Tag Archives: peter thiel

Social Finance Brings Up $80 Million In Series C Funding With Help From Venture Capitalist, Peter Thiel

San Francisco-based shared loaning commercial center Sofi (Social Finance) has brought $80 million up in a Series C round headed by Discovery Capital Management with interest from Wicklow Capital and Peter Thiel alongside past speculators Renren, Baseline Ventures, and DCM. Sofi brings down understudy premium rates by associating graduated class borrowers and gurus for refinancing private and elected learner advances.

Propelled in 2011, Sofi has since financed $450 million in advances in excess of 5,000 parts and will utilize the new money to grow its credit offerings to incorporate contracts and individual credits.

Facebook Investor Peter Thiel Calls Technology A “Scapegoat” For Inequality

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Early Facebook investor and noted Silicon Valley libertarian Peter Thiel thinks that too many Americans have mistakenly blamed technology for rising inequality. “Technology is an easy scapegoat,” he argued, in a big-think discussion put on by political lobby, FWD.us.

In a wide-ranging discussion with MIT professor Andrew McAfee, the two duked it out about technology’s role in social ills. “I think technology has helped,” Thiel said. “You have things like Facebook, like Google–technology has helped to offset some of the brutal effects of globalization”.

While globalization has flooded the low-skilled job market with ultra-cheap outsourced labor, technology has relieved the beleaguered middle-class with services in health, education and leisure that were once the exclusive domain of the wealthy, Thiel asserts.

Indeed, he partly blamed the failure to recognize the contributions of technology on an American mindset that is “anti-technology.” For instance, he notes, there was no financial industry-like bailout of Silicon Valley during the first dot-com bubble. He also notes that the nation’s general animosity toward tech can also be seen in the movie industry, which inundates the masses with tech super villains from “The Matrix,” “Avatar,” and” The Terminator” in a period of high tech hostility (compared to more tech-friendly movies, such as “Star Trek” in the ’60s and “Back To the Future” in the 80s, which is when he thinks the U.S. was less anti-tech).

As a self-avowed libertarian, Thiel wasn’t thrilled about the government bail-out of the financial industry. But he shocked the crowed when he openly supported more taxes in exchange for less regulation.

“I wouldn’t mind paying more in taxes if I could do anything I wanted to do with the rest of the money, which I’m largely restricted in what I can do, from the FDA on down to the San Francisco zoning department.”

San Francisco has an infamously restrictive policy on new housing developments, which has contributed to sky-high rents and evictions. Thiel’s comments were a transparent nod to the protests in front of Google’s private commuter buses, which have become a convenient symbol of the wealthy high-tech workers who have the free cash to cause upward demand pressure on San Francisco rents.

In other words, while protestors blame technology, Thiel hints at other causes — namely government.

For McAfee’s role in the discussion, he towed the traditional economist line on technology and financial disparity. “The observed rise in inequality across both developed and developing countries over the past two decades is largely attributable to the impact of technological change,” wrote a team of economists for International Monetary Fund–a sentiment widely shared in the academic community.

According to the economists, as technology automates jobs, it concentrates labor in a small slice of high-skilled workers.

Thiel rebutted this line of evidence by arguing that computers are complementary to people: they augment workers; they don’t replace them. “LinkedIn does not replace job recruiters,” he said.

Though he does admit that once computers begin to replicate humans (i.e. robots), he begins to get “scared” for the future job market.

Overall, it was a very thoughtful discussion; it was nice to see politically powerful techies lay out their contentious views on inequality for the public.

As soon as the video of the full discussion is available from FWD, we’ll embed it here.

[Image Credit: TechCrunch 50]


Fwd.us Adds A Paid Membership Model, With Access To Talks From Thiel And More

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Fwd.us, the advocacy group initially backed by tech luminaries like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, is adding a new paid membership model. The move is a bid to attract broader support from regular tech industry workers and people living in cities like New York and San Francisco who care about immigration reform and political issues affecting knowledge workers.

