The Contrarian: Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley's Pursuit of Power

The Contrarian: Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley's Pursuit of Power

by Max Chafkin (Author)

A biography of venture capitalist and entrepreneur Peter Thiel, the enigmatic, controversial, and hugely influential power broker who sits at the dynamic intersection of tech, business, and politics

“Max Chafkin’s The Contrarian is much more than a consistently shocking biography of Peter Thiel, the most important investor in tech and a key supporter of the Donald Trump presidency. It’s also a disturbing history of Silicon Valley that will make you reconsider the ideological foundations of America’s relentless engine of creative destruction.” (Brad Stone, author of The Everything Store and Amazon Unbound)

Since the days of the dot-com bubble in the late 1990s, no industry has made a greater impact on the world than Silicon Valley. And few individuals have done more to shape Silicon Valley than Peter Thiel. The billionaire venture capitalist and entrepreneur has been a behind-the-scenes operator influencing countless aspects of our contemporary way of life, from the technologies we use every day to the delicate power balance between Silicon Valley, Wall Street, and Washington. But despite his power and the ubiquity of his projects, no public figure is quite so mysterious.

In the first major biography of Thiel, Max Chafkin traces the trajectory of the innovator's singular life and worldview, from his upbringing as the child of immigrant parents and years at Stanford as a burgeoning conservative thought leader to his founding of PayPal and Palantir, early investment in Facebook and SpaceX, and relationships with fellow tech titans Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Eric Schmidt. The Contrarian illuminates the extent to which Thiel has sought to export his values to the corridors of power beyond Silicon Valley, including funding the lawsuit that destroyed the blog Gawker and strenuously backing far-right political candidates, notably Donald Trump for president in 2016.  

Eye-opening and deeply reported, The Contrarian is a revelatory biography of a one-of-a-kind leader and an incisive portrait of a tech industry whose explosive growth and power is both thrilling and fraught with controversy.

The Contrarian: Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley's Pursuit of Power by Max Chafkin offers an insightful exploration into the life and career of Peter Thiel, a prominent venture capitalist, entrepreneur, and PayPal co-founder. This book delves into Thiel's unconventional thinking, his unwavering determination to challenge the status quo, and his significant influence on the technology industry.

Chafkin paints a vivid portrait of Thiel as a contrarian who consistently goes against the grain, whether it be through his investment strategies, his political affiliations, or his philosophical beliefs. The book delves into Thiel's early life, his education at Stanford University, and the founding of PayPal, a pioneering online payment company that revolutionized the way people conduct financial transactions.

The author sheds light on Thiel's investment philosophy, emphasizing his preference for investing in disruptive technologies and his ability to identify undervalued companies with the potential for exponential growth. His investment in Facebook, which proved to be a game-changer for the social media landscape, is presented as a testament to his investment acumen.

The Contrarian also examines Thiel's political and ideological leanings, delving into his support for libertarian and anti-establishment causes. The book highlights his involvement in the controversial "Seasteading" project, an ambitious plan to create autonomous floating cities in international waters.

Chafkin's narrative also explores Thiel's contributions to the development of artificial intelligence (AI), his concerns about the potential dangers of AI, and his pursuit of strategies to mitigate these risks. The book provides a comprehensive overview of Thiel's impact on the tech industry and his overall legacy as an influential figure in the world of technology and entrepreneurship.

Overall, The Contrarian offers a compelling exploration of Peter Thiel's life, his unique perspective on the world, and his profound impact on the technology industry. Through its detailed account of Thiel's journey, the book provides valuable insights into the mindset of a nonconformist thinker who has left an indelible mark on the modern world.


September 21, 2021