If you take every classic tale of about Silicon Valley and combine them into one human being, you'd get Peter Thiel.
Peter Thiel, one of Silicon Valley's most successful and controversial venture capitalists, is reportedly leaving the Bay Area.
The outspoken libertarian will reportedly relocate his home, personal funds, and his foundation to Los Angeles, according to The Wall Street Journal, and he's taking his 50-person staff with him.
Why Los Angeles? It isn't totally clear.
As a famously private person, Thiel has yet to confirm the move, or the rumors that he might also be resigning from the board at Facebook. Still, it's worth taking this time to look at Thiel's rise to fame in the tech capital of the world — a saga that includes his effort to stop aging and death, his controversial thoughts about college, and his war with the media:
His family first moved to the US when he was a year old, but they moved around the world a few more times before settling in Foster City, south of San Francisco.
He also met many of the people that would become key players at PayPal (later known as the PayPal mafia) including include Keith Rabois, David Sacks, and Reid Hoffman.
He landed interviews to clerk for US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and Justice Antonin Scalia, but he didn't get the job. "At the time, I was devastated," he wrote in his book "Zero to One."
Thiel and his buddy David Sacks argued that colleges were bowing to political correctness, dumbing down their admissions policies and silencing intellectual dissent in the "name of diversity."
Thiel correctly predicted that the US dollar would weaken in 2003 and that it would rally in 2005. A series of decisions based on Thiel's good foresight helped establish Clarium as a valuable hedge fund.
Palantir can sift through photos, videos and other data to watch for criminal activity, and is known today as one of the most secretive successful companies in the Valley.
The CIA was an early investor of Palantir, which today has raised $2.42 billion and is valued at $20 billion. Karp has indicated that it has no plans to go public.
The company was named after the "seeing stones" in J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings." Thiel is famously a huge fan of the books, which he read as a teenager since he wasn't allowed to watch television.
Facebook's then-president Sean Parker approached LinkedIn CEO Reid Hoffman first, but Hoffman refused because of a potential conflict of interest with his own company, and directed Parker to Thiel.
Once he was on the board, Thiel helped direct Zuckerberg through series funding decisions, but stayed out of the day-to-day management.
Between the shares that Thiel sold at the IPO and those he sold shortly after, he made about $1 billion. "[My] biggest mistake ever was not to do the Series B round at Facebook," he said in his Reddit AMA.
"The zero-sum world [David Fincher's "The Social Network"] portrayed has nothing in common with the Silicon Valley I know, but I suspect it's a pretty accurate portrayal of the dysfunctional relationships that dominate Hollywood," Thiel said during his Reddit AMA in response to the portrayal of him in the movie about Facebook.
Founders Fund had a manifesto that once said, “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters," a ding at Twitter that expressed his disappointment with what he considered a lack of big ideas from startups. Still, he's also an active angel investor and has backed about 80 companies like LinkedIn, Yammer, and Yelp.
Thiel responded in a 2009 interview by comparing the site to Al Qaeda, "in that it scares everybody." The story left a mark on Thiel, as those close to him told Forbes, and was part of his motivation to go after Gawker in court down the road.
The Thiel Fellowship is based off of Thiel's belief that college costs too much for what it returns, and that smart kids are better off skipping it to start as soon as possible.
It's become a competitive and prestigious program. So far, 104 young people, under age 22, have participated in class sizes that range from 20-30 people. Dropping out of school, at least for the two-years, is a requirement of the fellowship.
The former wrestler and TV personality brought his case to court after the site published a sex tape starring Hogan. He went on to win the case, and Gawker declared bankruptcy as a direct effect of the monetary loss from the case.
Thiel actually admitted to putting about $10 million behind similar cases against Gawker, and his attempt to hinder the freedom of the press caused some concern about his position on Facebook's board. In his first interview after his identity was revealed, he told the New York Times that he considered Gawker a bully. "I thought it would do more harm to me than good. One of my friends convinced me that if I didn’t do something, nobody would."
In January, Thiel submitted a bid to buy the site.
Although Thiel is still on the board at Facebook, a leaked email from Reed Hastings — the CEO of Netflix and chairman of the Facebook board committee — to Thiel shows how strongly Hastings felt about his stance.
"I'm so mystified by your endorsement of Trump for our President, that for me it moves from 'different judgment' to 'bad judgment,'" said the email to Thiel. "Some diversity in views is healthy, but catastrophically bad judgment (in my view) is not what anyone wants in a fellow board member."
Reed Hastings offered to leave the board when the letter went public, but Zuckerberg refused. Meanwhile, Y Combinator President Sam Altman vowed to keep Thiel on his company's board regardless, but the two quietly split ways about two years after Thiel became a partner.
“The other side doesn’t care for you, and your side doesn’t care for you because they don’t need to,” he said.
"Most people deal with aging by some strange combination of acceptance and denial. I think the psychological blocks to thinking about aging run very deep, and we need to think about it in order to really fight it," he said in a Reddit AMA.
He donated over $6 million to the Methuselah Foundation, a foundation working on technology to reverse aging, and supports anti-aging research (e.g. the SENS Research Foundation, which is working to stop aging), which he calls "The Immortality Project." He also backs a bunch of biotech firms.
"In telling you that I’ve signed up for it [cryogenics], there’s always this reaction that it’s really crazy, it’s disturbing. But my take on it is it’s only disturbing because it challenges our complacency," Thiel once said.
One of its projects is Ephemerisle, "which is intended to be more like Burning Man on the ocean," as Thiel describes it.