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Peter Thiel and Elon Musk Through the Years

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Billionaires Peter Thiel and Elon Musk have a long history dating back to their PayPal days. How did these two innovators cross paths and where has their work taken them since then? 

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How did Peter Thiel and Elon Musk meet?

Peter Thiel, a German entrepreneur and businessman, and Elon Musk, the South African entrepreneur known for Tesla and SpaceX, knew each other in the earlier stages of their careers.

Peter Thiel co-founded PayPal, known as Confinity at the time, in 1998, to provide secure digital payment options for consumers. Elon Musk co-founded a similar company, X.com, with his brother in 1999, which merged in 2000 with Confinity to become PayPal. 

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PayPal Headquarters

What were their roles at PayPal?

Musk and Thiel have sometimes been referred to as the “PayPal Mafia” for their savvy reinvestments of gains from the PayPal sale. Peter Thiel served as CEO and chairman at PayPal until its sale to eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion. Musk had only briefly served as CEO but still walked away with a good chunk of money—about $180 million—upon its acquisition by eBay.  

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How did each move on from PayPal to their current success?

Peter Thiel went on to found a global hedge fund, Clarium Capital, after leaving PayPal. He then founded Palantir Technologies, a data analytics firm, in 2004. Palantir software enables organizations to integrate data and decision-making. He served as Palantir’s chair until 2019. 

Around the same time, Thiel became the first major investor in Facebook, gaining a 10 percent stake in the company for just $500,000. In 2012, he cashed in the majority of his stake in the company. Business Insider reports that he once held about 45 million shares

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Other business ventures of Thiel’s include co-founding Valar Ventures in 2010 and Mithril Capital in 2012. He served as a partner at Y Combinator from 2015 to 2017 as well. 

Thiel started the Thiel Foundation in 2005 to assist young entrepreneurs in pursuing their business and innovation goals. Forbes reports that the foundation offers two-year, $100,000 grants to college students willing to drop out and devote themselves to a startup. 

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Both Thiel and Musk have expressed doubts about the necessity of a college education. Musk said at the Satellite 2020 conference in March that the true value of college is “seeing whether somebody can work hard at something” (via CNBC). 

Elon Musk has continued to innovate and push boundaries with his various endeavors since PayPal was acquired by eBay. 

Pursuing his belief that humanity needs to branch out onto other planets (via Britannica), Musk founded SpaceX in 2002. Its objective is to manufacture spacecraft and make commercial space travel a reality.

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In 2012, SpaceX sent a Falcon 9 rocket launching to deliver goods to the International Space Station. In 2018, its global satellite internet provider, Starlink, received government approval. 

Alongside his space exploration endeavors, Musk became a major funder of the electric car company Tesla. Its first car, the Roadster, was released in the mid-2000s with the ability to accelerate from zero to 60 mph in under 4 seconds. The company went public with an IPO in 2010, raising $226 million. 

Peter Thiel’s net worth is approximately $2.5 billion as of Oct. 13, 2020. Elon Musk’s real-time net worth is reportedly $93.2 billion as of Oct. 13, 2020.

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