At $35 a year, members will get invited to speaker events with Silicon Valley business leaders and other policy experts. The first set of talks includes one on “The Future of the Middle class and the American Dream in the 21st Century,” with venture capitalist and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and MIT academic Andrew McAfee. McAfee recently published “Race Against the Machine,” a book about how technological advances are leaving the average U.S. worker behind.

Fwd.us president Joe Green said the new program wasn’t about raising money.

“In my last company, we sold SAAS software. It’s valuable to have the customer to pay you directly. Then in the Obama campaign, while we had extremely wealthy donors, we also used the phrase — owning a piece of the campaign. Lots of people donated $25 or $50,” Green said. “I think there’s real value in having folks who have a real stake and buy-in behind the organization.”

Last year, Fwd.us made some stumbles when it bankrolled conservative TV ads supporting projects like the Keystone XL pipeline. That prompted certain high-profile members like Elon Musk to withdraw their support.

Green said that organization has been running hackathons and has kept its entire legislative focus on immigration reform.

“We started this organization to be one that is very pragmatic politically. You need to work on both lines of the aisle. We knew that when you try and get something done in politics, not everyone agrees. Not everyone agrees with the tactics we pursued,” Green said. “But we launched quickly and had ads up by April. Since then, we’ve focused on communication and listening. Now we’re building a network out in Silicon Valley, New York, Boston, Chicago, Austin and in tech hubs around the country.”


The Past, The Future & What This Means For Our Developing World.

Peter Thiel SXSW

There are four quadrants used to organize the past and the future views of the developing world.  These quadrants are optimistic, pessimistic, determinate and indeterminate.


China is currently thought to be pessimistic/determinate meaning it has a clear view of where it would like to be in twenty years but at the same time China is worried about whether or not they will get there in this modern time frame.  China is more likely to save money, then invest money over the next few decades.

“China will be a somewhat poorer version of the developed world, people will become old before they become rich”  –  Peter Thiel, Co-founder, PayPal.

America is thought to have fell in to a quadrant called indeterminate optimism.  Presently, the United States is believed to have both a low amount of investment and a low amount of saving, this is arguably the most unstable position for a country to be in.

“One of the strange things about indeterminate optimism is that its the quadrant that has low savings and low investment.  Is it possible for the future to be better when no one saves and no one invests? Because no one is thinking and everyone is outsourcing all of the thinking to other people.”  –  Peter Thiel, Co-Founder, PayPal.

Both Japan and Europe are thought to be indeterminate/pessimistic meaning the future does not look bright and no body is sure what to do about it.

Forget Mega-Corporations, Here’s The Mega-Network

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We live in the age of cryptocurrency heists, Chinese moon landings, eco-disasters and electronic cigarettes. Sounds like something out of a cyberpunk novel.

Well, a cyberpunk novel without the brain implants, but don’t worry, those are coming, too. But one big cyberpunk theme that hasn’t come to pass is the rise of mega-corporations — those huge multinational conglomerates, like Robocop‘s OCP, that owned everything from baby food companies to police departments.

Corporations are arguably more powerful today than ever before. But the economy isn’t dominated by a handful of megalithic conglomerates. it consists of hundreds or thousands of smaller, more specialized firms. Our cyberpunk future-present is dominated instead by a new power structure: the mega-network.

The Incredible Shrinking Firm

Science fiction is more about the present than the future, as the saying goes. And in the late 1970s and early 1980s — when the original cyberpunk stories were written — Wall Street was in love with conglomerates. But the love affair was over by 1990, according to a 1994 paper published in the American Sociological Review aptly titled “The Decline and Fall of the Conglomerate Firm in the 1980s.”

These diversified firms performed poorly on the stock market, and relaxed antitrust regulations meant that growing vertically was a safer legal bet than it was in the 1960s and 1970s, when conglomerates first took off. Many companies sold off their assets, becoming leaner and more focused on core competencies. Conglomorates are still popular in Asia and other parts of the world, but the U.S. business community generally agreed that conglomerates were a big mistake.

