Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Optimistic Thought Experiment by Peter A Thiel

The Optimistic Thought Experiment

In the long run, there are no good bets against globalization

And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.
Luke 17:26–30
For the judeo-western inspiration, it is a mistake of the first magnitude to place too much value on the things of this world. Those who busy themselves with the meaningless ideologies of politics, or with the interminable drama of human soap operas, or with the limitless accumulation of wealth, are losing sight of the impending catastrophe that may unfold towards the end of history. The entire human order could unravel in a relentless escalation of violence — famine, disease, war, and death. The final book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation, even gives a name and a place: The Battle of Armageddon in the Middle East is the great conflagration that would end the world. Against this future, it is far better to save one ’s immortal soul and accumulate treasures in heaven, in the eternal City of God, than it is to amass a fleeting fortune in the transient and passing City of Man.

Peter Andreas Thiel is a German-born American business magnate venture capitalist and hedge fund manager

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Peter Thiel

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Peter Thiel
Born(1967-10-11) October 11, 1967 (age 44)[1]
Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Alma materStanford University (B.A.)
Stanford Law School (J.D.)
Net worthincrease $1.5 billion (2011)[2][3]
Peter Andreas Thiel (born October 11, 1967)[1] is a German-born American business magnate, venture capitalist, and hedge fund manager. With Elon Musk and Max Levchin, Thiel co-founded PayPal and was its CEO. He currently serves as president of Clarium Capital, a global macro hedge fund with under $700 million in assets under management, and a managing partner in The Founders Fund, a $275M venture capital fund that he launched with Ken Howery and Luke Nosek in 2005. He was an early investor in Facebook, the popular social-networking site, and sits on the company’s board of directors. Thiel was ranked #365 on the Forbes 400 in 2010, with a net worth of US$1.5 billion.[2] However, this number now underestimates his wealth as his Facebook share alone, at a 2010 valuation, is worth US$1.7bn.[3] Peter Thiel lives in San Francisco, California.[4]



[edit] Life and career

Born to German parents in Frankfurt am Main, West Germany, and raised in Foster City, California, Thiel was a US-rated Chess Master and one of the highest ranked under-21 players in the country. He studied 20th century philosophy as an undergraduate at Stanford University. An avowed libertarian, he founded The Stanford Review, now the university's main conservative/libertarian newspaper. He received his B.A. in Philosophy from Stanford in 1989 and acquired a J.D. from Stanford Law School in 1992.[5]
Thiel clerked for Judge J.L. Edmondson of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.[citation needed] From 1993 to 1996, he traded derivatives for Credit Suisse Group.[6] He founded Thiel Capital Management, a multistrategy fund, in 1996. After co-founding PayPal, Thiel took the company public on February 15, 2002, and sold it to eBay for $1.5bn later that year.[7] His 3.7 percent stake in PayPal was worth approximately $55M at the time of the acquisition.[8] Immediately after the sale, Thiel launched a global macro hedge fund, Clarium, 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 US 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 $7bn dollars in assets in 2008 to around $350M in 2011.[9]
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. At the same time, he was "always talking about a real estate bubble." To illustrate, in 2004, he reported having backed away from buying Martha Stewart's Manhattan duplex for $7M in the winter of 2003-2004.[6] While the apartment did sell in 2004 for $6.65M to another buyer, it was on the market but unsold in early 2010 at $15.9M,[10] and later at the reduced price of $13.9M.[11]
In late 2004, Thiel made a $500,000 angel investment in Facebook for 10.2% of the company.[12][3] 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,, Yammer, Yelp, Inc., Powerset, Practice Fusion, Vator, Palantir Technologies, IronPort, and Votizen. Slide, LinkedIn, Yelp,, and Yammer were founded by Thiel's former colleagues at PayPal: Slide by Levchin, Linkedin by Reid Hoffman, Yelp by Jeremy Stoppelman,, 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 $30bn. In Silicon Valley circles, Thiel is colloquially referred to as the "Don of the PayPal Mafia", as noted in the Fortune magazine article.[13] Thiel's views on management are highly regarded, especially his famous observation that start-up success is highly correlated with low CEO pay.
Thiel is an occasional commentator on CNBC, having appeared numerous times on both Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo, and Squawk Box with Becky Quick.[14] He has been interviewed twice by Charlie Rose on PBS.[15] In 2006, he won the Herman Lay Award for Entrepreneurship.[16] 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.[17] On November 7, 2009, Thiel was awarded an honorary degree from Universidad Francisco Marroquin[18]
Thiel's cultural pursuits have included executive production of “Thank You for Smoking”, a 2005 feature film based on Christopher Buckley's 1994 novel of the same name. Thiel is the co-author (with David O. Sacks, who produced TYFS) of the 1995 book The Diversity Myth: 'Multiculturalism' and the Politics of Intolerance at Stanford, which "drew a sharp rebuttal from then-Stanford Provost (and later President George W. Bush's National Security Advisor) Condoleezza Rice."[3] He has contributed articles to The Wall Street Journal, First Things, Forbes, and Policy Review, the journal published by the Hoover Institution, on whose board he sits.

