PayPal co-founder speaks at Annenberg

first_imgSilicon Valley entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel visited the Wallis Annenberg Hall Thursday evening for an open discussion about his ideas on competition, progress and technology.The event began with a speech by Thiel on his No. 1 New York Times bestselling book, Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, and was followed by a Q&A led by Annenberg Director Willow Bay.Thiel listed successful businesses such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft as examples of companies that are so unique that they have effectively dominated and monopolized their respective industries.Thiel holds a long list of accolades, serving as the co-founder of Paypal and Palantir and is the first outside investor and director of Facebook.“PayPal came from a motivating idea combining cryptography and finance,” Thiel said. “The world is not only composed of those [ideas] that are conventional and those that are called impossible mysteries, but I think there are a lot in between.”During his speech, Thiel talked about how characterizing startups in terms of set buzzwords, such as “big data,” is a big mistake. He said doing so would put the startup into a space where there is crazy competition and a lack of differentiation.Austen Myers, a junior majoring in business administration, is starting a UI/UX (user interface and user experience) club this semester that will attempt to spread awareness of design-thinking and topics in computer-human interaction.“I came to this event because I’ve always been interested in startups, and Peter Thiel has always been one of those key figures within the scene,” Myers said. “I know he’s a very knowledgeable person and best selling author, and I just wanted to expand my knowledge-side in another subject.”Thiel said that he and his group have invested in 150 to 200 companies over several years. During the Q&A session, Thiel talked about why Silicon Valley has been such a successful location for startups. He mentioned the combination of good weather, infrastructure, an open culture and a history of innovation that makes the area very appealing.“I really liked the part about monopoly versus competition in that competition is a negative thing in terms of trying to make it after college,” said Julia Cox, a junior majoring in communication. “I grew up in an environment where competition was definitely the thing to do in order to get to the next step. So to hear somebody who is successful say that being the most competitive is not something you necessarily want to be, because that will get you to where everyone else is going, is really enlightening.”Thiel delivered his speech in the auditorium, and it was   streamed on a two-story screen.“It was an extraordinary opportunity to hear from one of the great entrepreneurs today. The fact that we could host him in Wallis Annenberg Hall, have him deliver his remarks in the auditorium, which was nice and cozy with perfect audio, but then live-stream it in the two-story screen and open it up to everybody else who wanted to come and listen was a phenomenal opportunity for the school,” said Bay.Bay said she thought Thiel’s book has a very distinctive point of view about the importance of breakthroughs.“I think Peter’s advice is really interesting regarding his notion that competition is actually a bad thing. It erodes profits and creates insaneness amongst companies,” she said.last_img