By this point, we've all read some, ahem, *interesting*, things about our friend Peter Thiel. I think if you look up the words "pompous" and "eccentric" in the dictionary, the definitions absolutely must say see Peter Thiel.
This morning I came across an article in BusinessInsider that discusses something slightly interesting: Thiel's class at Stanford - CS183: Startup. Usually I don't pay these things much mind, but the article opened my eyes to the fact that Peter used chess comparisons to illustrate a lot of points in his class. As a chess player, I found this to be slightly interesting, so proceeding with cautious optimism, I read the article. This guy is nuts.
For reference, you can find the article here.
First of all, check out these lecture titles!
- If You Build It, Will They Come?
- The Mechanics of Mafia
- War and Peace
- You Are Not A Lottery Ticket
- Value Systems
Now, as a liberal arts major, I have taken many pretentious-sounding, three-noun-titled classes that mean absolutely nothing. A good example was a political science class I took that ended up being fairly interesting but the title is just so stereotypically "I have my nose super high in the air and am smarter than you" that it almost makes me barf: Authority, Obligation, and Dissent. Whatever the hell that means.
In any case, the only normal-sounding lecture title here is "Value Systems" -- the other ones just give off a strong desire to look innovative and and clever, but come off as pretty try-hard to me. Okay, I'll stop my cynicism, on to the actual contents of this course.
Thiel apparently makes the argument in this course (mind you, all of this information is sourced from a student's interpretation of his lectures) that STEM people are easy to measure against one another, while people with soft skills like folks in sales have many different skills and can't just be compared so easily. He analogizes this to chess, for no apparent reason, by saying there are "grandmasters" in sales, but that coders and engineers need no special titles because it's easy to evaluate how good they are.
Huh? To say that there are not masters and grandmasters, to use this useless analogy, in the fields ofand engineering is absurd. At the most basic point, some engineers are better than others. Moreover, engineers and coders do a wide array of things for companies -- he just says "do they code well, do they code REALLY well?". I can say the same thing for salespeople: do they sell well, or really well?
The other points that the article goes over are less interesting (the aforementioned one is interesting just because it's kinda absurd). Thiel, in his infinite wisdom, tells us that you must have a game plan as an entrepreneur, that you must recruit talent, and that you must pick each move carefully. I don't know how much courses cost at Stanford, but I went to a comparably-expensive private school and each 1hr 20min lecture cost me somewhere in the range of $120. These ostensibly very bright Stanford students are paying top dollar to hear information on entrepreneurship from a proclaimed expert and they get advice that anyone who has made it college and has an ounce of common sense already possesses.
Seriously though, what is innovative about this guy? Why is everyone on him like he's the next great, awesome, big thing? Based on my understanding of the things I've read about him, he takes some business terms, re-packages them and makes them "Thiel-style", and then suddenly he's some great innovator and entrepreneurial mind. This, alongside his "drop out of college to start a business and I'll give you $100K" stunt, makes me just not like the guy. Thoughts?