Peter Thiel, at turns smug, acerbic and brilliant, has opinions on most everything. I first met him a few weeks before I graduated from law school and after he had pulled off the sale of PayPal to eBay for $1.5 billion. Why did he bother to accept a random lunch invitation from a nobody?
I don’t know. But that’s part of Thiel’s odd and endearing genius.
Now a successful hedge fund operator and angel investor, Thiel regularly gets asked his opinion on most everything. And he doesn’t hold back. Most recently, he took to Reddit to answer questions on everything from the CIA’s role in Palantir to Facebook’s effect on the global advertising market. Here are some of the best moments.
Though, alas!—there’s nothing about the effect of cicada populations on sesame seed futures markets.
On Whether Palantir Is A Front For The CIA …
No, the CIA is a front for Palantir.
On Companies Having A Social Mission …
A sense of mission is critical, but I think the word “social” is problematically ambiguous: it can mean either (1) good for society, or (2) seen as good by society.
In the second meaning, it leads to me-too copycat companies. I think the field of social entrepreneurship is replete with these, and that this is one of the reasons these businesses have not been that successful to date.
On Net Neutrality …
We’ve had these debates about net neutrality for over 15 years. It hasn’t been necessary so far, and I’m not sure anything has changed to make it necessary right now.
And I don’t like government regulation: We need the US government to regulate the internet about as much as we need the EU to regulate Google—I suspect the cons greatly outweigh the pros, especially in practice.
On His Worst Ever Investment Decision …
Biggest mistake ever was not to do the Series B round at Facebook.
General lesson: Whenever a tech startup has a strong up round led by a top tier investor (Accel counts), it is generally still undervalued. The steeper the up round, the greater the undervaluation.
On Women In Technology…
If we want to have more women in tech, it is not enough to get more women engineers and executives—we need more women founders, because it is the founders of companies that set the cultural tone for so much that happens in Silicon Valley.
On Starting A Company…
Start with focusing on a small market and dominate that market first.
Picture of Peter Thiel by George Ruban