Peter Thiel has never shied from speculating on the future—and then pouring money into technologies that match that vision. As a cofounder of Paypal, he pioneered a new form of e-commerce. As an investor, he made an early bet on Facebook and SpaceX. Breakout Labs, a program of the Thiel Foundation, provides philanthropic support to startups that are radically reinventing food systems, medical devices, and energy sources.
Thiel has also, as Popular Science described in our September issue, created an alternative path to traditional education–one that pays a select group of students $100,000 to pursue their own entrepreneurial dreams, on the condition they drop out of school to do it. For anyone else who wants to change the world with a groundbreaking technology, Thiel offers his insights in the book Zero to One, published this week. (Two takeaways: Your creation should be 10 times better than the closest substitute. Also, “real technologists wear T-shirts and jeans.”)
This week, Thiel stopped by the Popular Science office to share his observations on successful startups. (His advice to our reader-inventors: Partner with a business person.) But while he was here, we couldn’t resist asking his thoughts on a wide range of subjects, from commercial space flight to the Singularity. Here’s what he had to say.