The Tim Ferriss Show: Interview with Peter Thiel, Billionaire Investor and Company Creator (#28)


“Freedom lies in being bold.” – Robert Frost

This episode’s guest is the incredible Peter Thiel.

Ep 28: Peter Thiel, Billionaire Investor and Company Creator on Investing, Business, and Life

Peter is a serial company founder (PayPal, Palantir), billionaire investor (first outside investor in Facebook, 100+ others), and author of the new book Zero to One. Whether you’re an investor, entrepreneur, or simply a free thinker aspiring to do great things, I highly recommend you grab a copy.  His teachings on differentiation, value creation, and competition alone have helped me make some of the best investment decisions of my life (e.g. Twitter, Uber, Alibaba, etc.).

This podcast episode was experimental, as I was on medical leave.  It includes both audio and written questions. What are Peter’s favorite books?  Thoughts on tech and government, and more?  Answers to these “bonus questions” can be found in the text below.

You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

For the longer, main audio discussion, you can:

Ep 28: Peter Thiel, Billionaire Investor and Company Creator on Investing, Business, and Life

Now, a bit more on Peter…

Peter Thiel has been involved with some of the most dynamic companies to emerge from Silicon Valley in the past decade, both as a founder and investor. Peter’s first start-up was PayPal, which he co-founded in 1998 and led to a $1.5 billion acquisition by eBay in 2002. After the eBay acquisition, Peter founded Clarium Capital Management, a global macro hedge fund. Peter also helped launch Palantir Technologies, an analytical software company which now books $1B in revenue per year, and he serves as the chairman of that company’s board. He was the first outside investor in Facebook, and he has invested in more than 100 startups total.

There are a lot of lessons in this podcast, even more in his new book, and below are a few follow-up questions that Peter answered via text.


TIM: What is the book (or books) you’ve most often gifted to other people?

PETER: Books by René Girard, definitely — both because he’s the one writer who has influenced me the most and because many people haven’t heard of him.

Girard gives a sweeping view of the whole human experience on this planet — something captured in the title of his masterwork, Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World — but it’s not just an academic philosophy. Once you learn about it, his view of imitation as the root of behavior is something you will see every day, not just in people around you but in yourself.

What is your favorite movie or documentary?

PETER: No Country for Old Men — a movie about whether all events are simply random, but also a work in which no detail is left to chance. I catch something new every time I watch it.

To increase technological growth/progress, what are the key things you think the government or people should do for greatest impact?

PETER: Libertarians like to call out excessive regulations, and I think they’re right.

But it’s a vicious circle: when governments make it harder to get things done, people come to expect less; when expectations are low, technologists are less likely to aim high with the kind of risky new ventures that could deliver major progress. The most fundamental thing we need to do is regain our sense of ambition and possibility.

For those who want to improve their ability to question assumptions or commonly held “truths,” which philosophers, or reading, or exercises, or activities might you suggest?

PETER: It’s a great exercise to revisit predictions about the future that were made in the past.

People write a lot of history, and they make a lot of predictions, and I consume a lot of both. But it’s rare that people go and check old predictions. It’s a way to see — with the benefit of hindsight — the assumptions that people didn’t even know they were making, and that can make you more sensitive to the questionable conventions that surround us today. For example, The American Challenge by Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber argued in 1968 that Europe would be eclipsed by relentless American progress. But that progress never came. It’s instructive to go back and see why Servan-Schreiber was optimistic.


Now, some questions for you all…

Who should I interview next?  Please let me know in the comments by clicking here.

Do you enjoy this podcast? If so, please leave a short review here.  Help me get to 1,000!  It’s so close!

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The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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197 Replies to “The Tim Ferriss Show: Interview with Peter Thiel, Billionaire Investor and Company Creator (#28)”

    1. Now reading Stephen King “On Writing” 🙂 I am a writer and his book gives me so many insights about the craft. Stephen King is definitely someone I would like to hear speaking here

    2. Thank you for amazing podcast Tim! So many amazing people. Everyone knows how important it is to surround yourself with the right people to grow and discover your full potential. Sometimes you can’t physically do it but this podcast allowed me to find “my tribe” and since I started listening to the podcast I’m doing much more progress in my life. When you hear so many talented people who chose to live their lives following their path and exploring their unique talents you automatically raise your standards and star moving closer to the best YOU in your own unique way.

