Billionaire investor Peter Thiel praised Bitcoin and U.S. President Donald Trump while criticizing big, liberal-leaning cities and Democrats during a talk at the Economic Club of New York.
The Facebook Inc. board member on Thursday said Bitcoin will become more important, squeezing out Ethereum and other newer cryptocurrencies. His venture firm, Founders Fund, has been quietly buying Bitcoin since 2012 -- as has Thiel who is worth more than $3 billion, according to Bloomberg estimates.
Thiel compared Bitcoin to a digital version of gold and argued that the quest to amass money "is the bubble that never pops."
The housing market is another matter. Thiel, whose hedge fund Clarium Capital soared during the housing collapse and later imploded for failing to quickly spot the recovery, singled out high-priced housing as the main growth barrier for coastal startups.
He joins a growing group of venture investors searching the country’s heartland for startups to bankroll and says the next innovations will likely come from less insular, less expensive areas. Despite a steady decline in recent years, Northern California and New York startups still attracted more than half the $70 billion total venture capitalists invested in the U.S., according to the 2017 MoneyTree report.
Along with geography, sector is important, Thiel said. Artificial intelligence companies don’t appeal to him, but "charismatic" technologies do like Bitcoin, biotech and anything his longtime friend and fellow PayPal co-founder Elon Musk develops.
Thiel recently moved to Los Angeles from Silicon Valley to escape what he called a group-think mentality that he says is intolerant of conservatives. Thiel, who helped elect Trump and advised him during the transition, became a lightning rod for liberal ire with some founders and venture investors in the Valley killing deals because they disagreed with Thiel’s political views.
Although Thiel, 50, has said little publicly about Trump and his policies during the past year, he opened up at Thursday’s event.
Thiel praised Trump for his ability to re-frame issues like trade with China and promote economic growth through tax cuts. If Trump decides to run for re-election in 2020, he’ll win because the Democrats have failed to move past the "hate factory" of anti-Trump rhetoric to focus on issues, the investor added.
Thiel’s newest project is creating a conservative news website from L.A., possibly hiring celebrities from Fox News. Thursday’s event moderator, Fox Business Network Global Markets Editor Maria Bartiromo, asked him about those plans in an interview set to air Friday on Fox. Thiel said the future of media is "internet-centric," and he’s still figuring out the business model, according to advance excerpts of the interview.
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