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Peter Thiel

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Peter Thiel
Man in his 40s with short, dark hair wearing a shirt and blazer
Thiel in Berlin, March 2014
Born Peter Andreas Thiel
(1967-10-11) October 11, 1967 (age 49)
Frankfurt, West Germany
(now Germany)
Residence San Francisco, California, U.S.
Education
Occupation
Net worth IncreaseUS$2.7 billion (2016)
Political party Libertarian (Before 2016)
Republican (2016–present)[1]
Peter Thiel
Full name Peter Andreas Thiel
Country United States
Title Life Master
FIDE rating 2199 (November 2016)[2]
Peak rating 2342 (December 1992)[3]

Peter Andreas Thiel (/ˈtl/; born October 11, 1967) is a German-American entrepreneur, hedge fund manager, venture capitalist, philanthropist, political activist, and author. Often referred to as the "Don of the PayPal Mafia", Thiel was ranked No. 4 on the Forbes Midas List of 2014, with a net worth of $2.2 billion, and No. 246 on the Forbes 400 in 2016, with a net worth of $2.7 billion.[4][5][6]

Born in Frankfurt, Thiel moved with his family to the United States as an infant. He spent part of his childhood in Southern Africa before returning to the U.S., where he attended San Mateo High School. He studied philosophy at Stanford University, graduating with a B.A. in 1989. He then went on to the Stanford Law School, and received his J.D. in 1992. After graduation, he worked as a judicial clerk for Judge James Larry Edmondson, a securities lawyer for Sullivan & Cromwell, a speechwriter for former-United States Secretary of Education William Bennett and as a derivatives trader at Credit Suisse prior to founding Thiel Capital Management in 1996. He then co-founded PayPal in 1998, and served as chief executive officer until its sale to eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion.

After eBay's acquisition of PayPal, he founded Clarium Capital, a global macro hedge fund. In 2004, he helped launch Palantir, an analytical software company, and continues to serve as its chairman. Before launching Founders Fund, a venture capital firm, in 2005 with his PayPal partners Ken Howery and Luke Nosek, Thiel became Facebook's first outside investor by acquiring a 10.2% stake for $500,000. He sold the majority of his shares in Facebook for over $1 billion in 2012, but remains on the board of directors. He also co-founded Valar Ventures in 2010 and operates as its chairman, co-founded Mithril Capital, of which he is investment committee chair, in 2012, and has served as a partner in Y Combinator since 2015.[7][8][9]

Thiel is involved with a variety of philanthropic and political pursuits. Through the Thiel Foundation, he governs Breakout Labs and the Thiel Fellowship, and supports life extension, seasteading and other speculative research. A founder of The Stanford Review, he is a conservative libertarian who is critical of excessive government spending, high debt levels, and foreign wars. He has donated to numerous political figures, and provided financial support to Hulk Hogan in Bollea v. Gawker. In November 2016, he was named to the executive committee of President-elect Donald Trump's transition team.

Early life

Childhood

Peter Thiel in South Africa, 1975

Peter Andreas Thiel was born in Frankfurt am Main, West Germany on October 11, 1967 to Susanne and Klaus Thiel.[10][11] The family migrated to the United States when Peter was 1-year-old and lived in Cleveland, where Klaus worked as a chemical engineer. Klaus then worked for various mining companies, which caused an itinerant upbringing for Thiel and his younger brother, Patrick Michael Thiel.[12][13]

Before settling in Foster City, California in 1977, the Thiels had lived in South and South West Africa, and Peter had been forced to change elementary schools seven times. One of Peter's elementary schools, a strict establishment in Swakopmund, required students to wear uniforms and utilized corporal punishment, such as striking students' hands with a ruler for mistakes. This experience instilled a distaste for uniformity and regimentation later reflected in Thiel's support for individualism and libertarianism as an adult.[14][15]

