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Thiel speaking in Berlin, 2014
|Born||Peter Andreas Thiel|
October 11, 1967 
Frankfurt am Main, West Germany
|Alma mater||Stanford University (B.A., J.D.)|
|Net worth||US$2.8 billion (Forbes September 2015)|
Peter Andreas Thiel (//; born October 11, 1967) is a German-American entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and hedge fund manager. Thiel co-founded PayPal with Max Levchin and Elon Musk and served as its CEO. He also co-founded Palantir, of which he is chairman. He was the first outside investor in Facebook, with a 10.2% stake acquired in 2004 for $500,000, and sits on the company's board of directors.
Thiel serves as president of Clarium Capital, a global macro hedge fund with $700 million in assets under management; a managing partner in Founders Fund, a venture capital fund with $2 billion in assets under management; co-founder and investment committee chair of Mithril Capital Management; and co-founder and chairman of Valar Ventures.
Thiel was ranked No. 293 on the Forbes 400 in 2011, with a net worth of $1.5 billion as of March 2012. He was ranked No. 4 on the Forbes Midas List of 2014 at $2.2 billion.
In 2016, Palantir was sued by the U.S. government for discriminating against Asian job applicants. According to the lawsuit, the company "routinely eliminated" Asian applicants during the hiring process, even when they were "as qualified as white applicants" for the same jobs. The lawsuit stated that Palantir assessed 130 applicants for job positions, 73 percent of whom were Asian, and ultimately hired only four Asians and 17 non-Asians. "The likelihood that this result occurred according to chance is approximately one in a billion", the lawsuit emphasized.
Thiel was born to Germans Klaus Thiel, a chemical engineer, and Susanne Thiel, in Frankfurt am Main, West Germany. Thiel has one brother, Patrick Thiel. Thiel moved to the United States with his parents when he was one year old and was raised in Foster City, California. Thiel, in his youth, was an under-21 chess player.
College and law school
Thiel studied 20th-century philosophy as an undergraduate at Stanford University. He received his B.A. in Philosophy from Stanford in 1989 and acquired a J.D. from Stanford Law School in 1992.
Thiel formed friendships with other students at Stanford, many of whom contributed to The Stanford Review. These include Keith Rabois, David O. Sacks, and Reid Hoffman. Some of these friends later took up jobs at PayPal which was co-founded by Thiel.
While studying at Stanford, Thiel also encountered René Girard, whose mimetic theory influenced him.
Thiel clerked for Judge J. L. Edmondson of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit for one year after his graduation from Stanford Law School. From 1993 to 1996, he traded derivatives for Credit Suisse Group. In 1996, he founded Thiel Capital Management, a multistrategy fund.
In 1998, Thiel co-founded PayPal, an online payments system, with Max Levchin. The company later merged with X.com, then headed by Elon Musk. PayPal went public on February 15, 2002 and was sold to eBay for $1.5 billion later that year. Thiel's 3.7 percent stake in PayPal was worth approximately $55 million at the time of the acquisition.
According to Eric Jackson's account of PayPal in his book The PayPal Wars, Thiel viewed PayPal's mission as liberating people throughout the world from the erosion of the value of their currencies due to inflation. Jackson recalls an inspirational speech by Thiel in 1999:
Thiel launched a global macro hedge fund Clarium Capital, pursuing a global macro strategy. In 2005, Clarium was honored as global macro fund of the year by both MarHedge and Absolute Return, two trade magazines. Thiel’s approach to investing became the subject of a chapter in Steve Drobny’s book, Inside the House of Money. Thiel successfully bet that the U.S. dollar would weaken in 2003, and gained significant returns betting that the dollar and energy would rally in 2005. After significant losses starting in 2009, Clarium dropped from $7 billion in assets in 2008 to around $350 million in 2011.
In 2004, well before the financial crisis of 2007–08 bore him out in general terms, Thiel spoke of the dot-com bubble of 2000 having migrated, in effect, into a growing bubble in the financial sector. He specified General Electric, with its large financing arm, and Walmart as vulnerable. For example, in 2004, he reported having backed away from buying Martha Stewart's Manhattan duplex for $7 million in the winter of 2003–04. While the apartment did sell in 2004 for $6.65 million to another buyer, it was on the market but unsold in early 2010 at $15.9 million, and later at the reduced price of $13.9 million.
