, whom he knew from their PayPal days. Thiel met Parker and Mark Zuckerberg,

  • the Harvard college student who had founded Facebook and controlled it. Thiel and Zuckerberg

  • got along well and Thiel agreed to lead Facebook's seed round with $500,000 for 10.2% of the

  • company. Hoffman and Mark Pincus also participated in the round. The investment was originally

  • in the form of a convertible note, to be converted to equity if Facebook reached 1.5 million

  • users by the end of 2004. Although Facebook narrowly missed the target, Thiel allowed

  • the loan to be converted to equity anyway. Thiel said of his investment:

  • "I was comfortable with them pursuing their original vision. And it was a very reasonable

  • valuation. I thought it was going to be a pretty safe investment."

  • As a board member, Thiel was not actively involved in Facebook's day-to-day decision

  • making. According to Sarah Lacy, Thiel's main advice to Zuckerberg in their initial years

  • was "Just don’t fuck it up." However, he did provide help with timing the various rounds

  • of funding. Zuckerberg credited Thiel with helping him time Facebook's 2007 Series D

  • to close before the 2007–2010 financial crisis.

  • In September 2010, Thiel, while expressing skepticism about the potential for growth

  • in the consumer Internet sector, argued that relative to other Internet companies, Facebook

  • was comparatively undervalued. Facebook's IPO was in May 2012, with a market cap of

  • nearly $100 billion, at which time Thiel sold 16.8 million shares for $638 million. In August

  • 2012, immediately upon the conclusion of the early investor lock out period, Thiel sold

  • almost all of his remaining stake for between $19.27 and $20.69 per share, or $395.8 million,

  • for a total of more than $1 billion. He still retained 5 million shares and a seat on the

  • board of directors. Angel investor and venture capitalist

  • In 2005 Thiel created Founders Fund, a San Francisco based venture capital fund. Other

  • partners in the fund include Sean Parker, Ken Howery, and Luke Nosek.

  • In addition to Facebook, Thiel has made early-stage investments in numerous startups, including

  • Booktrack, Slide, LinkedIn, Friendster, Rapleaf, Geni.com, Yammer, Yelp, Inc., Powerset, Practice

  • Fusion, MetaMed, Vator, Palantir Technologies, IronPort, Votizen, Asana, Big Think, Caplinked,

  • Quora, Rypple, TransferWise, Nanotronics Imaging, Stripe, and Legendary Entertainment. Slide,

  • LinkedIn, Geni.com, and Yammer were founded by Thiel's former colleagues at PayPal, Slide

  • by Levchin, Linkedin by Reid Hoffman, Yelp by Jeremy Stoppelman, Geni.com and Yammer

  • by David Sacks, and Xero by Rod Drury. Fortune magazine reports that PayPal alumni have founded

  • or invested in dozens of startups with an aggregate value of around $30 billion. In

  • Silicon Valley circles, Thiel is colloquially referred to as the "Don of the PayPal Mafia",

  • as noted in the Fortune magazine article. Thiel's views on management are highly regarded,

  • especially his famous observation that start-up success is highly correlated with low CEO

  • pay. Thiel founded Palantir Technologies funded

  • by the CIA's venture capital arm In-Q-Tel. In February 2013, Thiel received a TechCrunch

  • Crunchie Award for Venture Capitalist of the year.

  • Mithril: a late-stage investment fund In June 2012, Peter Thiel launched Mithril,

  • a late-stage investment fund with $402 million at the time of launch, intended for companies

  • that were at the cusp between being private and going public. Other partners in the fund

  • include Jim O'Neill, co-founder of the Thiel Fellowship, and Ajay Royan, a former managing

  • director at Clarium Capital, a hedge fund started by Thiel.

