Venture capitalist and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel has been on a little bit of a media tour this week (after all he does have a new book to promote). No one's complaining, though, since it's hard to get enough of what the prolific thinker has to say.
On Monday he was in San Francisco at TechCrunch Disrupt, and on Thursday he was a guest on Reddit's Ask-Me-Anything (AMA). Some redditors wanted him to follow up on comments he had made Monday. During his fireside chat on the TechCrunch stage, he had surprised some with his candor--especially when he called Uber the most ethically challenged company in Silicon Valley (he disclosed that he's an investor in Lyft).
Others wanted to know his stance on Net Neutrality and other front-page news items this week. Then there was one entrepreneur who wanted to continue the conversation offline. He asked Thiel, "What advice would you have for a 22 year old hustler who wants to meet you?" Answer: "At 22, I didn't think it was important to meet people."
Read below for some of Thiel's other AMA highlights on:
The most difficult mental barrier to success:
"Even when one understands that exponential growth and exponential forces are incredibly important, it is still hard to internalize this. PayPal was growing at 7percent per day at the time of the launch (October 99-Apr 2000, from 24 users to one million), and we did not fully fathom the rocket we were riding."
Uber's growth strategy:
"[It's] Not optimal if you break the law to the point where the company gets shut down (think Napster). I'm not saying that will happen to Uber, but I think they've pushed the line really far."
Whether or not the Thiel Fellowship has been a success:
"Yes, on both a micro and a macro scale.
Micro: the 83 fellows have collectively raised $63 million, and a number of their companies are tracking towards solid Series B venture rounds. Almost all of them did and learned far more than they would have in college.
Macro: we started an important debate about the education bubble. Student debt is over $1 trillion in this country, and much of that money has gone to pay for lies that people tell about how great the education they received was."
Misogyny in Silicon Valley:
"If we want to have more women in tech, it is not enough to get more women engineers and executives--we need more women founders, because it is the founders of companies that set the cultural tone for so much that happens in Silicon Valley.
It exists, and is a problem, but I wouldn't rank it as the top problem. It is much bigger problem that people, both men and women, can't even afford to live in Silicon Valley because we are not building any housing. And a lot of talented men and women can't even look for an overpriced apartment in SV because they can't even get a visa to get in the country."
When he'll start caring about Bitcoin:
"PayPal built a payment system but failed in its goal in creating a 'new world currency' (our slogan from back in 2000). Bitcoin seems to have created a new currency (at least on the level of speculation), but the payment system is badly lacking. I will become more bullish on Bitcoin when I see the payment volume of Bitcoin really increase."
"I don't agree with the libertarian description of the NSA as 'big brother.' I think [Edward] Snowden revealed something that looks more like the Keystone Kops and very little like James Bond.
The first thing an intelligence agency should do is counter-intelligence, and the NSA could not even figure out that there was something suspicious about an IT person downloading all those files. And once they knew Snowden had done this, they apparently still couldn't figure out what all he had taken …
It was inappropriate that the US was tapping [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel's cell phone. But I suspect that this was news to Obama as well. And more generally: the NSA has been hovering up all the data in the world, because it has no clue what it is doing. 'Big data' really means 'dumb data.'"
"We've had these debates about net neutrality for over 15 years. It hasn't been necessary so far, and I'm not sure anything has changed to make it necessary right now.
And I don't like government regulation: We need the US government to regulate the Internet about as much as we need the EU to regulate Google. I suspect the cons greatly outweigh the pros, especially in practice."