The fall of the conglomerate corresponded with white-collar downsizing, the rise of “permatemping,” and a general tendency towards smaller firms. But before we can answer why companies trended smaller, we should answer a more basic question: why do companies exist at all?

In 1937 Ronald Coase wrote a groundbreaking essay titled “The Nature of the Firm.” He set out to answer a question that vexed economists of his time: If markets were efficient, why was there a need for firm as all? Why didn’t all economic activity take place at the level of the individual, with everyone contracting everyone else? Coase concluded that there were transactional costs associated with doing business, such as negotiating contracts and protecting trade secrets. But a company could minimize those transaction costs by making it possible to avoid negotiating a contract for every single transaction, for example.

But technologies from shipping containers to software to web-based marketplaces are starting to smooth out those transaction costs, said Chris DeVore of Founders Co-Op in a talk at the Defrag conference last year.

“WordPerfect and VisiCalc transformed highly proprietary, document-based knowledge work into standardized digital files that could be copied, shared and modified by workers inside or outside the company,” he said. “This reduced friction in the transmission and reuse of information and further reduced the ‘hidden costs’ of distributing knowledge work among trading partners. As a result, more and more previously ‘core’ departmental functions — finance, accounting, marketing, sales — could now be farmed out to outside partners without a loss of fidelity.”

What’s arisen instead — and this was recognized as far back as the late 1980s — are virtual corporations: temporary alliances of businesses pursuing common goals. In other words, networks.

The Network

Take Y Combinator. “It gives the benefit of being part of a large company without being part of a big company,” Founder Paul Graham told Fast Company in 2012. “The problem with doing a startup — even though it’s better in almost every other respect — is that you don’t have the resources of a big company to draw on. It’s very lonely; you have no one to give you advice or help you out. In a big company, you might be horribly constrained, but there are like 1,000 other people you can go to to deal with any number of problems. Now [with YC] you have 1,000 people you can go to to deal with problems, and you don’t have all the restrictions of a big company.”

Y Combinator is just one sub-network of a larger network made up of angel investors, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs investing in each other, advising each other and occasionally also working for each other. Y Combinator is a slightly more formal network of individuals who have agreed to help each other out while the larger tech startup network includes many more informal connections between its members.

The “PayPal Mafia” is another famous sub-network within the tech network. PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel is a prolific investor in other startups, as are many early employees such as Jawed Karim and Dave McClure. And it’s not just individuals — companies invest in each other as well. Google has its own venture fund, Google Ventures. And in many cases the nodes of the network are in competition with each other. For example, Oracle invested in Salesforce.com and Netsuite — companies founded by former Oracle employees — which compete with each other and Oracle.

These aren’t subsidiaries. The individual pieces are truly independent companies. And though there’s a pecking order — some members of the network obviously hold more power than others — it’s non-hierarchical in the sense that there is no central authority. Instead there are islands of power distributed throughout the network.

It’s tempting to refer to this network as simply “Silicon Valley,” but it’s not actually limited to the Bay Area. Historically there was Route 128, and more recently cities like Austin and Seattle have become tech hubs. The tech network doesn’t end at the borders of the U.S. — there’s a bit of Russian oligarch money in the network, for example.

The network also crosses the public/private divide. In-Q-Tel is a venture capital firm started by the CIA but has now expanded to involve the larger intelligence community, including the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T). The firm is an independent organization that makes investments in companies seen as useful to the intelligence community. For example, database startups 10gen (now known as MongoDB) and Cloudant both took investments from In-Q-Tel in 2012. And then there’s the surveillance industrial complex, which includes the Thiel-backed Palantir.

“Good old boy networks” and regional clusters of particular industries (like Wall Street and Madison Avenue) have existed before. But what seems to be happening now is that the tech industry network is growing and expanding. It’s not just a regional cluster, or a collection of regional clusters, dedicated to the technology industry. It’s growing to encompass many other industries.

When we say “software is eating the world,” what we really mean is that the software industry is eating the world. Information technology has long been a part of most industries. Back in 2004 Nicholas Carr declared the IT revolution over in his book Does IT Matter?, arguing that IT had gone from being a strategic advantage to simply being a cost of doing business.