  • Philanthropy

  • Thiel carries out most of his philanthropic activities through a nonprofit foundation

  • created by him called the Thiel Foundation. Theory of philanthropy

  • Thiel concentrates the bulk of his philanthropic efforts on what he sees as potential breakthrough

  • technologies. In November 2010, Thiel organized a Breakthrough Philanthropy conference that

  • showcased eight nonprofits that he believed were working on radical new ideas in technology,

  • government, and human affairs. A similar conference was organized in December 2011 with the name

  • "Fast Forward". Machine Intelligence Research Institute

  • Thiel believes in the importance and desirability of a technological singularity. In February 2006,

  • Thiel provided $100,000 of matching funds to back the Singularity Challenge donation

  • drive of the Machine Intelligence Research Institute. Additionally, he joined the Institute's

  • advisory board and participated in the May 2006 Singularity Summit at Stanford as well as

  • at the 2011 Summit held in New York City. In May 2007, Thiel provided half of the $400,000

  • matching funds for the annual Singularity Challenge donation drive.

  • The organization was a participant in the Breakthrough Philanthropy conference and the

  • Fast Forward conference. Anti-aging research

  • In September 2006, Thiel announced that he would donate $3.5 million to foster anti-aging

  • research through the Methuselah Mouse Prize foundation. He gave the following reasons

  • for his pledge: "Rapid advances in biological science foretell of a treasure trove of discoveries

  • this century, including dramatically improved health and longevity for all. I’m backing

  • Dr. [Aubrey] de Grey, because I believe that his revolutionary approach to aging research

  • will accelerate this process, allowing many people alive today to enjoy radically longer

  • and healthier lives for themselves and their loved ones."

  • The Thiel Foundation supports the research of the SENS Foundation, headed by Drde Grey,

  • that is working to achieve the reversal of biological aging. The Thiel Foundation also

  • supports the work of anti-aging researcher Cynthia Kenyon.

  • The SENS Foundation was a participant in the Breakthrough Philanthropy conference and

  • the Fast Forward conference. Seasteading

  • On April 15, 2008, Thiel pledged $500,000 to the new Seasteading Institute, directed

  • by Patri Friedman, whose mission is "to establish permanent, autonomous ocean communities to

  • enable experimentation and innovation with diverse social, political, and legal systems".

  • This was followed in February 2010 by a subsequent grant of $250,000, and an additional $100,000

  • in matching funds. In a talk at the Seasteading Institute conference

  • in November 2009, Thiel explained why he believed that seasteading was necessary for

  • the future of humanity. In 2011 Thiel was reported as having given

  • a total of $1.25 million to the Seasteading Institute. According to the Daily Mail Peter

  • Thiel was inspired to do so by Ayn Rand's philosophical novel Atlas Shrugged.

  • The Seasteading Institute was a participant in the Breakthrough Philanthropy conference

  • and the Fast Forward conference. Thiel Fellowship

  • On September 29, 2010, Thiel said he had created a new fellowship called the Thiel

  • Fellowship, which will award $100,000 to 20 people under 20 years old, in order to spur

  • them to quit college and create their own ventures.

  • Breakout Labs In October 2011, the Thiel Foundation announced

  • the creation of Breakout Labs, a grant-making program intended to fund early-stage scientific

  • research that may be too radical or innovative for traditional scientific funding bodies

  • but also too long-term and speculative for venture investors. In April 2012, Breakout

  • Labs announced its first set of grantees. Other causes

  • The Thiel Foundation is also a supporter of the Committee to Protect Journalists, which

  • promotes the right of journalists to report the news freely without fear of reprisal,

  • and the Human Rights Foundation, which organizes the Oslo Freedom Forum.

  • Political activities Quotes

  • Peter Thiel wrote, on April 13, 2009, in the Libertarian 'Cato Unbound' blog, “Most importantly,

  • I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.” In the same article, he

  • also wrote, "Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension

  • of the franchise to womentwo constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians

  • have rendered the notion ofcapitalist democracyinto an oxymoron."

  • On September 22, 2010, Thiel said at a 2010 fundraiser for the American Foundation for

  • Equal Rights, “I believe that gay rights and marriage rights for gay people should

  • not be a partisan issue,” andGay marriage can’t be a partisan issue because as long

  • there are partisan issues or cultural issues in this country, youll have trench warfare

  • like on the western front in World War I. Youll have lots of carnage and no progress.”

