MiB: Max Chafkin on Thiel & Tech



This week, we speak with Bloomberg Businessweek features editor and tech reporter Max Chafkin, who is author of “The Contrarian: Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley’s Pursuit of Power.” Chafkin’s work has also appeared in Fast Company, Vanity Fair, and The New York Times Magazine.

We discuss the rise of Peter Theil across a variety of fields: Technology at first, then business, law, and eventually politics. From his coup in taking over PayPal to helping elect Donald Trump in 2016, Thiel has become one of the most consequential founders in Silicon Valley.

Thiel may be one of the most influential, and least understood, figures in business and politics: Chafkin explains how he carved out his own philosophy that was very different from mainstream tech beliefs. “Move fast and break things” was a key part of this, reflected in firms like Facebook and Uber, with negative ramifications for society. If most people are wrong about most things, how can a savvy operator take the other side of that trade? Thiel’s contrarianism manifests itself not just as an investor, but in his personal philosophy and worldview.

A list of his favorite books is here; A transcript of our conversation is available here Monday.

You can stream and download our full conversation, including the podcast extras on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Google, Bloomberg, and Acast. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here.

Be sure to check out our Masters in Business next week with Richard Nisbett professor of social psychology and Co-director of the culture and cognition program at the University of Michigan, focusing on culture and reasoning and basic cognitive processes. Malcolm Gladwell called him “The most influential thinker in my life.” He is the author of numerous research and books, most recently, “Thinking: A memoir.”



The Contrarian: Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley’s Pursuit of Power by Max Chafkin

American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin

The Man Who Solved the Market: How Jim Simons Launched the Quant Revolution by Gregory Zuckerman

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