Billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel startled an audience of LGBT MBA students in San Francisco over the weekend when he suggested that business degrees squashed real innovation and individuality.
Thiel was in San Francisco to promote his new book Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, and he covered a lot of controversial territory, according to Businessweek. Among his topics: People with Asperger's, a form of high-functioning autism, make better entrepreneurs, because they aren't afraid to follow their own ideas; gay people may limit themselves because they may compete more for acceptance, and competition stifles originality. Thiel has not identified as having Asperger's, but he is gay.
Here's what Georgia Institute of Technology business professor Frank Rothaermel had to say about Thiel's ideas:
Apparently Thiel had started off on his anti-MBA tear when he addressed Stanford Graduate School of Business a few days earlier, saying MBA schools were "full of the anti-Asperger's, people who are hypersocial with no real convictions."
Here's what Stanford MBA candidate Virginia Calkins tweeted in reply:
Thiel's been thinking about the role of competition in entrepreneurship for quite a while. He wrote an opinion piece expounding on competition and monopolies for the Wall Street Journal in September. Here's what he had to say about competition in that article:
Americans mythologize competition and credit it with saving us from socialist bread lines. Actually, capitalism and competition are opposites. Capitalism is premised on the accumulation of capital, but under perfect competition, all profits get competed away. The lesson for entrepreneurs is clear: If you want to create and capture lasting value, don't build an undifferentiated commodity business.
Meanwhile, entrepreneur and YCombinator president Sam Altman is actually working Thiel's anti-competition credo into his own one-class MBA equivalent at Stanford, entitled How to Start a Startup: