PayPal Co-Founder Peter Thiel on Technology Trends and Being Contrarian

PayPal Co-Founder Peter Thiel on Technology Trends and Being Contrarian

Here’s a very interesting interview TechCrunch conducted with Peter Thiel – who co-founded PayPal, and currently runs Clarium Capital.

I’m a big fan of Thiel’s – he’s a unique thinker, he’s got a strong libertarian streak, and he’s often good for a very offensive, controversial stance.

In this interview Thiel shares his investment methodology, his outlook on technology trends, and why he’s going to pay students to leave school:

He invests in startups as well as public markets – and did very well as an early investor in Facebook (which is currently valued around $30 billion (!))

I was a bit surprised to see him not particularly bullish on technology at large, as he believes the internet may be more mature than many believe.  He also sees the giants dominating the future of the internet, giving the analogy that the “Google for mobile will be Google.”

Personally I look at the future of the net and software a bit differently.  I think there’s more opportunity than ever for small software companies to build a useful product/app that people will use and pay for.  But the key is going to be customer acquisition – once you acquire a customer, you can then pitch your new apps to them, but that initial acquistion can be challenging, especially in a cost effective manner.

Which does jive with his hypothesis that the established internet companies will continue to dominate – because they’ve already got the customers/users.  But from my perspective as a startup software guy, I am optimistic that small companies can acquire customers/users more easily now than ever before, thanks to the democratizing marketing leverage the internet provides.

For example – if you’re reading my post now, you are a reader that I “acquired” for free thanks to the magic of the internet.  (And BTW, thanks for reading!)  I likely wouldn’t have been able to find you as a reader as recently as 15 years ago!

Finally I got a kick out of Thiel’s “Drop Out of School” campaign – and honestly I think he’s on to something.  If you’re a wiz kid techie, why not take a shot at getting something going at an early age.  Most great programmers learn the real stuff outside of the classroom on their own anyone – hence the loving term “hackers”.

We had an intern at Chrometa who was a very bright Computer Science major from Cornell, and had just completed his Freshman year at the time.  He was good to go and fully employable as far as I was concerned right then and there.  He wanted to go back to school and complete his college – which was cool – he can start work anytime.  But for the kids who don’t want to drag on through school, why not take Thiel up on his offer.