In his youth, Thiel was a fanatical chess player. He began playing at the age of 6, and in 1980 was ranked as the 7th-best U.S. chess player in the under-13 category with a rating of 1791.[16] He also played Dungeons & Dragons; was an avid reader of science fiction, with Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein being among his favorite authors, and a fan of J. R. R. Tolkien's works, stating as an adult that he had read the The Lord of the Rings over ten times during his childhood.[17]

Education

In school, Thiel excelled in mathematics, and scored first in a California-wide mathematics competition while attending middle school in San Mateo.[16] At the San Mateo High School, he read Ayn Rand, admired the optimism and anti-communism of then-President Ronald Reagan, and was valedictorian of his graduating class in 1985.[16][18]

After graduating from San Mateo High School, Thiel went on to study philosophy at Stanford University. During Thiel's time at Stanford, debates on identity politics and political correctness were ongoing at the university and a "Western Culture" program, which was criticized by The Rainbow Agenda because of a perceived over-representation of the achievements made by European men, was replaced with a "Culture, Ideas and Values" course, which instead pushed diversity and multiculturalism. This replacement provoked controversy on the campus, and led to Thiel founding The Stanford Review, a paper for conservative and libertarian viewpoints, in 1987, through the funding of Irving Kristol.[19]

Thiel served as The Stanford Review's first editor-in-chief and remained in that post until he received his Bachelor of Arts in 1989, at which point his friend David O. Sacks became the new editor-in-chief.[20] Thiel then continued on to the Stanford Law School and acquired his Doctor of Jurisprudence in 1992.[21]

While at Stanford, Thiel encountered René Girard, whose mimetic theory influenced him.[22] Mimetic theory posits that human behavior is based upon mimesis, and that imitation can engender pointless conflict. Girard notes the productive potential of competition: "It is because of this unprecedented capacity to promote competition within limits that always remain socially, if not individually, acceptable that we have all the amazing achievements of the modern world," but states that competition stifles progress once it becomes an end in itself: "rivals are more apt to forget about whatever objects are the cause of the rivalry and instead become more fascinated with one another."[23] Thiel applied this theory to his personal life and business ventures, stating: "The big problem with competition is that it focuses us on the people around us, and while we get better at the things we're competing on, we lose sight of anything that's important, or transcendent, or truly meaningful in our world."[24][25]

Career

Early career

After graduating from Stanford Law School, he had interviews with Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy without being hired, and instead took up a post as a judicial clerk for Judge James Larry Edmondson of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, but soon moved on to work as a securities lawyer for Sullivan & Cromwell. After seven months and three days, he left the law firm citing a lack of transcendental value in his work.[26] He then took a job as a derivatives trader in currency options at Credit Suisse, working there from 1993 on while also operating as a speechwriter for former-United States Secretary of Education William Bennett, before again feeling as though as his work lacked meaningful value and returning to California, where he founded Thiel Capital Management, a multistrategy fund, in 1996.[27]

PayPal

Further information: Confinity and PayPal § Early history

In 1998, Thiel co-founded Confinity, initially as a PalmPilot payments and cryptography company, with Max Levchin and Luke Nosek. Confinity launched PayPal in 1999, and merged with X.com, then headed by Elon Musk, in March 2000. PayPal went public on February 15, 2002 and was sold to eBay for $1.5 billion in October of that year.[28] Thiel's 3.7% stake in PayPal was worth approximately $55 million at the time of the acquisition.[29]

According to Eric M. 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 money – to 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. 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 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.[30]

Clarium Capital

Further information: Clarium Capital

Following eBay's acquisition of PayPal, Thiel launched Clarium Capital Management, a global macro hedge fund. In 2005, Clarium was honored as global macro fund of the year by MARHedge and Absolute Return + Alpha, two trade magazines. Thiel successfully bet that the United States dollar would weaken in 2003, and gained significant returns betting that the dollar and energy would rally in 2005. After significant losses starting surrounding the Great Recession, Clarium dropped from $7 billion in assets under management in 2008 to around $350 million in 2011.[31]

In 2004, 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 and Walmart as vulnerable. For example, in 2004, he reported having backed away from buying Martha Stewart's Manhattan duplex for $7 million in the winter of 2003–04.[27] 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.[32][33]

