Peter Thiel, the man behind PayPal, Facebook and Thank You for Smoking

Interesting read – I didn’t agree with his opinions and summations but the facts were interesting. Remember – it’s from Tom Hodgkinson of The Guardian, so it is not going to be rabidly pro- capitalism. :

Although the project was initially conceived by media cover star Mark Zuckerberg, the real face behind Facebook is the 40-year-old Silicon Valley venture capitalist and futurist philosopher Peter Thiel. There are only three board members on Facebook, and they are Thiel, Zuckerberg and a third investor called Jim Breyer from a venture capital firm called Accel Partners (more on him later). Thiel invested $500,000 in Facebook when Harvard students Zuckerberg, Chris Hughes and Dustin Moskowitz went to meet him in San Francisco in June 2004, soon after they had launched the site. Thiel now reportedly owns 7% of Facebook, which, at Facebook’s current valuation of $15bn, would be worth more than $1bn. There is much debate on who exactly were the original co-founders of Facebook, but whoever they were, Zuckerberg is the only one left on the board, although Hughes and Moskowitz still work for the company.

So far, so good, though I couldn’t find a wikipedia link for Jim Breyer – not notable enough? Let’s continue:

Thiel is widely regarded in Silicon Valley and in the US venture capital scene as a libertarian genius. He is the co-founder and CEO of the virtual banking system PayPal, which he sold to Ebay for $1.5bn, taking $55m for himself. He also runs a £3bn hedge fund called Clarium Capital Management and a venture capital fund called Founders Fund. Bloomberg Markets magazine recently called him “one of the most successful hedge fund managers in the country“. He has made money by betting on rising oil prices and by correctly predicting that the dollar would weaken. He and his absurdly wealthy Silicon Valley mates have recently been labelled “The PayPal Mafia” by Fortune magazine, whose reporter also observed that Thiel has a uniformed butler and a $500,000 McLaren supercar. Thiel is also a chess master and intensely competitive. He has been known to sweep the chessmen off the table in a fury when losing. And he does not apologise for this hyper-competitveness, saying: “Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.”

But Thiel is more than just a clever and avaricious capitalist. He is a futurist philosopher and neocon activist. A philosophy graduate from Stanford, in 1998 he co-wrote a book called The Diversity Myth, which is a detailed attack on liberalism and the multiculturalist ideology that dominated Stanford.

Does anyone have a copy of that book?

He claimed that the “multiculture” led to a lessening of individual freedoms. While a student at Stanford, Thiel founded a rightwing journal, still up and running, called The Stanford Review – motto: Fiat Lux (“Let there be light”). Thiel is a member of TheVanguard.Org, an internet-based neoconservative pressure group that was set up to attack, a liberal pressure group that works on the web. Thiel calls himself “way libertarian”.

TheVanguard is run by one Rod D Martin, a philosopher-capitalist whom Thiel greatly admires. On the site, Thiel says: “Rod is one of our nation’s leading minds in the creation of new and needed ideas for public policy. He possesses a more complete understanding of America than most executives have of their own businesses.”

And on and on about his politics and his philosophy:

Clearly, Facebook is another uber-capitalist experiment: can you make money out of friendship? Can you create communities free of national boundaries – and then sell Coca-Cola to them? Facebook is profoundly uncreative. It makes nothing at all. It simply mediates in relationships that were happening anyway.

Actually a lot of those questions bug me – but I probably wouldn’t phrase them that way. Heh. I’m particularly interested in how currencies (virtual and otherwise) are evolving. If Facebook was to bring out a virtual currency, well, it would be all over, red rover. A Facebook dime would certainly outperform a Yahoo!Yen or New$Corp, which I talked about… hmmm… two years ago? But I digress.

Basically our Guardian journalist has taken the wikipedia page and put his own spin on it. Hmmm. Except… except for one line in Wikipedia on Thiel:

Thiel’s cultural pursuits have recently included co-producing “Thank You for Smoking,” a feature film based on the Christopher Buckley novel of the same name.

Not a word. Not a sausage on Thiel co-producing such a social conscience film. I’m sure Chris Gilbey will have something to say about Thiel’s capitalist stance, but how can that Guardian journo reconcile the dichotomy? Well, clearly he couldn’t.

Anyway I thought you might like to read the full article about the philosophy behind the politics behind the man behind Facebook.

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