The Man Behind PayPal & Facebook Spews On College
Peter Thiel is the epitome of the term “Elite Entrepreneur”. He is the most feared Venture Capitalist in Silicon Valley and the most feared voice among college classrooms everywhere. For those of you that don't know, Peter Thiel lives a life that most of us aspire to have.
He is an incredibly successful entrepreneur and Venture Capitalist that has been involved with everything from PayPal to Facebook. And by involved, I mean a founder or critical backer. Other than his entrepreneurial pursuits, Thiel is a visionary.
He looks to the future, imagines an ideal society, and then tries to enact what he sees on Earth now. Some of his ideas, like the ocean colonies he has invested in are a little far fetched. But – if you haven't leaned already – its usually those with the seemingly-insane ideas that are the most brilliant and successful.
And that is why the world is paying Thiel's claim – that college is a waste of time and money – much focus. For centuries, people have made this claim, but only now – when coming from the mouth of Peter Thiel – do people think that maybe this thought holds its weight.
And, he has backed his words up with action. Thiel is offering an alternative to college for only the most elite young entrepreneurs. It is called the Thiel Fellowship, to which only a dozen are accepted out of the thousands that apply. This program actually trains, educates, and qualifies entrepreneurs in ways that are relevant to their aspirations, and even gives them the seed cash to fund the applicants' ventures.
Without further adieu, here are Peter Thiel's statements on anything and everything college:
On the College Bubble:
We have a bubble in education, like we had a bubble in housing in the last decade. Everybody believed you had to have a house. They'd pay whatever it took. Today, everybody believes that we need to go to college, and people will pay whatever it takes.
On Comparing Colleges to Subprime Mortgage Lenders and Conmen:
Not all of them (are conmen), but certainly the for-profit schools, the less good colleges are like the subprime mortgage lenders where people are being conned into thinking that this credential is the one thing you need to do better in life.
And they're actually not any better off after having gone to college; they typically are worse off because they've amassed all this debt.
On If the Bubble Bursts:
I don't think bubbles bursting are ever good things. I think they are inevitable things.
On Being a Billionaire Before the Age of 40:
I guess that might be correct, yes. Yes, that is correct
On Who Should and Shouldn't Go To College:
I'm saying that people should think hard about why they're going to college. If your life plan is to be a professor or to be a doctor or some other career where you need a specific credential you should and probably have to go to college.
If your plan is to do something very different you should think really hard about it.
On Opposition to Creating the Thiel Fellowship:
Our thought was, “This is going to be a very idiosyncratic, small program.” And the fact that it was controversial was a big surprise to us, but it was because an awful lot of parents are quite worried about the education system. There's a great deal of anxiety beneath the surface.
On Noticing the Mess That Is the College System:
I did not realize how wrong– how screwed up the education system is. We now have $1 trillion in student debt in the U.S. That trillion dollars– wanna describe it cynically? You can say it's paid for $1 trillion of lies about how good education is.
On College & Success:
We have a society where successful people are encouraged to go to college. But it is a– it's a mistake to think that that's what makes people successful.
On The Supposed Value of Learning Impractical Things:
That's not always true. People say that sometimes they are. Sometimes they are just impractical things that are of little value. And you have to look at the cost side of the equation. It costs up to a quarter of a million dollars to go through four years of college today.
Unfortunately, you have to think about the practical things and are you actually gonna get a job where you can pay off this incredible debt you take on?
On College Being a Distraction:
It's become something of one, because young people coming out of college are saddled with student loans, which start tracking them into careers that pay well but are ultimately not going to help our country and our civilization.
On Whether Entrepreneurship Can Be Taught:
You can't teach people a specific way to change things for the better. I don't believe people can become entrepreneurs as an aspirational thing. It's like saying you want to be rich and famous when you grow up–it's too abstract.
The motivation is what's important. There should be a problem you want to solve, and in the process of solving it, you might have to become an entrepreneur.
On Choosing the First Teens in the Fellowship :
Almost all were extremely passionate about a particular thing that they'd been working on for a number of years. We wanted people with very specific and concrete ideas of how to make the world a better place, on how to really move the dial–and then we will provide all the support that we can.
On Knowing If This Investment Is Worth It :
The plan was for people to think hard for the first few months on formulating ideas. An important thing for real innovation is not to be too narrowly tracked or given super-tight timelines.
We ultimately won't know if it works out for another 10, 15, 20 years–but I'm willing to take this risk, and I appreciate their willingness to take a risk with me.
On the Goal of the Fellowship:
My hope is that all of these ventures will succeed, but in the long term, creating friendships and relationships is how you build something of lasting value. I have been involved in hundreds of businesses as an investor or advisor over the years, and I'm very optimistic that this is where we should focus.
My view is that there's no time that's the right time to be an entrepreneur. You don't have to be young or old, or have experience or be fresh. People can become an entrepreneur at any point in their lives. What matters is you have an idea or potential business that has the possibility to change the world.
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