Palantir cofounder Peter Thiel: 'Look outside the world of bits' - Technical.ly DC

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Nov. 10, 2014 8:58 am

Palantir cofounder Peter Thiel: ‘Look outside the world of bits’

In this month's Technical.ly Podcast, the cofounder of PayPal and Palantir Technologies reminds entrepreneurs about the "world of atoms."

Peter Thiel.

(Photo by Flickr user Steve Jurvetson, used under a Creative Commons license)

Innovation shouldn’t be relegated to the world of bits. Some advice, coming from all-star internet entrepreneur Peter Thiel, a guest on this month’s Technical.ly Podcast.

Thiel, the cofounder of PayPal and McLean-based Palantir Technologies, was on a tour to promote his book, Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future.

"The next Mark Zuckerberg won’t build a social network, the next Bill Gates won’t build an operating system."
Peter Thiel

His advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is more about ideas than numbers.

How do you build a great business? “It always comes from doing big, new things that really move the dial on some level,” Thiel told Technical.ly Editor-in-Chief Zack Seward.

“The next Mark Zuckerberg won’t build a social network, the next Bill Gates won’t build an operating system,” Thiel added. “If you’re copying these people you’re not really learning from them.”

In fact, he suggests that entrepreneurs might sometimes want to stick their nose out of the computer screen. Sure, he said, “The trend for the last 40 years has been that the world of bits is where the future has been happening.”

But he stressed that other fields like energy, clean tech, biotech and transportation were also ripe for innovation. “I think it also would be good to look outside the world of bits back to the world of atoms,” he said.

A final piece of advice, for tech hubs growing across the country in cities like D.C.: quit trying to become “the Silicon Valley of the East” and be yourself.

“You don’t want to be the Harvard of North Dakota,” he said. “It’ll always sort of compare less favorably.”

Things will fall in place eventually — particularly where the local tech industry can be pulled up by a few giants. “Having a few companies really emerge,” he said, is “the way these ecosystems really get started.”

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