  • He wrote an editorial in National Review in 2011 claiming that the world had entered a

  • "tech slowdown" and that 1969 was when "the hippies took over the country, and when the

  • true cultural war over Progress was lost." Bilderberg Group

  • Thiel is listed as a member of the Steering Committee of The Bilderberg Group, a private,

  • annual gathering of intellectual figures, political leaders and business executives.

  • Support for political activism Thiel is a self-described conservative libertarian,

  • libertarian, and an Objectivist. Thiel has supported gay-rights causes such

  • as the American Foundation for Equal Rights and GOProud. In 2010, Thiel held Homocon 2010

  • for GOProud, a LGBT conservative/libertarian, in his New York City apartment. He invited

  • conservative columnist Ann Coulter, who is a friend of his, to Homocon 2010 to guest

  • speak. Coulter would later dedicate her new book, Demonic: How the Liberal Mob Is Endangering

  • America, to Thiel. In 2012, Thiel would donate $10,000 to Minnesotans United for All Families,

  • in order to fight Minnesota Amendment 1. In 2009, it was reported that Thiel helped

  • fund college student James O'Keefe's "Taxpayers Clearing House" video – a satirical look

  • at the politics behind the Wall Street bailout. O'Keefe went on to produce the ACORN undercover

  • sting videos, but through a spokesperson, Thiel denied involvement inor even knowledge

  • ofthe ACORN sting. In July 2012, after donating $1 million in

  • a single donation, Thiel became the largest contributor to the Club for Growth, a fiscally

  • conservative 501(c)4. Support for political candidates

  • Although a member of the Libertarian Party, Thiel donates overwhelmingly more political

  • contributions to Republicans. In December 2007, Thiel endorsed Ron Paul

  • for President. After Ron Paul failed to secure the Republican nomination for president, Thiel

  • contributed to the John McCain/Sarah Palin presidential ticket of 2008.

  • In 2010, Thiel supported Meg Whitman, who as CEO of eBay had purchased PayPal from Thiel

  • and his co-founders and investors, in her unsuccessful bid for the governorship of California.

  • He contributed the maximum allowable $25,900 to the Whitman campaign.

  • In 2012, Thiel, along with PayPal co-founder Luke Nosek and Scott Banister, an early adviser

  • and board member, put their support behind Ron Paul's Endorse Liberty Super PAC, alongside

  • Internet advertising veteran Stephen Oskoui and entrepreneur Jeffrey Harmon, who founded

  • Endorse Liberty in November 2011. Collectively Thiel et al. gave $3.9 million to Endorse

  • Liberty, whose purpose was to promote Texas congressman Ron Paul for president in 2012.

  • As of January 31, 2012, Endorse Liberty reported spending about $3.3 million promoting Paul

  • by setting up two YouTube channels, buying ads from Google and Facebook and StumbleUpon,

  • and building a presence on the Web. At the 2012 Republican National Convention, Thiel

  • held a private meeting with Rand Paul and Ron Paul's presidential delegates to discuss

  • "the future of the Liberty Movement." After Ron Paul again failed to secure the Republican

  • nomination for president, Thiel contributed to the Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan presidential

  • ticket of 2012. Other Republican politicians Thiel has contributed

  • donations to include Rep. James E. Rogan, Don Stenberg, Sen. John Thune Douglas Forrester,

  • Rep. Robin Hayes, Sen. John Cornyn, Sen. Elizabeth Dole, Sen. Lamar Alexander, State Sen. Dick

  • Monteith, Rep. Lee Terry, Sen. Chuck Hagel, Rep. Dan Lungren, Rep. Bob Beauprez, Rep.

  • Mike Simpson, Rep. Tom Tancredo, Rep. Mary Bono, Gov. Butch Otter, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher,

  • Rep. Nancy Johnson, Rep. Scott Garrett, Rep. Tim Johnson, Rep. Bill Thomas, Sen. Jeff Flake,

  • Sen. Jim DeMint, Sen. Jim Talent, Rep. Denny Rehberg, Rep. Rob Simmons, Rep. Jon Porter,