When you think of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO, may come to mind first. But venture capitalist Peter Thiel also played a major role in Facebook, and he’s had a big part in other tech companies too. These days, Thiel is perhaps as well known for his political and social activism as he is for investing.
Born in Germany, Thiel’s family immigrated to the United States while Peter was still an infant. A strict upbringing helped shape Thiel’s philosophical outlook, which to this day leans libertarian.
Thiel eventually received a law degree from Stanford and even clerked for a judge in Atlanta. But as computers and the Internet boomed in the early 1990s, Thiel eschewed a law career and instead raised money to fund tech investments.
A few years later, Thiel co-founded PayPal, which grew into one of the largest online payment platforms in the world. Thiel was Facebook’s first outside investor, and without his resources, the social media platform might not have become the tech giant it is today. Since then, Thiel has raked in many millions more with investments in Lyft, Asana, Airbnb and other hot tech platforms.
As an investor, Thiel has a good eye for spotting tech companies that could revolutionize society and industries. Part of this likely comes down to his business philosophy, which focuses on disruptive innovation. In his best-selling business book, “Zero to One,” Thiel argues that:
“Every moment in business happens only once. The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. And the next Mark Zuckerberg won’t create a social network. If you are copying these guys, you aren’t learning from them.”
Much like the way investors look to Warren Buffett for guidance on companies worth investing in, Thiel provides us with another unique point of view for what the future holds.