Tech and Business Pearls

Peter Thiel: Lessons on Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Peter Thiel gave a talk at Princeton where he touched on technology, the future, and education. Here are some notes paraphrasing his comments at the talk today.

Startups need to have a big vision. You have to have a big vision to hire the 20th person for your startup. Hiring the first few people is easy because they are basically founders, and hiring the 1000th engineer is easy with a salary. You can't motivate the 20th employee with money.

Was it fun to work at PayPal? The mood went from scary to fun several times a day at PayPal.

Peter took out a hundred dollar bill. He took one out at PayPal presentations all the time. He held it up. Money is worthless but powerful, clearly. It shuts people up in the room, gets attention. But it is poorly understood: network effects? Influence?

There has been significant deceleration in rate of innovation outside of IT/Telecom in last 4 decades. Food/transportation/energy have clearly not improved since 1980.

Biomedicine has modest progress: pharmaceuticals has not had a breakthrough in the last 20 years. Pharma is firing scientists.

Big companies stay innovative as long as founder is CEO, many examples. Google will be more innovative now that Larry Page is back.

Peter is concerned about having the most talented people push harder. They can coast on the many-year game that is school. Go to the next level of school. The best and smartest coast by unchallenged.

Big companies are either a commodity or a monopoly. You're not supposed to say "monopoly", you're supposed to say "positive network effects" or something else. Buffet says "moat". But they're really more similar than different: look at Google.

We need to make it so that entrepreneurs are not glorified episodically and generally derided. It should be a valid path to take at any time and respected.

over 7 years ago on September 28 at 1:07 am by Joseph Perla in entrepreneurship, people


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Hi, my business card says Joseph Perla. Former VP of Technology, founding team, Turntable.fm. My first college startup was in the education space. My second was Labmeeting, a cross between Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook for scientists. I dropped out of Princeton (twice).

I love to advise and help startups. My code on Github powers many websites and iPhone apps. I give talks about startup tech around the US and also internationally at conferences in Florence. incubators in Paris, and startups in Budapest.

Twitter: @jperla

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