Tonight at the PandoMonthly fireside chat with Peter Thiel, Sarah opened up to questions from the audience. We’ve reposted some of the questions that were asked and the answers Thiel gave.
Keep in mind that with these answers, Thiel went for brevity over nuance, and as a result some of the answers may seem rather blunt. They’re absolutely still worth reading, however.
On Peter Thiel’s investment philosophy:
Q: When you’re considering an investment, how much do you look at the individual vs the idea?
Peter: We like to have both. I think the individual is more important than the idea, because you can’t change the person. You can change the idea.
On investing in young people and age demographics:
Q: A lot of your focus has been on investments in young people. What are your thoughts on businesses with the largest, most rapidly growing demographic — the older people?
Peter: We’ve done a lot of investment around healthcare/IT. I don’t think that much about the age of the people who are likely to use the product.
On ambition and failures:
Q: If people are more ambitious, wont there be more failures?
Peter: If you try something very ambitious and fail, you’ll learn a lot, grow a great team, you’ll get that 20th awesome person on team — you won’t have failed entirely. If you try something not ambitious and fail, that’s really demotivating. [audience laughs]
Q: Education is perceived as almost a god-given right here. How can a business set up a model to disrupt education when that’s the case?
Peter: No great opinions on that. I think you’ll need to substitute the credential system, but you’re working around so many complicated things there.
On standard questions Thiel asks CEOs
Q: What are two other questions that you might ask when you’re looking at a business?
Peter: The one that I think is always REALLY good is, “What is the salary of the CEO?”
Sarah: What’s the right answer for that?
Peter: Less than 150k, even after a series A. That single question is incredibly important — are people doing it for equity, or for cash? I remember when LinkedIn was getting started, Ried took 15k a year. It was the minimum salary for getting health insurance — it really sets a tone.
On the modern day technology “bubble”:
Q: How relevant do you think the current bubble is to the previous bubble?
Peter: I don’t think there’s any bubble in technology.
Q: Sorry, in terms of valuations
Peter: Companies can be overvalued, undervalued, but I don’t think there’s a correlating bubble.
On disruption in the financial industry
Q: Why has technology failed to disrupt the way we invest our money?
Peter: People don’t know how to invest their money, so they go with brands. Everybody says “I have a better way of investing money than others do”. On the consumer side, it’s hard to sort out the marketing from the reality.