[edit] Philanthropy

In February 2006, Thiel provided $100,000 of matching funds to back the Singularity Challenge donation drive of 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 September 2006, Thiel announced that he would donate $3.5M to foster anti-aging research through the Methuselah Mouse Prize foundation.[19] 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. 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."
In May 2007, Thiel provided half of the $400,000 matching funds for the annual Singularity Challenge donation drive.
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".[20] This was followed in February 2010 by a subsequent grant of $250,000, and an additional $100,000 in matching funds.[21]
On September 29, 2010, Thiel said he had created a new fellowship called the Thiel Fellowship, which will award $100,000 each to 20 people under 20 years old,[22] in order to spur them to quit college and create their own ventures.[23]
Thiel is a supporter of the Committee to Protect Journalists, which promotes the right of journalists to report the news freely without fear of reprisal.[24]

[edit] Bilderberg Group

Thiel is listed as a member of the Steering Committee of The Bilderberg Group, a controversial group of influential business and government leaders who meet annually behind closed doors under a media blackout to discuss world issues.[25]

[edit] Politics

In 2004, it was reported that Thiel, "a libertarian, advise[d] several free-market think tanks, including the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco. 'He believes in open markets and that self-interest can be harnessed in useful and productive ways,' sa[id] Sonia Arrison, the institute's director of technology studies."[3]
When asked about his political beliefs in a 2006 United Press International interview, Thiel stated, "Well, I was pretty libertarian when I started [in business]. I'm way libertarian now."[26][27] In December 2007, he endorsed Ron Paul for President.[28]
In a two-part article for the Cato Institute, Thiel wrote: "I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible."[29] Thiel later clarified several of his initial statements in a follow-up essay, stating that, "While I don’t think any class of people should be disenfranchised, I have little hope that voting will make things better."[30]
Thiel founded Palantir Technologies funded by the CIA's venture capital arm In-Q-Tel.[31]
Peter Thiel professes that he is unable to engage in what he terms “unacceptable compromise politics," further spelling out his views in a piece for the Oslo Freedom Forum: "We tend to like a government very much when we believe we’re among its net winners. That makes it very hard to think clearly about whether any of its laws are just or unjust. And because power corrupts, any state unchecked by vigorous public scrutiny and a free press will attempt to become the judge in its own cause and the intermediary of all human interaction."[32]
Thiel met René Girard at Stanford and embraces memetic theory. In an interview, Thiel said that his first impression of Girard memetics was that it "is crazy... that it can't be true that imitation is this important and drives this many different things."[33]
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.[34] O'Keefe went on to produce the ACORN undercover sting videos.[35]
Thiel, who is openly gay, has also supported gay-rights causes such as the American Foundation for Equal Rights and GOProud.[36]
In 2009, Thiel wrote that "since 1920... the extension of the [socioeconomic] franchise to women... have rendered the notion of 'capitalist democracy' into an oxymoron."[37]
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.[38]
In 2011, Thiel was reported as having given $1.25M to the Seasteading Institute, a group seeking to build sovereign nations on artificial islands in international waters ("seasteading"). He previously gained attention when he gave the group $500,000 in 2008.[39]
In a December 2011 interview Thiel encouraged his '20 under 20' applicants to consider the list of "biotech, genomics, synthetic biology; robotics; information & communication technology; aerospace; artificial intelligence; neurotech; nanotech; and medical devices" despite having made his entire fortune in internet finance and social media.[40]
In 2012, Thiel, along with PayPal co-founder Luke Nosek and Scott Banister, an early adviser and board member, put their support behind the 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 (2012 -01-31), 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.[41]

[edit] Depictions in media

In the film The Social Network, Peter Thiel is played by actor Wallace Langham. The film depicts him making the $500,000 angel investment in Facebook.

