Peter Andreas Thiel (born October 11, 1967) is an American businessman, philanthropist, political activist, and author. The PayPal cofounder and Facebook’s first professional investor 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.
Thiel was born in Frankfurt, and holds German citizenship. He moved with his family to the United States as an infant, and spent a portion of his upbringing in Africa before returning to the U.S. and attending 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-U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett and as a derivatives trader at Credit Suisse prior to founding Thiel Capital in 1996. He then co-founded PayPal in 1999, 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. He launched Palantir Technologies, an analytical software company, in 2004 and continues to serve as its chairman as of 2016. His Founders Fund, a venture capital firm, was launched in 2005 along with PayPal partners Ken Howery and Luke Nosek.
Earlier, Thiel became Facebook’s first outside investor when he acquired a 10.2% stake for $500,000 in August 2004. 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 at Y Combinator since 2015.
Thiel became a New Zealand citizen in 2011 and owns a 193 hectare (477 acre) estate near Lake Wanaka. In January 2017 questions were raised in the media about the decision to grant him New Zealand citizenship. Thiel was given a special fast track to citizenship by the then government minister, under a clause in the relevant legislation, despite having visited the country on only four occasions prior to his application. When he applied, he stated he had no intention of living in New Zealand.
Thiel is involved with a variety of philanthropic and political pursuits. Through the Thiel Foundation, he governs the grant-making bodies Breakout Labs and 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.
Words of Wisdom
Rivalry causes us to overemphasize old opportunities and slavishly copy what has worked in the past.