In a rather truncated, but still insightful interview with Alexia Tsotsis at TechCrunch Disrupt 2014 this year, legendary Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel spoke about many things he has become famous (or infamous) for, including anti-aging research, the HBO show "Silicon Valley" and his opinions on education. When someone becomes such a cult of personality that TV shows start creating comedic, fictionalized versions of them--as HBO did with Thiel on "Silicon Valley" with its character "Peter Gregory"--you find yourself simply writing down their quotes as they speak. Here are some of the more interesting things I caught while at the interview.

About HBO's "Silicon Valley": "It's a Good Show." Thiel said he is flattered by the character played by deceased actor Christopher Evan Welch, on the show. In one scene Thiel--excuse me, Gregory-- gives a lecture on why young people shouldn't go to college.

"I'm skeptical of a lot of what falls under the rubric of education.... People are on these tracks. They are getting these credentials and it's very unclear how viable they are in many cases." It wouldn't be a Peter Thiel interview if he didn't express concerns about the American education system. This one was no different. Thiel said his "fundamental" view on this is that there is no "one size fits all" education for every person.

Ironically, when asked what he might have been had he not gone into investing, Thiel said he might have been a teacher.

"Anti-aging is an extremely under-explored field." The discussion about "atoms and bits" mixed into a brief mention of the growing field of anti-aging. It was obvious through his brief comments that he thinks this area, which Google is already exploring, has tremendous potential. Thiel agreed when Tsotsis asked if he thought someone alive today would live to be 2,000 years old, but when she asked if he thought he would live that long, he said he was "too superstitious" to say.

"I'm short on New York, long on Silicon Valley." Thiel talked for a few minutes about the investment dynamics in both New York and San Francisco. While he feels great about the Big Apple's ongoing growth in tech, he feels the Bay Area is the true center of the tech world and will stay that way. Silicon Valley, to his mind, will be "the center of the U.S. Economy" through the next two decades.

Re: Silicon Valley: "We're better than the rest of the country but we shouldn't believe it too much." Thiel admonished Valley entrepreneurs who get too cocky or smug about their success. He said that only hard work and continuing innovation in the next 10-20 years can ensure the Valley keeps its position as the center of tech on Earth. He also mentioned that the next 10-20 years could be more about connecting "the world of atoms and bits" through biotech, self-driving cars and others.

Uber is "way more" evil than Google: In a discussion about the fierce competition between Uber and Lyft, Thiel, referenced the oft-criticized business practices of Uber. He prefaced his comments by noting he is an investor in Lyft, and said Uber is "the most ethically challenged company in Silicon Valley."

"Great investments may look crazy but really may not be." That's the lesson Thiel took from considering investment in Elon Musk's SpaceX in 2008. He said some investors thought it might look like too crazy an idea to invest in, but in retrospect, wasn't. Thiel and his Founders Fund did make the investment. He cited the fact that the rockets worked well even then as well as a big NASA contract as indications that the company was headed on the right track.

Published on: Sep 9, 2014
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