Investor Peter Thiel has reportedly made an all-in, rather giant, bet on bitcoin. Mainstream financial press is reporting his venture capital fund purchased and held the digital asset through last year’s thousand percent-plus gains, making the decentralized currency one of his firm’s most valuable investments.
Peter Thiel’s Moonshot Bet
“Founders Fund, the venture-capital firm co-founded by Peter Thiel, has amassed hundreds of millions of dollars of the volatile cryptocurrency,” bitcoin, the Wall Street Journal is reporting. “The bet has been spread across several of the firm’s most recent funds,” they claim, citing unnamed sources, and include “one that began investing in mid-2017 and made bitcoin one of its first investments.”
Paypal? They chortled; we have credit cards! Won’t make money. Facebook? They dismissed; Myspace exists! Doomed to failure. Donald Trump? They howled; Hillary Clinton has it in the bag! There is no way he can become President. Bitcoin? They mocked; it’s used only by weirdos and geeks! It died in 2011.
Maverick investor Peter Thiel has made a career of going against conventional wisdom, and he’s at it again, venturing where few of his peers will dare. This time, it’s placing what’s been called “a moonshot bet on bitcoin.”
Mr. Thiel, 50, is best known as a venture capitalist, but he’s about as well-rounded as they come. He earned a law degree from Stanford, traded derivatives, clerked for circuit court judge, and even wrote speeches for the Secretary of Education.
A principal focus these days is his Founders Fund, which he started in 2005 from San Francisco. It doesn’t have a mission statement – it has a manifesto, asking the question: “What happened to the future?” Its portfolio has contained everything from Spacex, Spotify, Lyft, Airbnb, to Facebook.
Speculation by the media has Founders Fund buying “around $15 million to $20 million in bitcoin, and it has told investors the firm’s haul is now worth hundreds of millions of dollars after the digital currency’s ripping rise in the past year,” and no one seems to know if they’ve begun to take profits.
Afternoon news of the bet shook markets, and though bitcoin’s price had been lethargic it suddenly began shooting up, reaching as high as 15,000 USD by this writing. Market reasoning can be many-faceted, but a venture firm buying bitcoin straight, no chaser, and holding it is something new. And the idea its “bitcoin investment is already estimated as the most valuable in the Founders’ most recent $1.3 billion venture fund,” according to reporting, is downright shocking.
The move is daring even for Mr. Thiel in an environment where bitcoin could literally go to zero, or something close. Boisterous, media-seeking venture capitalists such as Michael Novogratz spooked easily after late December 2017’s double-digit price drop, saying “we didn’t like market conditions for new investors” and postponed a planned crypto fund. Indeed, entire countries like China and South Korea, among others, are banning if not outright cracking down on the world’s most popular cryptocurrency.
Whatever the case, Mr. Thiel’s reputation for unconventional thinking has won him many hundreds of millions as reward. And it appears the market, this time at least, wishes to bet on his hunch as much as bitcoin.
Por C. Edward Kelso