    3. “On Writing” was awesome. I have a hard time reading mediocre authors, even if the story is great, due to being spoiled by Stephen King’s great storytelling ability and the knowledge gained from “On Writing” — However, I’d put in a second vote for Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, “The Glimmer Twins” – 50+ years as a Rock n’ Roll band? Their financial success and the size of the “machine” that is the Rolling Stones is mind boggling. Mick n’ Keith! Gotta hear em’.

  1. Fascinating interview as always. I would love to hear an interview with Elon Musk, Jony Ive or Stephen Fry. Keep up the great work.

  2. I much prefer Tim leading the interview rather than this question format. I think the tangents you go down when you have a conversation with someone can uncover gems of information you wouldn’t normally get with this Q & A format.

    It could of been my frame of mind, or something I ate, but non of what Peter said has sunk in or stood out. Maybe it was his droning voice.

    Get well soon Tim and get back to the usual style of interviews! 🙂

    1. Agreed. Seeing Peter Thiel as the interviewee in my podcast player prior to download gave me an incredible burst of excitement and anticipation for the conversation. In listening, I have been intrigued by the Q&A, and Peter is an incredible individual who I greatly appreciate the opportunity to hear speak, but it pales in comparison to the dynamic you bring, Tim, in conversation.

      Thank you for bringing Peter Thiel to your podcast list…I do not mean to criticize what is legitimately a gift immortalized in podcast form…however, next time – maybe an in-between-isode or a reschedule? Am feeling a bit like I got the hot chick at the dance but was left with major blue balls at the end of the night when she left unexpectedly…

      1. I was wrong. I get it now. The Q&A format has really grown on me and is an incredible supplement to the substantive brilliance of Tim interviews. Not recognizing a great idea staring me in the face during the developmental stages of the Tim Ferriss show, I was, instead, caught up with being seriously butt-hurt that I didn’t get to hear Tim question Peter Thiel after a consistent stream of Ferriss interviews.

        Must be some serious man-love for Ferriss!

        The subsequent Q&A sessions that serve as supplements to the main interviews are badass, the format is awesome!

        Well done…I was wrong…go on with yo bad self!

  3. Tim, I’m an avid reader of your blog and your books but I honestly can’t stand listening to podcasts. From talking to a few friends I know I’m not the only one having this problem. Therefore, would you PLEASE consider providing full transcriptions of all your podcasts? That’d make your blog even more awesome. Apart from that, keep up the good work!

    1. Hi Fredrik, i like your idea! TIM, if you DO decide to provide transcripts, i’d be happy to do them for you. I already do them for a bunch of other world-changing people, and i’d be happy to do more!

    2. Same here … haven’t heard a single one of them, I can’t sit still. Transcripts would be read …. podcasts never will in my home I’m afraid.

  4. Hi Tim, would it be possible to include audio only versions of the Video podacts in the RSS feed? Also a brief description of who was on the podcast and what was discussed. As much as I love what you do I would like to be able to choose which podcasts to listen to by what is in them rather than have to go through them all to find the stuff that most interests me.

  5. I have one more opinion. The most interesting people are people who created or did a thing that would not have existed at all had they not been born. Or it would have existed in some very different form and the world is better off because of it. That’s why I recommend someone like the person(s) behind wikipedia. The people who fit that description at least to some small extent are my favorite to read about. Like Gordon Hempton, who I think quit or lost his job, got inspired, then recorded the sound of birds at sunrise all over the world and then won an emmy. Then he wrote One Square Inch of Silence, a popular, informative book that made people aware that true natural silence is an endangered species.

    That’s the kind of person I love hearing from. Who else would’ve gotten the idea to record the sound of birdsong at sunrise all over the world and then make a best-selling book about silence in the natural world?