But now the tech network competes with other industries instead of just selling software to them. Uber is the canonical example of software eating the world, but what it doesn’t do is as instructive as what it does. Uber doesn’t sell a white label dispatching software platform to existing taxi companies. Instead it started its own car service staffed by independent contractors.

Then there’s Tesla — another PayPal Mafia company — which is actually making cars. Or look at Silicon Valley’s obsession with reinventing food. Companies like Beyond Meat and Hampton Creek Foods aren’t software companies, but they’re backed by software investors. And while companies like 23andme and WellnessFX have a significant software component, the bigger story is that tech investors and entrepreneurs have moved beyond selling software to healthcare companies to starting healthcare companies.

The software network is diversifying and growing into the networked equivalent of a mega-conglomerate.


The trend towards smaller companies and more startups is driven by another economic trend: more people are becoming rich. One in five Americans will reach affluence, at least temporarily, according to the Associated Press.

Make no mistake, many more people are entering poverty than are becoming rich — around 54 percent of Americans will experience poverty, according to the same AP study. But the growing number of wealthy people means there are more people with cash on hand and looking for places to invest it. Angel investing in tech companies has become an attractive option. Self-help author Timothy Ferris is forthcoming about this strategy, writing that he would rather invest in companies that he can influence and promote rather than put his money in stocks. Each successful startup means more newly rich startup founders looking for a place to park their money.

There’s a cultural issue as well. To paraphrase freelance writer and technologist Joshua Ellis, sometimes doing a startup just means that you’re too rich to work for someone else.

But there’s a dark side to this cycle. Peter Turchin of the University of Connecticut makes the case that although the wealth gap is a problem, the increase in the number of elites is an even bigger problem because it has historically led to more instability as the wealthy compete for a finite number of elite positions.

Maybe this won’t last. Maybe Google, which is becoming pretty diverse itself, will become the dystopian mega-corporation the cyberpunks feared. But for now it seems that the mega-network is here to stay. And if Turchin is right, we’re in for stormy weather.


When Good Design Isn’t Enough

Over the years, I’ve seen designers get discouraged because they worked hard to create a better-designed competitor to an incumbent’s product, and yet failed to get traction. The result can be the demoralizing, erroneous conclusion that design doesn’t matter.

If design does matter, then what went wrong?

These startups may be launching a social network, marketplace, auction system, classified listing site, advertising network, or payment system. The common element between these products is that they have complementary network effects. This is a situation where a product is more valuable as more people use it, and in many of these examples, you also have a two-way marketplace. For example, buyers want to go to where the sellers are, and sellers want to go to where buyers are posting things for sale. Merchants want to accept payments from as many buyers as possible, and customers use payment methods accepted by merchants.

Image representing eBay as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

The designer may work tirelessly to create an elegant, highly-crafted auction site, but that isn’t sufficient for success when the incumbent you are competing against has strong network effects in their favor. In addition to having a great product, you need a distribution strategy that can solve your “chicken and egg” or “cold start” problem.

Looking back over the last 15 years, we can see companies using various techniques to solve this distribution problem against incumbents with strong network effects in their favor:

1. Start on the supply side, then use supply to generate press to create demand

Brian Chesky, the CEO of Airbnb, described how they went about getting their marketplace for home rentals off the ground. Having a site that was nicer than Craigslist was not sufficient. To get distribution, they started on the supply side, finding supply for housing in situations where there was a supply/demand imbalance, e.g. when a conference was coming to a town. Then, they used this supply to generate press, which in turn stimulated demand. Airbnb continues to do this today by getting unique locations, and then having press write stories about them.

Airbnb became infamous for a focus on distribution  — there was speculation that the founders even hired offshore contract employees to methodically reach out to potential customers on Craigslist.

2. Start with a niche, then expand out from there

Chris Dixon lists several examples of companies that used the technique of starting small and focused, then using that momentum to expand. He called this a Bowling Pin strategy:

Image representing PayPal as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

Facebook executed the bowling pin strategy brilliantly by starting at Harvard and then spreading out to other colleges and eventually the general public.

