Peter Thiel could have tweeted about his early investment in Facebook, his loathe for Uber or the future of anti-aging. Instead, the Libertarian billionaire carefully chose the stage at Disrupt SF to send out his first ever tweet about his new book, “Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future.”
Thiel’s venture, Founders Fund, famously displays the tagline, “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.” But according to the co-founder of PayPal, that wasn’t meant as a personal dig on Twitter’s business. “We never said Twitter isn’t innovative,” said Thiel. He then sent out his first tweet on stage this afternoon just to show he meant that.
“Twitter is a fantastic communications tool but it’s not enough to take our world to the next level,” added Thiel. Tsotsis then shot Thiel a quizzical look. “You still think it’s not relevant with Ferguson and Arab Spring?,” she asked. “Well it’s not built on bits and atoms,” explained Thiel. You may have to read the book to get what he means there.
It may seem kinda late to join in the twittersphere, but Thiel is an unconventional guy. He’s invested in some of the biggest companies in Silicon Valley in the past decade from Facebook to Stripe and says Silicon Valley will be the center of the U.S. economy for the next decade or two to come. The key to the companies that will make it, according to Thiel, is about timing. The early 2000’s were a good time to start companies in Silicon Valley. The timing was right in 1999-2000 to make it all happen. [PayPal] would not have been possible in 2005. It probably would not be possible in 2014,” said Thiel.
Tsotsis drew quite a bit of laughter from the crowd when she asked Thiel if he recognized the similarities between himself and the Peter Gregory character on HBO’s Silicon Valley. Thiel was a bit bashful and said he was not equipped to answer that but that he was flattered.
“Silicon Valley is the place where people are going to think of tech culture,” said Thiel, referring to the show similarities. “In the aftermath of the 2008 crisis, Silicon Valley became the place to go. I don’t want to hype it up too much but it’s the place to come in the next 10-20 years,” said Thiel.
However, this Silicon Valley dynamo was almost never on the radar. Thiel revealed onstage that he had a set track from the 8th grade to become a Supreme Court judge one day. He planned to go to Stanford, then law school and then the Supreme Court. However, Thiel ended up not getting the clerkship he wanted and thus not fulfilling his super-tracked plans. “We often look back and wonder whether those really are the most terrible things,” said Thiel.