STEM History:

Peter Thiel


American entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and political activist

Birth/Death Dates

October 11, 1967 –


Thiel is a co-founder of PayPal, Palantir Technologies, and Founders Fund and the first outside investor in Facebook. He is gay and married his long-time partner, Matt Danzeisen, in October 2017.

Educational Background

  • Stanford Law School (JD 1992)
  • Stanford University (BA 1989)

Struggles this Innovator Overcame

Early in his venture capital career, Thiel experienced a setback after investing $100,000 in his friend Luke Nosek’s unsuccessful web-based calendar project. Soon after that, Nosek’s friend Max Levchin had an idea for a cryptography-related company, which became their first venture, Fieldlink (later renamed Confinity).

Problems this Innovator Solved

Thiel saw a need for a more convenient, secure, and accessible form of money. He aimed to create a digital wallet for consumer convenience and security by encrypting data on digital devices. In 1999, PayPal was launched by Thiel’s first venture company, Confinity. PayPal later expanded into the wireless phone market and became a safer and more user-friendly tool by enabling users to transfer money via free online registration and email rather than by exchanging bank account information.

How this innovator changed the world (or at least their corner of it)

Thiel has worked as a securities lawyer at Sullivan & Cromwell, a speechwriter for former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett, and a derivatives trader at Credit Suisse. He founded Thiel Capital Management in 1996 and co-founded PayPal with Max Levchin and Luke Nosek in 1998. He served as PayPal’s chief executive officer until its sale to eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion.

Lasting changes from this innovator’s work or how they trailblazed

PayPal went public on February 15, 2002, and was bought by eBay for $1.5 billion in October of that year.  As of 2023, it is the most used online payment provider in the U.S., with 426+ million active accounts globally in 200+ markets and across 130 currencies.

Written by Donna Abosch