Peter Thiel is a billionaire venture capitalist, entrepreneur, and political activist. Born in 1967 in Frankfurt am Main, West Germany, Thiel is best known as the first outside investor in Facebook and the co-founder of PayPal.
Read Also: PayPal Mafia
Thiel and his family moved to the United States when the entrepreneur was twelve months old.
However, with his father a chemical engineer, Thiel also spent part of his childhood in Namibia and South Africa before settling in California in 1977.
As a child, Thiel enjoyed reading science fiction and fantasy, with The Lord of the Rings a particular favorite.
Some of the companies he founded later in life such as Palantir Technologies, Rivendell LLC, and Valar Ventures are named after objects and locations from the books.
Thiel later enrolled at Stanford University where he studied philosophy and founded the libertarian newspaper The Stanford Review. He remained as editor-in-chief until he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1989.
He then enrolled at Stanford Law School and, upon completion, received his Juris Doctor degree three years later in 1992.
Whilst at Stanford, Thiel met French polymath René Girard and was influenced by his mimetic theory.
Girard believed that human behavior and culture could be explained by people who desired things simply because other people also desired them.
Thiel applied mimetic theory to business, positing that competition stifled progress because competitors were too focused on each other and lost sight of what was meaningful or important.
Post-university, Thiel worked briefly as a securities lawyer in New York but quit after seven months because the work lacked transcendental value.
Before returning to California in 1996, he also worked for Credit Suisse as a derivatives trader and was the speechwriter for United States Secretary of Education William Bennett.
Once ensconced back in the Bay Area, Thiel noticed the proliferation of personal computers and emergence of the internet itself.
To take advantage of the subsequent dot-com boom, he founded Thiel Capital Management with $1 million provided by friends and family.
Thiel’s first investment of $100,000 in a web-based calendar was a failure. But the calendar’s owner, Luke Nosek, put him in touch with friend and cryptographer Max Levchin.
Thiel then invested in Levchin’s company Confinity and its money transfer service known as PayPal.
For Thiel who wanted to make a meaningful impact, PayPal and its revolutionary digital wallet had the potential to cause “the erosion of the nation-state.”
More specifically, Thiel believed PayPal could liberate people from the erosion of the value of their money due to inflation and what he considered the loose or frivolous monetary policy of some nations.
When PayPal was sold to eBay in 2002, Thiel became an instant multimillionaire and used the funds to invest in Facebook.
He also founded the hedge fund Clarium Capital Management and, as we mentioned earlier, the data analytics firm Palantir Technologies.
Founders Fund and philanthropy
In 2005, Thiel launched the Founders Fund, a VC firm with notable investments including Airbnb, SpaceX, Yelp, Spotify, Asana, and Lyft.
The following year, he founded the private Thiel Foundation to further his philanthropic endeavors. Chief among these are initiatives that support science, tech, and long-term thinking about the future.
A more recent addition to Thiel’s philanthropy is the Thiel Fellowship, a two-year program that awards $100,000 to visionaries under the age of 20 who want “build new things instead of sitting in a classroom.”
- Peter Thiel is a billionaire venture capitalist, entrepreneur, and political activist. Born in West Germany in 1967, Thiel is best known as the first outside investor in Facebook and the co-founder of PayPal.
- Whilst at Stanford, Thiel met French polymath René Girard and was influenced by his mimetic theory. Thiel applied mimetic theory to business, believing that competition stifled progress because competitors were too focused on each other.
- Thiel’s break came after a chance meeting with Confinity founder Max Levchin. When PayPal was acquired by eBay, Thiel became a multimillionaire and used the funds to make a number of successful investments and set up his philanthropic causes.
Read Also: PayPal Mafia
Read Next: Bill Gates Companies, Jeff Bezos Companies, Elon Musk Companies.
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