Palantir

Further information: Palantir Technologies

In 2004, Thiel founded Palantir Technologies, a software and services company funded by the CIA's venture capital arm In-Q-Tel, and continues to serve as the company's chairman.[34][35] In 2016, Palantir was sued by the U.S. government for discriminating against Asian job applicants.[36] According to the lawsuit, the company "routinely eliminated" Asian applicants during the hiring process, even when they were "as qualified as white applicants" for the same jobs.[37] The lawsuit stated that Palantir assessed 130 applicants for job positions, 73 percent of whom were Asian, and ultimately hired only four Asians and 17 non-Asians. "The likelihood that this result occurred according to chance is approximately one in a billion", the lawsuit emphasized.[37]

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,[38][39] and Thiel was portrayed in The Social Network (2010) 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.[40] 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.[40]

As a board member, Thiel was not actively involved in Facebook's day-to-day decision making. 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 2008 financial crisis.[41]

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 (which then had a secondary market valuation of $30 billion) was comparatively undervalued.[42] Facebook's IPO was in May 2012, with a market cap of nearly $100 billion ($38 a share), at which time Thiel sold 16.8 million shares for $638 million, at almost $38 per share.[43] 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.[44] He still retained 5 million shares and a seat on the board of directors.[45]

Founders Fund

Further information: Founders Fund

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 (personally or through his venture capital fund), 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, and Geni.com and Yammer by David Sacks. 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.[46] Thiel's views on management are often referenced, especially his observation that start-up success is highly correlated with low CEO pay.[citation needed]

Valar Ventures

Further information: Valar Ventures

Through Valar Ventures, an internationally focused venture firm he cofounded with Andrew McCormack and James Fitzgerald,[47] Thiel was also an early investor in Xero, a software firm headquartered in New Zealand.[48]

Mithril Capital

In June 2012, Peter Thiel launched Mithril Capital Management, 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.[49][50] 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.

In February 2013, Thiel received a TechCrunch Crunchie Award for Venture Capitalist of the year.[51]

Y Combinator

In March 2015, it was announced that Thiel joined Y Combinator as one of 10 part-time partners.[52]

Philanthropy

Further information: Thiel Foundation

Thiel carries out most of his philanthropic activities through a nonprofit foundation created by him called the Thiel Foundation.[53]

Theory of philanthropy

Thiel devotes much of his philanthropic efforts to 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.[54] A similar conference was organized in December 2011 with the name "Fast Forward".[55]

Research

Singularity

Thiel believes in the importance and desirability of a technological singularity.[56] In February 2006, Thiel provided $100,000 of matching funds to back the Singularity Challenge donation drive of the Machine Intelligence Research Institute (then known as the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence). 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.

In December 2015 it was announced that Thiel is one of the financial backers of OpenAI, a non-profit company aimed at the safe development of artificial general intelligence.[57]

Life extension

When asked ”What is the biggest achievement that you haven’t achieved yet?” by the moderator of a discussion panel at the Venture Alpha West 2014 conference, Thiel replied, “Certainly, the area that I’m very passionate about is trying to do something to really get some progress on the anti-aging and longevity front,” describing it as ”a massively under-studied, under-invested phenomena [sic].”[58]

In September 2006, Thiel announced that he would donate $3.5 million to foster anti-aging research through the Methuselah Mouse Prize foundation.[59] 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 Research Foundation, headed by Dr. de 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 Research Foundation was invited as a participant in Thiel's Breakthrough Philanthropy conference (November 2010) and the Fast Forward conference (December 2011).