Yelp also used a bowling pin strategy by focusing first on getting critical mass in one location – San Francisco – and then expanding out from there.

Stack Overflow chose programmers as their first niche, presumably because that’s a community where the Stack Overflow founders were influential and where the competing websites weren’t satisfying demand.

PayPal also focused on a highly viral community early on — eBay power users.

Peter Thiel discusses this strategy in a lecture on distribution:

The first high-growth segment was power buyers and power sellers on eBay. These people bought and sold a ton of stuff. The high velocity of money going through the system was linked to the virality of customer growth. By the time people understood how and why PayPal took off on eBay, it was too late for them to catch up. The eBay segment was locked in. And the virality in every other market segment—e.g. sending money to family overseas—was much lower. Money simply didn’t move as fast in those segments. Capturing segment one and making your would-be competitors scramble to think about second and third-best segments is key.

Deutsch: Peter Thiel. Français : Peter Thiel e...
Deutsch: Peter Thiel. Français : Peter Thiel en 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An advantage to this strategy of starting with a niche is that the incumbents tend to ignore you, rather than compete with you directly.


Many designers want to launch a well designed product and have it spread by word of mouth. It feels like the best product should just win. But in situations where the product is facing an incumbent and there are complimentary network effects, it’s simply not enough to launch a well designed product. Peter Thiel, again, in his lecture about distribution: “[People talk about] the product is so good it sells itself. That is simply wrong.” There is a lot to learn from how companies like Facebook, Airbnb and Yelp got their start.

You need to think about a distribution strategy as carefully as everything else.

Source Medium- > https://medium.com/design-startups/503f75428f7f




Peter Thiel On Bitcoin

The Founder Of Paypal Weighs in

Deutsch: Peter Thiel. Français : Peter Thiel e...
Deutsch: Peter Thiel. Français : Peter Thiel en 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I was at a conference last weekend, and Paypal founder Peter Thiel weighed in on Bitcoin. The full transcript is here, but I thought I’d break it down into bit-sized pieces, for people interested in hearing the opinion of someone with the most expertise on digital currency out there.

Where is the value in bitcoin? Is it a bubble?

“There’s still a whole question of whether the whole thing can be effectively outlawed or not, and that’s the part that’s always a little bit hard to calibrate. You know money is this extremely mysterious and important thing. One of the props I always used when I ran paypal was explaining in front of an audience and sort of explaining, I would sort of hold up a hundred dollar bill when we started the presentation, and it’s sort of always interesting how hypnotic [this is]. It got the audience just to be quiet and pay attention. There’s a question why it does that. It’s not very hygenic. Lots of people have touched it, but you know it has like a network effect, where you want it because other people want it. Maybe money is like a bubble that never ends, and then the question is, could bitcoin become sort of the new currency, and I do think all the anti-bitcoin arguments, where “it’s fake”, “it’s a bubble”, “it doesn’t represent anything real”, when you think about it, on some level, it seems like a lot of those arguments apply to this [the U.S dollar] as well, so it is worth thinking about money as the bubble that never ends. There is this sort of potential that bitcoin could become this new phenomenon.

What is the biggest threat to Bitcoin?

Image representing PayPal as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

“The cautionary note I’d put on it is that it is the case that, as far as I can tell right now, it’s being used for speculation and illegal activity — illegal payments, and therefore it is possible that it will be scrutinized in an increasingly difficult way in the years ahead.

At paypal, one of the companies we encountered was this company called e-gold, which had anonymous sort-of certificates for gold that you could be traded anywhere in the world. At paypal, we made paypal operable with e-gold in March of 2000. We disconnected it from paypal three months later, when we found the main use for e-gold was people finding stolen credit cards, and charging the stolen credit card holders, and then laundering the money with anonymous gold certificates.


continue reading ->> https://medium.com/tech-talk/db24476aa865

Bitcoin Magazine
Bitcoin Magazine (Photo credit: zcopley)