  6. Next interview… How about Malcolm Gladwell to investigate his genius, research process, and how he deftly weaves entertaining narrative with academic research.

  7. Peter Thiel is awesome! I love that Ipin a world where college is almost obsolete that he picks his favs to drop out for a 100k and great startup support. We need more iniatives like that – let’s hear from Ronen Gafni in your next interview!

  8. Peter Thiel is awesome! I love that in a world where college is almost obsolete that he picks his favs to drop out for a 100k and great startup support. We need more iniatives like that – let’s hear from Ronen Gafni in your next interview!

  9. Very much enjoying the podcast. It is always refreshing to learn about unconventional wisdom. The opportunity to get into the mind of some of the shakers in our world is invaluable.

    Tim, I would DEFINITELY like to see Gary Vaynerchuk be a guest in the near future!

  10. Besides probably difficult to get people like Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk – for a next podcast, please consider: Tony Hsieh or Magnus Walker.

  11. Brilliant perspective on re-defining success, at both the societal and personal levels, and what it will take to thrive going forward. Thank you.

  12. Hi Tim,

    I would go out a bit of the “usual” circle of famous entrepreneurs, and check out other inspiring people (not “on” the radar). As a starting point: Lucho Quequezana. Check him out on google and you´ll know why :).



  13. Enjoyed it. But it was a bit short for me. Perhaps I just enjoyed Kevin Kelly epic podcast-a-thon so much, this was a contrast in length. This was, also my first time really hearing Theil talk, I am going to endeavor to fix that oversight.

  14. I would enjoy an interview from Malcom Gladwell, Kevin Rose, Darya Pino and Lama Surya Das. On the fitness subject, I would love to hear an interview with Doug McGruff, Ellington Darden, and another show with Kelly Starrett.

  15. I would enjoy an interview from Malcom Gladwell, Kevin Rose, Darya Pino and maybe Lama Surya Das. On the fitness subject, I would love to hear an interview with Doug McGruff, Ellington Darden, and another show with Kelly Starrett.

  16. I would love to see you interview Peter Sage, I’ve heard him interviewed on both London Real & Bulletproof Exec (Both of which you have been on also). I would love to hear you & him discuss philosophy, say to compare & contrast stoicism to his positive visualization approach.

  17. You should interview Owen Cook, co-founder of dating company Real Social Dynamics (RSD). Look him up on youtube, you’ll find him very interesting. Thank you, Tim.

  18. Knowing your history of wanting to be a comic book artist, I would love to hear you break things down with a self-taught illustrator like Adam Hughes. Loving the podcast Tim!

  19. Surfer Kelly Slater. At 42 years old, he has won 11 world titles. Currently #2 in the world. A master of diet and mindset, how does he maintain physical shape to beat guys half his age? This would be an unexpected, but fascinating interview.

  20. I’d like to see someone from either The Venus Project or The Buckmister Fuller Institute interviewed. Tim, you’re a great interviewer and I think you do a great job with either of these organizations and their ideas. Thanks for all your dedication to this blog. Cheers.

  21. Tim, we met when you spoke at NSA in 2008 and you gave tips for being part of twiiter that I embraced. Also heard you in conversation with Guy at the 1st Evernote conference.

    An unabashed suggestion for a future podcast would be ….Me! I wrote How To Work a Room® celebrating its 25th year with a newly updated Silver Anniversary edition. With 90% of American adults self-identifying as shy, the podcast would provide the practical, helpful tips, suggestions that have helped the 1.2 million book buyers and audiences manage their mingling and socializing. Happy to send you a book/pdf summary. And references from other podcasters. Best part: We’d have an enjoyable conversation that your subscribers will find instructive and FUN!

