Peter Thiel’s fortune was made when PayPal, which he co-founded and served as CEO, was sold to eBay for 1.5 billion in 2002. With his portion of the profits he founded Clarium Capital, a global hedge fund. Until recently, Clarium had done remarkably well predicting market trends and at its apex showing returns of 230%. Thiel’s clairvoyance paid off immensely when he became the first outside investor in Facebook in 2004. His investment earned him a 10% stake in the company and a position on the board. Thiel sold the majority of his shares in Facebook soon after the IPO and made a cool billion dollars.
But it isn’t Thiel’s accumulation of enormous wealth as much as his pursuit of truly innovative, world-changing technologies that inspires me. Through his personal money and assorted funds Thiel is supporting technologies that may not yield high returns in the short term, but may pave the way to a more advanced future.
Why the World Needs More Thiels
“We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.” -Peter Thiel
Peter Thiel is a luminous futurist. He desperately desires to sway the attention of the world from the novel distractions we currently marvel to truly society-altering scientific endeavors. He cautions that change is not necessarily progress. What is an iPad compared to the Apollo Space Program? Below are a few of the reasons I love Peter Thiel.
- In 2005 Thiel created the Founders Fund. They ”believe that the shift away from backing transformational technologies and toward more cynical, incrementalist investments broke venture capital.” Founders fund focuses on teams working in biotechnology, consumer Internet and media (Web 2.0), advanced machines and artificial intelligence, aerospace and transportation, and marketing and analytics. I recommend reading the company’s manifesto and checking out some of their portfolio companies.
- The 20 under 20 Thiel Fellowship provides young, motivated entrepreneurs the chance to create a product or company right after graduating from High-School. “Thiel Fellows are given a no-strings-attached grant of $100,000 to skip college and focus on their work, their research, and their self-education. They are mentored by [a] network of visionary thinkers, investors, scientists, and entrepreneurs, who provide guidance and business connections that can’t be replicated in any classroom. Rather than just studying, [they're] doing.
- Thiel is the co-founder of The Seasteading Institute. “Experiments are the source of all progress: to find something better, you have to try something new. But right now, there is no open space for experimenting with new societies.” To achieve this Thiel and partners are looking to create floating cities in international waters. Here new ideas in banking, political, medical, education, etc. can be tested. If you’d like to get involved the Thiel Foundation will match your donation dollar-for-dollar!
- The Methuselah Foundation aims to prove “the ideology of the inevitability of the death of every individual”* to be false. These foundations invest in research such as life extension, late-onset rejuvenation, regenerative organs, gene manipulation, 3D printing human tissue, and DNA sequencing.
- Thiel is a financial backer of The Singularity Institute which conducts research on Artificial Intellegence(AI) to create “smarter-than-human intelligence to benefit society,” and also “research in human rationality, technological forecasting, and group decision-making, to help us better predict the future and take actions strategically.
What does innovation mean to you, and who best embodies the term? Let us know in the comments below.