Thiel said that he registered to be cryonically suspended, meaning that he would be subject to low-temperature preservation in case of his legal death in hopes that he might be successfully revived by future medical technology.[17]

Seasteading

On April 15, 2008, Thiel pledged US$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".[60] This was followed in February 2010 by a subsequent grant of $250,000, and an additional $100,000 in matching funds.[61]

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.[62]

In 2011, Thiel was reported as having given a total of $1.25 million to the Seasteading Institute.[63] According to the Daily Mail Peter Thiel was inspired to do so by Ayn Rand's philosophical novel Atlas Shrugged.[64]

Thiel Fellowship

On September 29, 2010, Thiel created the Thiel Fellowship, which annually awards $100,000 to 20 people under the age of 20 in order to spur them to drop out of college and create their own ventures.[65][66] According to Thiel, for many young people, college is the path to take when they have no idea what to do with their lives:

I feel I was personally very guilty of this; you don’t know what to do with your life, so you get a college degree; you don’t know what you’re going to do with your college degree, so you get a graduate degree. In my case it was law school, which is the classic thing one does when one has no idea what else to do. I don’t have any big regrets, but if I had to do it over I would try to think more about the future than I did at the time ... You cannot get out of student debt even if you personally go bankrupt, it's a form of almost like indentured servitude, it's attached to your physical person for the rest of your life.[17]

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 for traditional scientific funding bodies but also too long-term and speculative for venture investors.[67] In April 2012, Breakout Labs announced its first set of grantees.[68]

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,[69] and the Human Rights Foundation, which organizes the Oslo Freedom Forum.[70]

Gawker lawsuit

In May 2016, Thiel confirmed in an interview with The New York Times that he had paid $10 million in legal expenses to finance several lawsuits brought by others, including a lawsuit by Terry Bollea ("Hulk Hogan") against Gawker Media for invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and infringement of personality rights after Gawker made public sections of a sex tape of Bollea with a married woman.[71] The jury awarded Bollea $140 million, and Gawker announced it was permanently shutting its doors due to the lawsuit in August 2016.[72] Thiel referred to his financial support of Bollea's case as one of the "greater philanthropic things that I've done."[73]

Thiel said he was motivated to sue Gawker after they published a 2007 article publicly outing him, which concluded with the statement "Peter Thiel, the smartest VC in the world, is gay. More power to him." Thiel and the author of the article agreed that he was already openly gay, but Thiel stated that Gawker articles about others, including his friends, had "ruined people's lives for no reason," and said, "It's less about revenge and more about specific deterrence."[73]

In response to criticism that his funding of lawsuits against Gawker would restrict the freedom of the press, Thiel cited his donations to the Committee to Protect Journalists and stated, "I refuse to believe that journalism means massive privacy violations. I think much more highly of journalists than that. It's precisely because I respect journalists that I do not believe they are endangered by fighting back against Gawker."[73]

On August 15, 2016, Thiel published an opinion piece in The New York Times in which he argued that his defense of online privacy went beyond Gawker.[74] He highlighted his support for the Intimate Privacy Protection Act, and asserted that athletes and business executives have the right to stay in the closet as long as they want to.[74]

Political activities

Quotes

Peter Thiel flag.jpeg

A devoted libertarian,[75] Thiel expounded his views on the future of both the libertarian movement and politics in the United States in general in an article published by Cato Unbound on April 13, 2009, stating:

I remain committed to the faith of my teenage years: to authentic human freedom as a precondition for the highest good. I stand against confiscatory taxes, totalitarian collectives, and the ideology of the inevitability of the death of every individual. For all these reasons, I still call myself "libertarian."

But I must confess that over the last two decades, I have changed radically on the question of how to achieve these goals. Most importantly, I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible ... The 1920s were the last decade in American history during which one could be genuinely optimistic about politics. Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women — two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians — have rendered the notion of "capitalist democracy" into an oxymoron.[76]

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 ... Gay marriage can’t be a partisan issue because as long as there are partisan issues or cultural issues in this country, you’ll have trench warfare like on the western front in World War I. You’ll have lots of carnage and no progress.[77]

In 2011, he wrote an editorial in National Review on the slowdown of technological progress and the state of modern Western civilization:

Most of our political leaders are not engineers or scientists and do not listen to engineers or scientists. Today a letter from Einstein would get lost in the White House mail room, and the Manhattan Project would not even get started; it certainly could never be completed in three years. I am not aware of a single political leader in the U.S., either Democrat or Republican, who would cut health-care spending in order to free up money for biotechnology research — or, more generally, who would make serious cuts to the welfare state in order to free up serious money for major engineering projects...