  22. John Maeda

    Tom Ford

    Steven Speilberg or James Cameron

    Joi Eto or Ken Robinson

    Noam Chomsky

    Dieter Rams + Jony Ive + Marc Newson

    Dr. Dre

  23. Awesome Tim. I just started reading your interview notes. I have to say I agree with the other comment from earlier on here to bring on a writer such as Stephen King or better yet my fav James Patterson especially James he comes from humble beginnings working in advertising when he could have obtained his PhD instead. He took the road less traveled as do you and I and I respect that and would bet we can learn from a session with him. He is my inspiration as a writer. You were our inspiration to put the 40 day work week to practice in real life and we have not stopped improving since and we spread your message and your books as presents.

  24. Good interview, but wish you were healthy enough to ask the questions, because you do a great job of asking follow-up questions and really delving into the responses.

    In the future, I would love if you reached out to these people for an interview:

    * Emerson Spartz, a master of Web-Virality in his late-20’s

    * Steven Johnson, a writer whose recent book describes where great ideas come from

    * Seth Godin, marketing guru

    * Kelly McGonigal, a Stanford professor, expert on stress and willpower

    * Clay Shirky, researcher of ‘cognitive surplus’ and how the internet will transform government

  25. Who interview next? Dr, jim Sellner, PhD, DipC. author The Phallic Imperative: Why Men Are Hard to Get Along With!? in the present context of Ray Rice, the NFL & Roger Goodell.

  26. Would you interview any female innovators in tech or business(or other fields)?

    ( I haven’t checked through your whole interview history, please direct me to those interviews of they exist, thanks)

  27. Interesting thoughts on Silicon Valley, and also on fighting aging, disease and death. How about interviewing Charlotte Gerson on her families method that has, and continues to improve and/or heal stage 4 cancer patients (my mother included)?

  28. Would love to hear an interview from any contrarian or emerging Digital Media Creators (Youtube or otherwise) regarding their process, habits, outsourcing etc.

    John Green (writer envy),

    Phillip DeFranco,

    Anna Akana.

    Just a few that come to mind.

  29. Hi ! Tim great podcast . As always loved it but I get more lessons or you can say learn more with what you write maybe I am not that much of an audio learner but that’s my view that writing is your strong point.

    You should interview the following people who I consider my mentors :

    _Tony Heish

    _Marc Ecko

    _Bryan Franklin

    _Eban Pagan

    _Marie Forleo

    _Seth Godin

    _Mark Zucherberg

    _Robert T . Kiyosaki

    The list goes on and on but these are the people who I consider the best in their fields anf from whom I learn more and more so It will be really great if I get to hear an interview with them.

  30. Here’s a diverse selection of guests who I think would be a valuable addition to the podcast.

    -Tony Bourdain

    -James Cameron

    -John Carmack

    -Leonardo Dicaprio

    -Stephen Fry

    -Notch (creator of Minecraft)

    -Chris Hardwick

    -Aaron Sorkin

  31. First off, let me just mention how great this podcast is and how well carried out it is. It’s my favorite podcast, and I listen to a lot of them. As for recommending a guest, I think it would be awesome if you interviewed Arnold Schwarzenegger, just because he’s achieved success in so many areas of life and he’s had a major influence on me going after many of my goals. Besides, who doesn’t love The Terminator? I know he might sound like a nearly impossible guest to get on the show, but he did an interview with The Nerdist Podcast, so it’s not an impossibility, since I think you’re definitely more famous than the hosts of that show. Just throwing it out there. A great writer (like George R.R. Martin or Robert Greene) or actor (like Morgan Freeman or Tim Robbins) would also be really cool. But the guests you usually get are awesome too, and most of them, though not quite as well known as the people I mentioned (I don’t mean that in a bad way), have introduced me to some great pieces of writing and information that I otherwise wouldn’t have probably ever discovered. I’m sure whoever you choose to get on the show in the future will be awesome, and the shorter essay-based shows are awesome too. Thanks for putting out such great information for free. I, and all your other fans, really appreciate it, and keep up the great work.

    P.S. I hope you recover from the lime disease soon. I’d imagine it’s not too fun to have.

  32. I would really like to hear the French philosopher Alain de Botton. He’s written books on the benefits of travel, “the joys and sorrows of work”, status anxiety and philosophy that I think would all pertain to the readership of your blog.

