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People Who Know Sh*t: Peter Thiel

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Peter Thiel

Every week, I profile a prominent individual who helps shape my perspective on life, business, and the world around me.

Peter Thiel is a bad motherfucker. He’s a notorious Silicon Valley entrepreneur, investor, and activist worth nearly $3 billion. He’s anti school, pro corporate monopolies, and hated Gawker Media so much that he financed their demise. He co-founded two multi-billion dollar companies, including PayPal, was the first outside investor in Facebook, and donates massive amounts of money to the advancement of artificial general intelligence.

“Monopoly is the condition of every successful business.” -Peter Thiel, Zero to One (Read this book)

A bold and unconventional statement from a bold and unconventional man. In his book, Zero to One, Thiel argues that great companies create products so exponentially better than their nearest competition that there is no competition at all. Remember how shitty MP3 players were prior to the iPod?

“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.”

Thiel is vehemently anti the American educational system. So much so, that he created the Thiel Fellowship in order to pay young promising entrepreneurs $100k to drop out of school and pursue other work.

“Paradoxically, then, network effects businesses must start with especially small markets. Facebook started with just Harvard students—Mark Zuckerberg’s first product was designed to get all his classmates signed up, not to attract all people of Earth. This is why successful network businesses rarely get started by MBA types: the initial markets are so small that they often don’t even appear to be business opportunities at all.”

Thiel put his money where his mouth was on this one. In 2004, he invested $500k for 10.2% ownership in Facebook, which valued the company at $4.9 million. Today Facebook is worth nearly $400 billion. Fuck.

More great quotes from Thiel:

“The most successful companies make the core progression—to first dominate a specific niche and then scale to adjacent markets—a part of their founding narrative.” ― Peter Thiel

“All Rhodes Scholars had a great future in their past.” ― Peter Thiel

“Customers won’t care about any particular technology unless it solves a particular problem in a superior way. And if you can’t monopolize a unique solution for a small market, you’ll be stuck with vicious competition.” ― Peter Thiel

“Every moment in business happens only once. The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. And the next Mark Zuckerberg won’t create a social network. If you are copying these guys, you aren’t learning from them.” ― Peter Thiel

“the single most powerful pattern I have noticed is that successful people find value in unexpected places, and they do this by thinking about business from first principles instead of formulas.” ― Peter Thiel

“When Yahoo! offered to buy Facebook for $1 billion in July 2006, I thought we should at least consider it. But Mark Zuckerberg walked into the board meeting and announced: “Okay, guys, this is just a formality, it shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes. We’re obviously not going to sell here.” Mark saw where he could take the company, and Yahoo! didn’t.” ― Peter Thiel

“As a founder, your first job is to get the first things right, because you cannot build a great company on a flawed foundation.” ― Peter Thiel

“humans are distinguished from other species by our ability to work miracles. We call these miracles technology.” ― Peter Thiel

“Unless you have perfectly conventional beliefs, it’s rarely a good idea to tell everybody everything that you know.” ― Peter Thiel

“Success is never accidental.” ― Peter Thiel

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