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b Peter Thiel, NNDB.
  2. ^ a b "Peter Thiel - Forbes". Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Shareholder trading values Facebook at more than $33bn" The Guardian--August 25, 2010: This reference does not confirm Thiel's percentage stake, implied to be 5.2% i.e. 33 divided by 1.7. The 5.2% is also independently asserted in the Facebook section of this Wikipedia article, but without citation. The imputed valuation of Facebook has, also, moved up to $50bn in an early-2011 transaction with Goldman Sachs (Craig, Susanne and Andrew Ross Sorkin, "Goldman Offering Clients a Chance to Invest in Facebook", The New York Times Dealbook, January 2, 2011, 11:31 pm ET.) A 5.2% share of $50bn would be worth $2.58bn. For its part, by March 2010, Forbes had actually reduced its estimate of Thiel's net worth to $1.2bn (#828 on list of world's billionaires), though the higher Facebook valuation makes this even more undervalued. Footnote expanded 2011-01-11.
  4. ^ "Peter Thiel Says 'Don't Piss Off the Robots' " Silicon Alley Insider--November 18, 2009:
  5. ^ "PayPal: executive officers, directors and key employees". October 31, 2001. 
  6. ^ a b Hibbard, Justin, "Big Bucks From Bubble Fears", Business Week, November 8, 2004. Retrieved 2011-01-11.
  7. ^ "eBay picks up PayPal for $1.5 billion by Margaret Kane". Archived from the original on 2008-07-14. Retrieved 2008-01-24. "On Monday, eBay said it is acquiring online payments company PayPal in a deal valued at $1.5 billion. [...]" 
  8. ^ "SEC Info - Ebay Inc - S-4 - on 8/6/02". Archived from the original on 2008-08-26. Retrieved 2008-01-24. 
  9. ^ Packer, George. "No Death, No Taxes: The libertarian futurism of a Silicon Valley billionaire.". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2011-12-07. 
  10. ^ "Change of Plans: Martha Stewart's Perry Street Place Now Flying Solo for $15.9M", Manhattan Real Estate. Retrieved 2011-01-11.
  11. ^ Goldman, Leah, "House Of The Day: Buy Martha Stewart's Manhattan Penthouse At A $2 Million Markdown", Business Insider, Nov. 23, 2010, 5:23 pm ET. Retrieved 2011-01-11.
  12. ^ Caulfield, Brian; Perlroth, Nicole (14 February 2011). "Life After Facebook". Forbes Magazine. Retrieved 29 November 2011. 
  13. ^ O'Brien, Jeffrey M. (2007-11-14). "The PayPal mafia - November 14, 2007". CNN. Archived from the original on 2008-08-26. Retrieved 2008-01-24. 
  14. ^ "News Headlines". 2009-02-26. Retrieved 2010-10-16. 
  15. ^ "Peter Thiel". Charlie Rose. Retrieved 2010-10-16. 
  16. ^ "The Association of Private Enterprise Education". Archived from the original on 2008-08-26. Retrieved 2008-01-24. 
  17. ^ "List of Active Young Global Leaders" (PDF). The Forum of Active Young Global Leaders. World Economic Forum. January 26, 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  18. ^ Honorary Doctoral Degrees at Universidad Francisco Marroquín
  19. ^ "The Mprize-PayPal Founder pledges $3.5 Million to antiaging research". Archived from the original on 2008-08-26. Retrieved 2008-01-24. 
  20. ^ "Introducing The Seasteading Institute". Archived from the original on 2008-08-26. Retrieved 2008-04-16. 
  21. ^ "PayPal Founder Peter Thiel Offers $100,000 in Matching Donations to The Seasteading Institute, Makes Grant of $250,000". Retrieved 2010-10-16. 
  22. ^ "The Thiel Fellowship". 20 Under 20. 2010-09-29. Retrieved 2010-10-16. 
  23. ^ "Peter Thiel Launches Fellowship Program". Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  24. ^ Supporters of Press Freedom. "Supporters of Press Freedom - About CPJ - Committee to Protect Journalists". Retrieved 2010-10-16. 
  25. ^ "Steering Committee". Bilderberg Meetings. Retrieved 2010-10-16. 
  26. ^ "Peter Thiel - Libertarian". The Advocates. 
  27. ^ Lonsdale, Joe; Lonsdale, Joseph (March 6), "Valley View: Ace #2, Peter Thiel",,, retrieved 2010-10-25 
  28. ^ "Endorsements » Blog Archive » Peter Thiel". Retrieved 2008-01-24. [dead link]
  29. ^ "What's Wrong with Silicon Valley Libertarianism". Newsweek. Retrieved 2010-10-19. 
  30. ^ Peter Thiel (May 1, 2009). "Your Suffrage Isn't In Danger. Your Other Rights Are". Cato Institute. 
  31. ^ "Palantir, the War on Terror's Secret Weapon". 
  32. ^ Peter Thiel (15 May 2009). "The Contrarian Hero". Thiel Foundation. 
  33. ^ "Peter Thiel on René Girard". 
  34. ^ Steven Thrasher (September 22, 2009). "The Money Trail - Conservative Facebook Investor Funded Anti-ACORN Videographer". Village Voice. 
  35. ^ Nick Saint (September 22, 2009). "Facebook Investor Peter Thiel Funded ACORN Sting". Business Insider. 
  36. ^ Weisberg, Jacob. "Hyper-libertarian Facebook billionaire Peter Thiel's appalling plan to pay students to quit college." Slate, Oct. 16, 2010.
  37. ^ Thiel, Peter, "The Education of a Libertarian", Cato Unbound, Apr. 13, 2009. Retrieved 2012-04-02.
  38. ^ Fost, Dan, "Old (Pay)Pals: Peter Thiel backs Meg Whitman", Forbes blog, Sep. 17, 2010 7:08 pm ET. Retrieved 2011-01-11.
  39. ^ Liz Goodwin (August 16, 2011). "Silicon Valley billionaire funding creation of artificial libertarian islands". The Lookout Blog. 
  40. ^ "Peter Thiel's 20 Under 20". December 15, 2011 1:33 pm ET. 
  41. ^ Selyukh, Alina (1/31/2012). "PayPal co-founders fund pro-Paul Super PAC". Reuters. Retrieved 1/31/2012. 

[edit] Further reading

[edit] External links

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