  33. Richard Branson or Elon Musk. For the reason of big ideas, and because I have to further my research on high-level Entrepreneurs 🙂

  34. I would second the request for transcripts of these podcasts. I would much rather read a transcript in 20 minutes or less rather than spending an hour listening to a podcast. It is much more efficient to read something rather than listening to it.

  35. Re: next interview

    Tim – I would love to hear an interview with you and Derek Sivers. You are both so effective at what you do – and what you do constantly changes.



  36. Are you aware of who Gary Douglas is, the founder of Access Consciousness? He is changing the world.

    Perhaps you would like to interview him?

    Thanks Tim! ~Erika from Chicago

  37. Robby Naish would be interesting. He’s a multiple world champion windsurfer, kitesurfer, and is a very successful in business too. Keep up the good work.

  38. Tim, love the show and hope you feel better! Suggestions:

    – Fred Wilson (previously suggested but I like it a lot.)

    – Brad Feld

    – Bill Gates

  39. Not only is Bill Simmons my second favorite podcast host and a personal hero, but he is also an exceptional example of somebody who observed the conventional wisdom of a medium (to be successful sports journalists need as much access as possible to athletes), upended it (by writing about sports from an unabashedly fan perspective), and achieved tremendous success (he is routinely recognized as most important person working in sports media today) . This approach (which obviously aligns with alot of other guests you’ve had on) combined with his skills at the audio interview medium would make him my dream guest for your podcast.

  40. Great interview. “Tell me something true that very few people agree with you on?” Smart watches aren’t stylish, period. Cool, yes. Stylish? keep kidding yourself.

  41. About this experimental podcast… Wow.. Really wished this had been done live interactively than asynchronously! I think we miss a lot of the value of a podcast when it’s done this way because of the lack of followup questions or clarifications of the person’s answer when needed. This was a great person to have interviewed live – ok im sure most of your guests would prolly be a shame to do this way for the same reasons mentioned above.

    To me, this interview read about one level up from an audio book or dare i say… A text to speech blog post. Would have loved to hear u two delve more into his perspective on failure (completely opposite of your agreement w altucher on the value of failure).

    That said, i can see the intent of wanting to save time or “automate” the interview process. We definitely lose the quality of a podcast only you can bring to the show. Definitely lose fidelity… No more TFHD (tim ferriss high def).

    That said, the choice of interview guest and questions were much appreciated…

    Thanks for another great share.

  42. Tim your dedication to continue the podcast while you were ill, though admirable, fell short. The beauty of what you have created is the dynamic and spontaneous interactions you have in your interviews. In fact, it just drives home that you do have something very special here. Take care of you. Most will all be here when you return, and the rest …… 20:80 remember?

  43. I would suggest Loren Cordain, author of the Paleo Answer and founder of the Paleo movement, go a future interview. His research into the human diet is fascinating.

  44. I would love to hear an interview with Adrian Bowyer because:

    He invented the RepRap Project – an open-source self-replicating 3D printer. The Guardian said of this, “[RepRap] has been called the invention that will bring down global capitalism, start a second industrial revolution and save the environment…”

  45. Possible people to interview:

    Sir Richard Branson – Virgin Galactic

    Pat Flynn – Smart Passive Income

    Someone at Apple about how they have stopped innovating

    Tony Robbins because I think it would be interesting to hear you talk as you are so different!!!

    Come to England and interview me!

    Loving the podcast Tim. Thank you very much

  46. Oliver Samwer, who runs Rocket Internet. An extremly successful incubator. He is the topic of a lot of discussion in Germany.

  47. Interesting!


    Elon Musk

    Paul Tudor Jones

    Shane Black (Highest Paid Screenwriter – Used to be, not sure of late)

    Sean Parker


    Arnold Schwarzenegger (strictly to deconstruct his goal setting processes, since he’s achieved all of his goals in 5+ major industries totally unrelated to each other)

    Ray Kurzweil

    David Fincher

    Michael Jordan (or any super high performance athlete – for insight on peak performance, mindset, and goals)

    You know all these people, right? haha

    Thank You, Tim!

