FresnoBee.com: California Business
Mon, 17 Jun 2013 16:48:23 PDT
The promoter of Michael Jackson's ill-fated series of comeback shows created a conflict of interest with the singer's physician when it negotiated terms of his deal, an expert testifying for the superstar's mother told a jury Monday. Read comments
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WSJ.com: Small Business
Thu, 19 Dec 2013 12:35:02 EST
By Lora Kolodny PayPal Inc. founder Peter Thiel jumped to the investor side after he sold his payment-technology firm to eBay Inc. for $1.5 billion in 2002.He put part of his $55 million windfall into startups—including LinkedIn Corp., Yelp Inc., SpaceX and Yammer—that had been formed by PayPal co-founders and employees. He also became Facebook Inc.'s first outside investor, selling $640 million of his shares in the social network's initial public offering last year.Today, the 46-year-old who grew up in Foster City, Calif.,puts his capital to work through several funds, including Clarium Capital Management, Mithril Capital and Founders Fund, which collectively manage $2 billion in assets. But it is the nonprofit Thiel Foundation—with an $8.3 million annual budget, according to its 2011 tax filing—that stirs controversy and headlines.One highly scrutinized foundation initiative, known as the 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowship, asks potentially college-bound teens and undergraduates to reconsider higher education and drop out—at least for a time—to learn by doing, especially by forming companies with a change-the-world objective.Harvard University President Emeritus Lawrence H. Summers has called the program a "misdirected" philanthropic effort. But Vivek Wadhwa, a fellow at Stanford University who holds senior roles elsewhere in academia, has criticized Mr. Thiel for encouraging young people to drop out when a college education is strongly correlated with higher incomes.The impact of the program is hard to measure because the Thiel Foundation's official goals are to "defend and promote freedom in all its dimensions." So far, 64 Thiel Fellows have started 67 for-profit ventures, raised $55.4 million in angel and venture funding, published two books, created 30 apps and 135 full-time jobs, and brought clean water and solar power to 6,000 Kenyans who needed it.According to 2012 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the median income for a man with a bachelor's degree is $63,272, compared with $31,064 for those with just a high school education. For women the figure is $42,027, up from $18,213.Mr. Thiel spoke with the Journal recently about life as an investor and philanthropist, and about building businesses that focus on more than the bottom line. Edited excerpts:WSJ: What's holding back entrepreneurs and innovation?Mr. Thiel: Let me give a Silicon Valley—and New York City—focused answer. We have to figure out ways to make housing more affordable in these places. When people start companies they are typically getting paid in equity and not a large salary. The way rent and housing costs have gone through the roof in a number of cities where people go to start companies is a tremendous problem.Zoning rules, while well-intentioned, have had the effect of making it almost impossible for people to take a pay cut and make a leap. This is an underestimated challenge.WSJ: Why did you move from entrepreneurship to investing?Mr. Thiel: PayPal turned out to be the most entrepreneurial team of any Silicon Valley company since Cypress Semiconductor Corp. in the 1960s, including founders of LinkedIn, Yelp, SpaceX, Yammer, YouTube. These were just awesome people, and they inspired me.Both as an entrepreneur and investor, you are always challenged to think about the future: What are the big trends that are happening that somehow people don't fully appreciate, and how does one help bring about a better world?WSJ: Which is most challenging, running a startup, a fund or a philanthropic venture?Mr. Thiel: In many ways it is harder to be an effective philanthropist than anything else in business. As an investor and as a founder, you're in the discipline of making money. Within a nonprofit context, it's harder to evaluate whether what you're doing makes sense day by day. There's an enormous amount of money wasted in the nonprofit sector, and it's very important to figure out how to do things better there.WSJ: What advice do you have for all the millions of students who are thinking about taking on aheavy debt burden to go to a decent college?Mr. Thiel: Try to avoid taking on debt as much as possible. If you can go to a less expensive college, please seriously consider that.Debt is a very dangerous thing in our society. If you're a young person loaded down with $100,000 or more from college loans, you can end up paying it off over decades, which dramatically limits the range of things you can do with your life.WSJ: Do you think that college is bad, as some of your critics have alleged?Mr. Thiel: Learning is very valuable. But it's always important to ask why you're getting an education and what you'll do with it.In a strange way, education has become a way to avoid thinking about the future. You think if you get an education the future will take care of itself. Life does not end when you get a diploma from college. It starts!It's important to think about how your education will be integrated into the rest of your life. What do you want to do after college? What are the things to learn to move toward that? Is college the best place to learn them?WSJ: Would you go to college if you had to do it over again?Mr. Thiel: I went to Stanford undergrad. I probably would do that again. But I never really thought that much about what I should do with my life before I went. So I ended up defaulting, going to law school, and had a quarter-life crisis.WSJ: How do you respond to critics of the Thiel Fellows?Mr. Thiel: The most vocal critics are financially enmeshed in academia's success. There is a sort of failure of the imagination there about how there can be alternatives. We also cannot evaluate and judge this program in one or two years.Startups take about seven to 10 years to achieve liquidity events. And as many educators will tell you, the major benefits of a college education don't fully kick in for about 20 years.Finally, I'm not saying everyone should drop out of school and do something different. But there's something terriblystrange about a society where we think all the talented people should go to the same top schools,do the exact same things, and end up with tracked careers on Wall Street or in other narrow fields.WSJ: How do you decide which startups to fund or who you will accept to the fellows program?Mr. Thiel: One thing I ask fellowship candidates to do when I interview them is to tell me something true that nobody agrees with them on. The business version of this is: "What is one great business that nobody has built?" I think they should all try to find a problem that nobody else is solving. Do not find a conventional problem that many people are working on. Find one that nobody is working on.