From Chess Champ to Valley Legend: PayPal Mafia Peter Thiel

How Peter Thiel took his savings to create the springboard that would launch a dozen careers.
Hustle & Motivation
February 25 | 3 min

What do LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, and Space X all have in common? Twelve men looking to score big in the dot-com boom. In the late nineties, these twelve men worked together to found a company, which would later be called PayPal. Each of these men has continued to be involved in these previously mentioned ventures, as well as plenty more. This next hustler was one of the original founding members of PayPal, who went on to invest heavily in Facebook, and whose motto is “be so good that there is no competition.” This is Peter Thiel.

From Chess Champ to Valley Legend
Hailing from Germany, Peter’s family immigrated to San Francisco, California when he was in the fifth grade. While in the states, Thiel spent his time playing chess, eventually becoming a world-ranked chess player.

In university, Peter studied Philosophy, earning his BA from Stanford, and then later getting his JD (law degree). While there, Thiel became the first editor-in-chief of The Stanford Review and hosted a podcast with his buddy Reid Hoffman, with whom he would later go on to found PayPal.

The Beginning of the Hustle
Law was not Thiel’s forte, as he definitely had some hustle in him. After clerking for a year, and then working as a derivatives trader, he saved up enough money to start his own venture.

One day, after a lecture he was giving at Stanford, a man came up to Peter and proposed an idea for a company. That man was Max Levchin and the proposed company was concerned with phone security software.

Realizing that this type of product was not something the world needed at that time, they pivoted the startup into a money transfer service that would change the way people interacted with online payments.

This idea was genius and caught the attention of eBay. It eventually sold to eBay for $1.5 billion dollars — Thiel’s takeaway was $55 million.

Zuckerberg and the CIA?
Now, having caught the silicon investing bug of the dot-com era, Peter went all-in founding a hedge fund called Clarium Capital and creating a financial industry fraud-protection software to detect terrorist activity called Palantir. By age 37, Peter was managing $270 million at his hedge fund and the CIA was investing upwards of two billion dollars in his counter-terrorism venture.

That wasn’t all: he was also approached by Harvard drop-out, Mark Zuckerberg, to invest in his rising social media network called Facebook. Peter Thiel was the first investor in the venture, with a half a million dollar push gaining 10% of the company. After Facebook’s IPO, Thiel sold his shares and ran off with millions of dollars. Pretty legit.

Where Is He Now?
Today, Peter Thiel is an industry kingpin, throwing money at ventures through his own venture capital firm called Founders Fund, which keeps his cash flow going — he has a current net worth of about $2.5 billion.

In a futuristic leap, like something out of a sci-fi movie, Thiel has invested in “The Immortality Project,” which is an anti-aging startup — he plans to live until he is 120 years old. He has even signed up for a cryogenic freezing, in which he will be frozen in time and awakened years later.

As an active philanthropist, he is also paying kids $100,000 not to attend college and to, instead, start their own business ventures.

For future founders and entrepreneurs, he leaves this message: “If you think about the history of entrepreneurship and innovation over the last 200 years, people have really succeeded when two things have been true: (1) when you start a business which creates something of value to the world and (2) when you capture some fraction of that value that you create.”