Men reached the moon in July 1969, and Woodstock began three weeks later. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that this was when the hippies took over the country, and when the true cultural war over Progress was lost. Today's aged hippies no longer understand that there is a difference between the election of a black president and the creation of cheap solar energy; in their minds, the movement towards greater civil rights parallels general progress everywhere. Because of these ideological conflations and commitments, the 1960s Progressive Left cannot ask whether things actually might be getting worse.[78]

In a 2014 episode of "Conversations with Bill Kristol," Thiel spoke at length on what he sees to be a crisis in American higher education:

The university system in 2014, it’s like the Catholic Church circa 1514 ... You have this priestly class of professors that doesn't do very much work; people are buying indulgences in the form of amassing enormous debt for the sort of the secular salvation that a diploma represents.[79]

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.[80]

Support for political activism

Thiel, who himself is gay,[81][82][83] has supported gay rights causes such as the American Foundation for Equal Rights and GOProud.[84] He invited conservative columnist Ann Coulter, who is a friend of his, to Homocon 2010 as a guest speaker.[85][86][87] Coulter later dedicated her 2011 book, Demonic: How the Liberal Mob Is Endangering America, to Thiel.[88] In 2012, Thiel donated $10,000 to Minnesotans United for All Families, in order to fight Minnesota Amendment 1.[89]

In 2009, it was reported that Thiel helped fund college student James O'Keefe's "Taxpayers Clearing House" video – a satirical look at the Wall Street bailout.[90] O'Keefe went on to produce the ACORN undercover sting videos but, through a spokesperson, Thiel denied involvement in the ACORN sting.[90]

In July 2012, Thiel made a $1 million donation to the Club for Growth, a fiscally conservative 501(c)4, becoming the group's largest contributor.[91]

Support for political candidates

A member of the Libertarian Party until 2016,[92] Thiel contributes to Libertarian and Republican candidates and causes.[93]

In December 2007, Thiel endorsed Ron Paul for President.[94] After Paul failed to secure the Republican nomination, Thiel contributed to the John McCain campaign.[95]

In 2010, Thiel supported Meg Whitman in her unsuccessful bid for the governorship of California. He contributed the maximum allowable $25,900 to the Whitman campaign.[96]

In 2012, Thiel, along with Luke Nosek and Scott Banister, put their support behind the Endorse Liberty Super PAC. Collectively Thiel et al. gave $3.9 million to Endorse Liberty, whose purpose was to promote 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, Facebook and StumbleUpon, and building a presence on the Web.[97] 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."[98] After Ron Paul again failed to secure the Republican nomination for president, Thiel contributed to the Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan presidential ticket of 2012.[95]

Thiel initially supported Carly Fiorina campaign during the 2016 GOP presidential primary elections.[99] After Fiorina dropped out, Thiel supported Donald Trump and became one of the pledged California delegates for Trump's nomination at the 2016 Republican National Convention. He was also a headline speaker during the convention, during which he announced that he was "proud to be gay".[100][101] On October 15, 2016, Thiel announced a $1.25 million donation in support of Donald Trump's presidential campaign.[102]

Other politicians Thiel has contributed donations to include:[95][103][104][105][106][107][108][109]

Religious views

Thiel grew up in an evangelical household but as of 2011 describes his religion beliefs as "somewhat heterodox," and stated: "I believe Christianity is true but I don't sort of feel a compelling need to convince other people of that."[31]

During his time at Stanford University, he attended a lecture given by the French philosopher René Girard. Girard had developed a theory of mimetic desire, of people learning to want and compete for the same things, which attempted to explain the origins of violence. Girard, a Catholic, explained the role of sacrifice and the scapegoat in resolving social conflict, which appealed to Thiel as it offered a basis for his Christian faith without the fundamentalism of his parents.[110]

Thiel said in a 2014 interview, that "I think that faith and technological progress are related, or can be related, but they are not substitutes."[111]

In 2015, Thiel participated in two events with the theologian and retired Anglican bishop N. T. Wright in which the pair discussed religion, politics, and technology.[112][113]

Other pursuits

Media appearances and commentary

Thiel is an occasional commentator on CNBC, having appeared on both Closing Bell with Kelly Evans, and Squawk Box with Becky Quick.[114] He has been interviewed twice by Charlie Rose on PBS.[115]

Thiel has contributed articles to The Wall Street Journal, First Things, Forbes, and Policy Review, a journal formerly published by the Hoover Institution, on whose board he sits.

