Peter Thiel — the billionaire cofounder of PayPal and early Facebook investor — took to Reddit on Thursday for an AMA as part of the run-up to the release of his new new book “Zero To One,” which will be available on Sept. 16.
The whole thread is worth the read, but we were intrigued by three targets of Thiel’s hyper-articulate ire: b-school grads, the overly dressed, and the cult of Silicon Valley.
Thiel doesn’t love to hire MBAs.
If there’s one thing the uber-libertarian Thiel despises, it’s people who act like sheep. And MBAs tend to get caught up in groupthink, he says.
While he doesn’t have an “absolute ban” on hiring MBAs, he thinks that they tend to be “high extrovert/low conviction people.”
That’s “a combination that in my experience leads towards extremely herd-like thinking and behaviour,” he says.
Thiel hates suits.
While he cautions that there are “no absolute and timeless sartorial rules,” Thiel says that “in Silicon Valley, wearing a suit in a pitch meeting makes you look like someone who is bad at sales and worse at tech.”
Maybe that’s why he has a simple rule for investing: never bet on a CEO in a suit.
As we’ve reported before, Thiel says that this rule has helped him avoid making poor bets on slick businessfolk compensating for crap products with well-dressed charm.
“Maybe we still would have avoided these bad investments if we had taken the time to evaluate each company’s technology in detail,” Thiel writes in his new book. “But the team insight — never invest in a tech CEO that wears a suit — got us to the truth a lot faster.”
Thiel thinks Silicon Valley is overrated.
Some of Thiel’s A-list entrepreneur/investor peers, like LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, insist that Silicon Valley is the place to do great entrepreneurial work, since there are so many influential and intelligent people to bump into and start opportunity-enabling relationships with.
Thiel is less enthusiastic.
When a Reddit user asked him if it was possible to successfully found a company without living in Silicon Valley, Thiel’s answer was “yes.”
“It’s more affordable,” he says, “in almost all ways.”
Of course, that affordability has its costs. “You miss out on the network effects of Silicon Valley” by living elsewhere, Thiel says. “But sometimes these network effects lead to negatives, as people end up behaving more lemming-like in the SOMA hotbed,” referring to the hip San Francisco neighbourhood.
Like the MBA, Thiel considers SOMA just another acronym for groupthink.