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“Microsoft is a nihilistic bet against tech innovation.” More Peter Thiel zingers below | by jurvetson
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“Microsoft is a nihilistic bet against tech innovation.” More Peter Thiel zingers below

Speaking at Venture Alpha today, Peter was especially engaging:

 

“Developed economies need to innovate and create new things to avoid stagnation. China can copy the West and benefit from globalization. There is no invention needed to raise their living standard.”

 

“All happy companies are different. All unhappy companies are alike, mired in their essential sameness. For a sense of this, start a restaurant in San Francisco. It’s no way to make money. Competition and capitalism are antonyms. A newspaper headline paraphrased me to say ‘competition is for losers.’”

 

“We like founder-led companies like Google and Amazon. Apple needed its founder back. Versus all those politicians that masquerade as public company CEOs.”

 

“Most of the NASDAQ companies are bets against technology. Microsoft is a bet against Linux; IBM is a bet that everything stays the same; Oracle is a bet against the cloud, HP too. They are short technology, short change, short disruption. Microsoft is a nihilistic bet against tech innovation. Apple is now a bet against innovation in the smart phone. That might be OK if the phone is in its final form, and we can invest in a brand like Coke and Pepsi. Apple made that mistake before when they hired Sculley from Pepsi.”

 

“When a company pays dividends or buys back shares it is a complete admission of failure as a tech company. And so there is a long lag to when people admit they are no longer a tech company. Google will eventually cave and buy back its own shares.”

 

“Universities are like the Catholic church 500 years ago. The professorial clan is like the priestly clan extorting more and more, asking for indulgences. They tell us there is no alternative; get a diploma or go to hell. Go to Yale or go to jail. My message is like the 16th century reformers. It’s a scary message. You have to figure out how to save yourself. No one will do it for you.”

 

“I am skeptical of everything that can be classified as a category: educational software, healthcare IT, mobile computing, SaaS, the cloud, big data. If a company says they are a cloud company, they are insufficiently differentiated. I like the ones that don’t fit narratives.”

 

How about Facebook?

“I invested in Friendster first. They had overblown photos of the CEO on the wall like North Korea. Its failure was very idiosyncratic, so it actually made me more of a fan of social networking.”

 

“VCs overvalue things that they use. Uber is overrated because VCs like to drive around in town cars.”

 

“Engineers are generally bad at business. Scientists are catastrophic. They have all kinds of fantastical delusions about how the world works. If they start a consumer internet company, they may be able to eventually figure out the business later. For hardware companies based on science, figuring out the business is really, really critical.”

 

“I am not a fan of culture as separate from what a company does. Bean bag and Aeron chairs are symptoms of a bad culture. “

 

What is your greatest ambition before you die?

“I like what I am doing and I want to do it for a long time. I want to make progress on the anti-aging and longevity front. It’s a massively understudied phenomenon. Most people deal with it with acceptance or denial. Extreme optimism or pessimism lead to the same point; you don’t do anything.”

 

And Q&A afterward:

“People talk about inequality to avoid talking about stagnation. You can’t fix inequality by taxing the rich. If you took all of the money from the billionaires, it would not pay off the national debt. And the market would crash if you did.”

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Taken on October 7, 2014