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Peter Thiel by Richard Byrne Reilly

Peter Thiel

Players, Companies, Life

by Richard Byrne Reilly

Pub Date: May 12th, 2016
Publisher: CreateSpace

A compilation of entrepreneur Peter Thiel’s thoughts on seemingly everyone and everything.

Thiel—the co-founder of PayPal, a major investor in Facebook, and the current chairman of software company Palantir—has become one of the premier tech-company businessmen and investors in the world and has amassed a multibillion-dollar fortune. However, he’s just as famous for his wide-ranging intellectual curiosity, and he seems to have considered opinions on a very broad range of subjects, including democracy, Hollywood, philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, and nuclear weapons. Investigative journalist Reilly (The Frigate Bird, 2013) was unable to secure access to Thiel as an interviewee, but in this book-length effort, he tries a less-conventional route, scouring available podcasts and other sources in order to create a collection of Thiel’s ruminations. The result is 67 brief chapters, some barely a paragraph in length, offering Thiel’s insights from a variety of forums. The chapters thematically cover the businessman’s views on famous people of all stripes (“players”); his thoughts on well-known companies, such as Uber and Facebook; and his more general musings about life. A compelling, if scattershot, view of a deeply thoughtful, ambitious man emerges from what’s essentially a portfolio of sound bites. However, Thiel’s worldview is capacious enough to make it difficult to neatly compartmentalize him. For example, despite his avowed libertarianism and spirited advocacy on behalf of entrepreneurialism, he also shows sensitivity to the dangers of competition run amok: “We tell people to try and compete for the same short list of jobs. I don’t think that’s actually the best way for our society to function. It shouldn’t just be that you ‘go to Yale or you go to jail.’ ” Reilly provides an informative portrait of his subject in an introductory chapter and prefaces the quotations with helpful commentary. The bulk of his labor, though, appears to have been in his curation of quotations. Overall, this book is best understood as something other than a biography, as the author makes no attempt to weave the material into a fully unified view of its subject. Readers who are intrigued by Thiel and other businessmen of his ilk will likely find this book fascinating, even if he does remains nebulous.

A short, scattered introduction to Thiel’s worldview in his own words.