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What VC legend Peter Thiel thinks of Edward Snowden, net neutrality and bitcoin

Even in a technology landscape that features Mark Zuckerberg and the founders of Google, venture capitalist Peter Thiel stands out — not just because he was the first investor in Facebook and made close to $1 billion from that investment alone, but because he is also an avowed libertarian who advocates building autonomous countries that float on the ocean, among other things. The Founders Fund partner did one of Reddit’s trademark “Ask Me Anything” interviews on Thursday and in his usual fashion didn’t hold back from sharing his opinions:

On Edward Snowden and his revelations about the NSA: “I think Snowden revealed something that looks more like the Keystone Kops and very little like James Bond… more generally: the NSA has been hovering up all the data in the world, because it has no clue what it is doing. ‘Big data’ really means ‘dumb data.'”

On whether he considers Snowden a traitor, as fellow VC Marc Andreessen does: “I think Andreessen is half-right: Snowden is both a hero and a traitor. It is really unfortunate that there were no internal checks in our system, and so it took something like Snowden breaking all the rules for us to have a serious discussion about the NSA.”

On net neutrality: “We’ve had these debates about net neutrality for over 15 years. It hasn’t been necessary so far, and I’m not sure anything has changed to make it necessary right now. And I don’t like government regulation: We need the US government to regulate the internet about as much as we need the EU to regulate Google — I suspect the cons greatly outweigh the pros.”

On bitcoin’s potential: “Bitcoin seems to have created a new currency (at least on the level of speculation), but the payment system is badly lacking. I will become more bullish on bitcoin when I see the payment volume of bitcoin really increase.”

On whether the movie The Social Network was realistic: “The zero-sum world it 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.”

On his Thiel Fellowships, which pay young students to drop out of college and start companies: “The 83 fellows have collectively raised $63 million, and a number of their companies are tracking towards solid Series B venture rounds. Almost all of them did and learned far more than they would have in college.”

On what he sees as his biggest mistake ever: “Biggest mistake ever was not to do the Series B round at Facebook. General lesson: Whenever a tech startup has a strong up round led by a top tier investor… it is generally still undervalued. The steeper the up round, the greater the undervaluation.”

Post and thumbnail images courtesy of Founders Fund

5 Responses to “What VC legend Peter Thiel thinks of Edward Snowden, net neutrality and bitcoin”

  1. I get the point that everyone would like faster access for lower cost. How do you imagine net neutrality regulation will help that? Seems to me it would have the reverse effect. Aren’t you the people that oppose fast lanes?

    In any case, where is your data on global bandwidth costs? According to Akamai, 9 countries have average broadband speeds that exceed the US: South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Netherlands, Latvia, Sweden, Czech Republic, Ireland. Do you notice a pattern there? Perhaps it is something to do with population density? Maybe it is easier to wire up 100 apartments in a city than 100 homes in the suburbs. See

    I have nothing to do with the telecom industry. I just have a problem with the gross level of ignorance exhibited on this topic.

  2. Debating net neutrality is like debating global warming, there is no debate just corrupted greedy selfish little traitors pretending there is one.
    He might have a lot of money but he’s worth nothing.

    • The more knowledge someone has about how the Internet actually works the less likely they are to see a need for net neutrality regulation. But lots of people hate paying their ISP bill, and are easily duped by large content providers like Netflix who would like to have all ISP customers subsidizing their business.

      • spoken like an industry shill.

        the fact is incumbent providers don’t want any regulation unless it can protect and benefits their rents, and consumers have very little negotiation powers in the lobby halls of DC.

        The facts are clear that compared globally, ISP bandwidth -to cost ratios skew uncompetitive for us here, and ultimately put the US at an economic disadvantage compared to the world.

        But hey, it sounds dramatic to single out pipeowners -what control do they hold over the entire internet and all the economic value created over it ?