Wed

29

Apr

2015

In Conversation
Peter Thiel / Niall Ferguson

Event Summary

On April 29th, PayPal founder and Facebook director Peter Thiel told a sell-out audience at the JW3 cultural centre how to spot the next Mark Zuckerberg.

Harvard University Professor of History and author, Niall Ferguson, interviewed Thiel for this seventh talk in Alan Howard / JW3 Speaker Series. Globalisation, technology, education and politics were among themes he raised with the American entrepreneur.

Thiel was the first outside investor in Facebook, and early on in the talk Ferguson asked him how investors could spot the next Zuckerberg. Thiel said investors ought to focus on businesses run by competent people and with few competitors.“Always aim for a monopoly,” he said, “capture a small market and grow it over time. Facebook went from zero to 60 per cent market share in ten days.”

“Always aim for a monopoly, capture a small market and grow it over time. Facebook went from zero to 60 per cent market share in ten days.”

Later in the discussion, Thiel gave further investment advice by saying the more investors an enterprise has, the more likely it is to be overhyped. And he recommended that people who wanted to start their own business needed to be idiosyncratic: do something you like, you’re good at and few others are doing.

Although Thiel has a BA and Law degree from Stanford, he left law the law firm he worked at after only seven months and three days, saying it was like Alcatraz. Too many people attend college for negative reasons he believes.”People see it as an insurance product, a defence against falling through the cracks, not as an investment”, he said.

“People see it as an insurance product, a defence against falling through the cracks, not as an investment.”

Asked about his politics Thiel said he was fiscally conservative and socially liberal, but said power was with the bureaucrats, not politicians, so there was little point in taking politics too seriously.“I aspire to be a political atheist. I don’t think we should place too much hope in our political leaders,” said Thiel, “A lot of it seems to resemble World Wide Wrestling with the difference that the wrestlers know it’s all fake.”

“I aspire to be a political atheist. I don’t think we should place too much hope in our political leaders. A lot of it seems to resemble World Wide Wrestling with the difference that the wrestlers know it’s all fake.”

 

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