      1. Yes, pleasepleaseplease interview David Fincher. I would SO love to hear what he has to say. The man is a master and hearing Tim interview him would be amazing.

  48. Hi Tim

    Love the show. It is literally changing my life.

    I’d like to hear you interview James Ketchell – Climbed Everest, Rowed the Atlantic & Cycled Around the World

    And/or Sophie Radcliffe who has created a lifestyle for herself, moving to the Alps etc (super cute too)

    Both British, neither of them are millionaires but they have both gone out there and followed their dreams.

    Cheers dude, keep up the good work.


  49. Elon Musk. I think if people understood what he is trying to do and why it would not only help the electric car industry, but the push to Mars. However I do think we should revisit the Moon, and i would really like to hear his thoughts on that.

  50. I forgot to say in my previous comment that I wish you a good recovery from Lyme disease.

    I have another person in mind also who has lived an interesting, impactful life. James Lovelock. But maybe you want to interview people who have something more to do with entrepreneurship, technology, and mental/physical performance.

  51. Next guest? I suggest:

    Rza: a great producer and rapper, interesting businessman (Wu-Tang members signing for different labels but having their albums grouped together in stores, that was his highly-profitable idea). Wrote and directed Man with the Iron Fists, which despite the reviews is an enjoyable film. Is a martial artist, wanted to be a superhero. I find him fascinating.

    What about a collection of short interviews with the winners of Shopify build-a-business competitions? Like a newer, audio version of your Case Studies post.

    I’d love you to interview a stand-cup comedian and deconstruct their processes. Kumail Nanjiani from Silicon Valley?

    Bob Voulgaris (professional gambler)

    Marc Ecko

    Hobie Call, Spartan Race champ

    Carl Paoli

    Warren Ellis (comics writer, novelist, currently breaking into TV)

    Brian Orosco

    Chris Ballard (great Sports Illustrated journalist and writer)

    Now I’m thinking about your Creative Live stuff, so:

    Leilah Janah

    Dave Camarillo

    Rick Torbett (as a former basketball player, I wish I’d discovered his DVDs years earlier).

    Still loving these podcasts

  52. This guy is kind of a pretentious douche. Sorry if you read this. There are some great points made, but he seems way to into himself. Most of your guests have been awesome and super humble. This guy… Not so much.

  53. Thanks to him.that I can receive payments through my online work 🙂 I like using Paypal. BTW, Skrill is inconvenient for me because I cannot withdraw my funds there.

  54. Hey, speaking of mental performance (as I see on your blog) do you know who is in the news currently trying to promote something? Stephen Hawking. Maybe because he’s trying to promote Starmus he’d be willing to appear on your podcast. And he is 72 years old so this may be your only chance to interview Stephen Hawking.

    Hawking often says unexpected, weird, thought-provoking things. Like that aliens almost certainly exist, that if humans tried to make contact with them that would be a bad idea in his opinion, and might be the last bad decision humans make. He also likes to talk about the future of technology, which is what the founder of Wired was also talking about in the prior podcast, and about colonizing space.

    Wouldn’t you like to interview Einstein if he were still alive? Hawking is not too far off, being one of the most iconic minds on the planet.

  55. An amazing, amazing interview. I didn’t expect to find anything relevant to me in it, but I just got a friend of mine who’s dropped out of uni to listen to it – the analogy with indulgences blew my mind.

    Thank you for this.

  56. Unsolicited constructive criticism time! I would prefer to wait longer between podcasts if it means you do all of the interviews personally rather than in this “asynchronous format”. This episode was definitely interesting but I feel like I’ve gotten more from previous installments due to the less formal back-and-forth between you and your guest. Just food for thought.

    Really enjoy the podcast and the Random Show. Thanks for putting them out there!

  57. Thanks, Tim, for your terrific and enlightening podcasts. I’d like to hear you interview Natalie Batalha, an astronomer, physics professor, and NASA scientist. And in general, I’d enjoy some more female guests.