PETER ANDREAS THIEL is a German-American billionaire entrepreneur and venture capitalist. A co-founder of PayPal, Palantir Technologies, and Founders Fund, he was the first outside investor in Facebook. He was ranked No. 4 on the Forbes Midas List of 2014, with a net worth of $2.2 billion, and No. 391 on the Forbes 400 in 2020, with a net worth of $2.1 billion. As of June 25, 2021, Thiel has an estimated net worth of US$7.24 billion and is ranked 385th on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He is famously conservative and, more than just occasionally, weird.
Born in Frankfurt, he moved with his family to the United States as an infant. He spent a portion of his upbringing in Southern Africa before the family settled in California in 1977. He studied philosophy at Stanford University, graduating with a B.A. in 1989. He then earned his J.D. from Stanford Law School in 1992. After graduation, he worked as a judicial law clerk for Judge James Larry Edmondson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, as a securities lawyer for Sullivan & Cromwell, as a speechwriter for former-U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett, and as a derivatives trader at Credit Suisse. He founded Thiel Capital Management in 1996. He co-founded PayPal with Max Levchin and Luke Nosek in 1998, serving as chief executive officer until its sale to eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion.
After PayPal, he founded Clarium Capital, a global macro hedge fund based in San Francisco. In 2004, he launched Palantir Technologies, a big data analysis company, and served as its chairman through 2019. In 2005, he launched Founders Fund with PayPal partners Ken Howery and Luke Nosek. Earlier, Thiel became Facebook’s first outside investor when he acquired a 10.2% stake for $500,000 in August 2004. He sold the majority of his shares in Facebook for over $1 billion in 2012, but remains on the board of directors. He co-founded Valar Ventures in 2010; co-founded Mithril Capital, serving as investment committee chair, in 2012; and served as a part-time partner at Y Combinator from 2015 to 2017.
Through the Thiel Foundation, Thiel governs the grant-making bodies Breakout Labs and Thiel Fellowship, and funds nonprofit research into artificial intelligence, life extension (by blood transfusions from younger people), and seasteading (floating, independent city-states). In 2016, Thiel confirmed that he had funded Hulk Hogan in the Bollea v. Gawker lawsuit because Gawker had previously outed him as gay (though he maintains he came out of his own accord.) The lawsuit eventually bankrupted Gawker. A co-founder of The Stanford Review, he is a conservative libertarian who is critical of high government spending, high debt levels, and foreign wars. He has donated to over 50 political figures on the American Right, including Donald Trump and Meg Whitman. He also maintains a political action committee, Free Forever.
Thiel is difficult to encapsulate in the space here. He is a collection of contradictions. He is a gay man who is also a conservative christian. He is a professed libertarian who bankrupted a press outlet. He is a capitalist who believes capitalism is incompatible with Democracy.
He has written: “…I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible… The 1920s were the last decade in American history during which one could be genuinely optimistic about politics. Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women—two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians—have rendered the notion of “capitalist democracy” into an oxymoron… In our time, the great task for libertarians is to find an escape from politics in all its forms… Because there are no truly free places left in our world, I suspect that the mode for escape must involve some sort of new and hitherto untried process that leads us to some undiscovered country; and for this reason I have focused my efforts on new technologies that may create a new space for freedom.” He has been quoted as saying that he thinks that a monarchy is the most efficient form of government.
Thiel married his long-time partner Matt Danzeisen in October 2017, in Vienna, Austria. Danzeisen works as a portfolio manager at Thiel Capital. They have a baby daughter.