In August 2004, Thiel made a $500,000 angel investment in the social network Facebook for 10.2% of the company and joined Facebook's board. This was the first outside investment in Facebook, and Thiel was portrayed in The Social Network (2010) by actor Wallace Langham.
In his book The Facebook Effect, David Kirkpatrick outlines the story of how Thiel came to make his investment: former Napster and Plaxo cofounder Sean Parker, who at the time had assumed the title of "President" of Facebook, was seeking investors for Facebook. Parker approached Reid Hoffman, the CEO of work-based social network LinkedIn. Hoffman liked Facebook but declined to be the lead investor because of the potential for conflict of interest with his duties as LinkedIn CEO. He redirected Parker to Thiel, whom he knew from their PayPal days. Thiel met Parker and Mark Zuckerberg, the Harvard college student who had founded Facebook and controlled it. Thiel and Zuckerberg got along well and Thiel agreed to lead Facebook's seed round with $500,000 for 10.2% of the company. Hoffman and Mark Pincus also participated in the round. The investment was originally in the form of a convertible note, to be converted to equity if Facebook reached 1.5 million users by the end of 2004. Although Facebook narrowly missed the target, Thiel allowed the loan to be converted to equity anyway. Thiel said of his investment:
As a board member, Thiel was not actively involved in Facebook's day-to-day decision making. However, he did provide help with timing the various rounds of funding. Zuckerberg credited Thiel with helping him time Facebook's 2007 Series D to close before the 2008 financial crisis.
In September 2010, Thiel, while expressing skepticism about the potential for growth in the consumer Internet sector, argued that relative to other Internet companies, Facebook (which then had a secondary market valuation of $30 billion) was comparatively undervalued. Facebook's IPO was in May 2012, with a market cap of nearly $100 billion ($38 a share), at which time Thiel sold 16.8 million shares for $638 million, at almost $38 per share. In August 2012, immediately upon the conclusion of the early investor lock out period, Thiel sold almost all of his remaining stake for between $19.27 and $20.69 per share, or $395.8 million, for a total of more than $1 billion. He still retained 5 million shares and a seat on the board of directors.
Angel investor and venture capitalist
In 2005, Thiel created Founders Fund, a San Francisco-based venture capital fund. Other partners in the fund include Sean Parker, Ken Howery, and Luke Nosek.
In addition to Facebook, Thiel has made early-stage investments in numerous startups (personally or through his venture capital fund), including Booktrack, Slide, LinkedIn, Friendster, Rapleaf, Geni.com, Yammer, Yelp Inc., Powerset, Practice Fusion, MetaMed, Vator, Palantir Technologies, IronPort, Votizen, Asana, Big Think, Caplinked, Quora, Rypple, TransferWise, Nanotronics Imaging, Stripe, and Legendary Entertainment. Slide, LinkedIn, Geni.com, and Yammer were founded by Thiel's former colleagues at PayPal: Slide by Levchin, Linkedin by Reid Hoffman, Yelp by Jeremy Stoppelman, and Geni.com and Yammer by David Sacks. Fortune magazine reports that PayPal alumni have founded or invested in dozens of startups with an aggregate value of around $30 billion. In Silicon Valley circles, Thiel is colloquially referred to as the "Don of the PayPal Mafia", as noted in the Fortune magazine article. Thiel's views on management are often referenced, especially his observation that start-up success is highly correlated with low CEO pay.
Thiel founded Palantir Technologies funded by the CIA's venture capital arm In-Q-Tel and serves as the company's chairman.
Through Valar Ventures, an internationally focused venture firm he cofounded with Andrew McCormack and James Fitzgerald, Thiel was also an early investor in Xero, a software firm headquartered in New Zealand.
In February 2013, Thiel received a TechCrunch Crunchie Award for Venture Capitalist of the year.
Mithril: a late-stage investment fund
In June 2012, Peter Thiel launched Mithril, a late-stage investment fund with $402 million at the time of launch, intended for companies that were at the cusp between being private and going public. Other partners in the fund include Jim O'Neill, co-founder of the Thiel Fellowship, and Ajay Royan, a former managing director at Clarium Capital, a hedge fund started by Thiel.