SAN FRANCISCO — Peter Thiel, the superstar Silicon Valley investor, has famously dismissed university as a waste of time and money, and even offered students cash to drop out.
But his views apparently do not apply to himself — or to Stanford University.
Thiel, 44, will teach at the elite university this spring, sharing pearls of entrepreneurial wisdom in a class called “Computer Science 183: Startup.” The course is already oversubscribed, with Thiel’s return to his alma mater sparking both enthusiasm and skepticism on a campus increasingly obsessed with start-up success.
“It’s puzzling to us what he has to say,” said Nruthya Madappa, a senior in electrical engineering who saw rumors of Thiel’s class explode on herFacebook news feed on a recent evening and rushed to sign up “several minutes” after course enrollment went live.
“He’s famously known to make people furious with his views and the way he questions things,” she said. “But he’s challenging us to look at our education here in a different way.”
Thiel (pronounced “teel”), who co-founded online payment processor PayPal and later reaped billions with bets on gilded names like Facebook , LinkedIn and Zynga, is known for his maverick ways, even emerging recently as the main financial backer for libertarian presidential contender Ron Paul. Thiel has argued thatthe brightest young minds should strike out on their own and start companies rather than take on crushing debt to pursue a college degree.
Never mind that Thiel himself holds both a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a law degree from Stanford; he has backed up his talk with his checkbook. Last year, Thiel started a fellowship that offered $100,000 to 20 budding entrepreneurs between the ages of 14 and 20 who would drop out to focus on their ventures.