- Billionaire Peter Thiel said he had $50 million in Silicon Valley Bank when it collapsed.
- With a net worth of $8 billion, he's among Silicon Valley's most successful venture capitalists.
- Here's a look at his colorful life, from cofounding PayPal to setting up the Founders Fund.
Peter Thiel, 55, was born in Germany but his family came to the US when he was one year old. He moved to Foster City, California, when he was in fifth grade.
While studying philosophy and law at Stanford, Thiel founded a newspaper called The Stanford Review to take aim at the university's emphasis on political correctness.
Thiel became a world-ranked chess player at a young age and the game even inspired some of his business strategies.
Before moving into the tech sector, Thiel worked as a clerk for an appeals judge. He had interviews to clerk for US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and Justice Antonin Scalia, but wasn't successful.
Source: Business Insider
After working as a securities lawyer for seven months, Thiel became a derivatives trader at Credit Suisse and made enough money to launch PayPal with Max Levchin.
PayPal later merged with Elon Musk's payment company, X.com, before selling to eBay for $1.5 billion in 2002.
The "PayPal Mafia," including Keith Rabois, Elon Musk, David Sacks, and Reid Hoffman, went on to become wealthy angel investors.
Thiel's stake in PayPal netted him about $55 million, which he used to launch a hedge fund, Clarium Capital. It lost 90% of its assets by 2011.
In 2004, Thiel and Alexander Karp cofounded Palantir, which can sift through photos, videos and other data to detect criminality. It was based on Thiel's idea of using financial industry fraud-detection software to monitor terrorist activity.
Source: Palantir, Insider
In 2004 Thiel became the first outside investor in Facebook by paying $500,000 for a 10% stake and joined the board.
Soon afterwards, Thiel started his VC firm, Founders Fund, which aims to address "often difficult scientific or engineering problems."
Source: Founders Fund
Thiel went on and started two more VC firms, Valar Ventures and Mithril Capital.
Source: Forbes, Valar Ventures, Mithril Capital
In 2011, he launched the Thiel Fellowship, which gave $100,000 and two years of support to 20 applicants under the age of 20 so they could launch their companies.
Source: The Thiel Fellowship
Thiel wrote in a 2015 Reddit post that he aimed to live to be 120 years old and takes human growth hormone daily. He's also expressed interest in getting blood transfusions from younger people to slow aging.
In 2007, Thiel began a feud with Gawker after it published a story headlined "Peter Thiel is totally gay, people." He responded by comparing the site to Al-Qaeda "in that it scares everybody."
Source: PE Hub Network
In 2016, it was revealed that Thiel had been funding Hulk Hogan's 2012 case against Gawker because he thought the site was a "bully." He'd put about $10 million into similar cases against Gawker.
Source: The New York Times
Gawker lost against Hulk Hogan, who sued after it published a sex tape featuring the wrestler, and shut down. Thiel's position on Facebook's board also came into question at the time.
Source: The New York Times
The billionaire backed Donald Trump in the 2016 election, which caused rifts with other Silicon Valley types.
Reed Hastings, the former Netflix CEO and former Meta board member, emailed Thiel in 2016, condemning his support for Trump.
In his attempt to live longer, Thiel also signed up in 2017 with cryogenics company Alcor.
In January 2018, Thiel spoke at Stanford about how Silicon Valley's left-leaning ways were hindering progress, calling it "a one-party state."
Source: Stanford Daily
In 2018 he also backed the Seasteading Institute, which wanted to build self-sustained floating cities and experiment with different types of governments.
Thiel stepped down from the Meta board last year in a bid to support pro-Trump candidates in the 2022 midterms.
Source: The New York Times, Insider
In 2022, Thiel's plans for a massive compound in New Zealand were rejected by the local government after complaints from environmental groups.
His fellowship program helped birth power players like Dylan Field, who founded design software firm Figma which Adobe acquired for $20 billion. But the fellowship also faced some controversies.
Some fellows, who were as young as 16, had never been in charge of their own finances and felt they were left adrift.
Thiel told his portfolio companies to pull their funds from Silicon Valley Bank before it collapsed in March. He later said he had $50 million of his own money in a personal account at the bank.
Thiel call for startups to withdraw their funds from SVB was blamed by some for adding momentum to the bank run that triggered the bank's implosion.
Source: Financial Times
He said his SVB account was frozen when regulators took control of the bank on March 10. He regained access to the funds it after regulators guaranteed all deposits.
Additional reporting by Prachi Bhardwaj and Taylor Nicole Rogers.