Thiel is supposedly the inspiration for the Peter Gregory character on HBO's Silicon Valley.[116]

Awards and honors

In 2006, Thiel won the Herman Lay Award for Entrepreneurship.[117] In 2007, he was honored as a Young Global leader by the World Economic Forum as one of the 250 most distinguished leaders age 40 and under.[118] On November 7, 2009, Thiel was awarded an honorary degree from Universidad Francisco Marroquin[119] In 2012, Students For Liberty, an organization dedicated to spreading libertarian ideals on college campuses, awarded Thiel its "Alumnus of the Year" award, and Thiel delivered the keynote address at the 2012 International Students For Liberty Conference.[120]

The Diversity Myth

Thiel is the co-author, with David O. Sacks, and with a foreword by the late Emory University historian Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, of the 1995 book[121] The Diversity Myth: 'Multiculturalism' and the Politics of Intolerance at Stanford, published by The Independent Institute. The book is critical of "political correctness" in higher education and the consequent dilution of academic rigor. It "drew a sharp rebuttal from then-Stanford Provost (and later President George W. Bush's National Security Advisor) Condoleezza Rice", with Rice joining Stanford's then president in writing "They (the two former students) concoct a cartoon, not a description of our freshman curriculum"[122] and that Thiel and Sacks' "commentary was demagoguery, pure and simple."[123]

In 2016, Thiel apologized for two statements he made in the book:

The purpose of the rape crisis movement seems as much about vilifying men as about raising 'awareness.'

But since a multicultural rape charge may indicate nothing more than belated regret, a woman might ‘realize’ that she had been ‘raped’ the next day or even many days later.

Said Thiel, "More than two decades ago, I co-wrote a book with several insensitive, crudely argued statements. As I’ve said before, I wish I’d never written those things. I’m sorry for it. Rape in all forms is a crime. I regret writing passages that have been taken to suggest otherwise."[124]

Thank You For Smoking

Thiel was the co-producer of Thank You for Smoking, a 2005 feature film based on Christopher Buckley's 1994 novel of the same name.[125]

Teaching and book on startups: Zero to One

In spring 2012 Thiel taught Stanford class CS 183: Startup.[126] Notes for the course, taken by student Blake Masters, led to a book titled Zero to One by Thiel and Masters, released September 2014.[127][128][129][130] Thiel was interviewed about his book by Professor Teppo Felin at the University of Oxford in May 2015.[131]

References

  1. ^ Christine Mai-Duc, Silicon Valley tech mogul Peter Thiel to make history as he declares he's proud to be gay on the RNC stage, Los Angeles Times (July 22, 2016) ("Thiel ... is a registered Republican but a self-described libertarian."
  2. ^ "Thiel, Peter : FIDE Chess Profile". fide.com. Retrieved October 9, 2016. 
  3. ^ Staff writer(s). "USCF Ratings History Graph for 12056150: Peter Thiel". United States Chess Federation. 
  4. ^ O'Brien, Jeffrey M. (November 13, 2007). "The PayPal Mafia". Forbes. 
  5. ^ Staff writer(s) (April 3, 2014). "Midas List 2014: The Billionaires". Forbes. 
  6. ^ Staff writer(s) (November 11, 2016). "Peter Thiel – Forbes". Forbes. 
  7. ^ "The PayPal Mafia: Who are they and where are Silicon Valley's richest group of men now?". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2014-09-23. 
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Bibliography
  • Packer, George (2013), The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ISBN 978-0374102418 

Further reading

External links