Philosophical Investments

Philosophical interventions feature

One of Peter Thiel’s earliest memories is of him as a three-year-old sitting on a cowhide rug, asking his father what had happened to the cow. His father’s subsequent explanation of death affected the little boy profoundly. Exemplary of his nature he decided that accepting death is simply complacent. At today’s levels of medical advancements Peter Thiel expects to live to a hundred and twenty. As founder and CEO of the venture capitalist firm Founders Fund he also invested three and a half million in The Methuselah Foundation which is dedicated to “cure aging”. In the foundation’s mission statement it says: “Instead of accepting the physical and mental losses associated with aging we look for answers and solutions.”

Peter Thiel’s profile, which was published in The New Yorker, paints the picture of a gifted and introverted man who “refuses to behave like the rest of the world”. Many times this mindset has boosted his success, it has also caused the “first great humbling of his career”, when he lost money through repeatedly wrong investments with the hedge fund Clarium in the 2008-2009 Wall Street crash. Since then Peter Thiel has said he sees a technological slowdown spreading in the tech industry, which prompted him to invest in more “utopian” projects like the Methuselah Foundation or the Seasteading Institute which develops floating cities where new political realities can grow. Technological innovations with political or social effects that aim to produce added value for society seem to appeal to Peter Thiel the most.

As the first outside investor of Facebook, he thinks that Facebook created a net gain for society because it caused disruption as “it was radical enough to be outlawed in China”. The Frankfurt-born and San Francisco-based technology entrepreneur and investor was raised on the move. He attended seven different elementary schools, some of them in Namibia and South Africa, later he studied philosophy and law at Stanford University. Today he is critical of institutionalized, higher education and often blames the system for suffocating the innovative spirit in young people. Despite his railing against the traditional college education in the past, he turned into a lecturer for a short time and set aside his ideological differences to share his knowledge on founding or developing companies like PayPal and Facebook. Peter Thiel’s drive for excellence is also reflected in The Thiel Foundation which “defends and promotes freedom in all its dimensions: political, personal, and economic, by supporting innovative scientific research and new technologies that empower people to improve their lives.” Through his foundation Peter Thiel supports visionary projects like “tapping tornado energy for electricity”, or supporting twenty under 20-year-olds with fellowships to develop their entrepreneurial ideas.

At DLD13 Christian Angermayer long time member of the DLD network and versatile investor himself, will present Peter Thiel at the conference, before young thinkers and entrepreneurs, at the LMU (Ludwigs-Maximillian-Universität) in Munich, will get his advice on“The Last Mover Advantage”. Some of Peter Thiel’s insights on how to be a successful entrepreneur were already shared on a blog by the PayPal executive Keith Rabois. He writes that the company’s founder has a single focus strategy. “Thiel developed an unorthodox, extreme philosophy on focus and prioritization, where you only focus on one singular thing. He would refuse to discuss virtually anything else with you except what was currently assigned as your #1 initiative."

Mentioned in this article

Peter thiel quadrat
Peter Thiel
The Founders Fund
Managing Partner
The Founders Fund
San Francisco