Over and over, no matter how many times you ask, Peter Thiel insists there is no tech bubble. Now Bloomberg reports that Mr. Thiel is backing up that statement with something much mightier than his word. He’s putting his global macro hedge fund, Clarium Capital Partners, behind it. A victim of bad bets on oil prices, currencies, and stocks, Clarium lost a whopping 90 percent of its assets by the end of last year, down from a peak of more than $7 billion in mid-2008. To change course, the fund plans to go back to the well that made Mr. Thiel Internet-famous in the first place: investing in private tech companies.
Mr. Thiel will pledge “a significantly higher percentage” of assets toward private equity investments in later-stage tech companies, a brand new asset class for Clarion, though not for Mr. Thiel, who invested early in PayPal, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Zynga. Perhaps Mr. Thiel, always a fan of the contrarian position, has taken everyone else’s panic over what macro conditions in the market will mean for tech start-ups as a sign that he should jump in–albeit in the less risky, private equity side of the pool, where a double is more likely than a home run.
As part of his no-bubble-to-see-here-folks spiel, Mr. Thiel frequently mentions the idea that Facebook might be undervalued. In fact, according to Bloomberg, taking advantage of “asset price distortion” is partly why he started the fund:
“Thiel later became chief executive officer and invested his own cash in PayPal, acquiring a stake that was valued at more than $100 million after the online-payment company’s IPO in February 2002, the court documents say. That July, EBay Inc. (EBAY) agreed to pay $1.54 billion to acquire PayPal.
When the deal was completed that October, Thiel started Clarium Capital Management to carry out a macro strategy based in part on exploiting “asset price distortions,” the July SEC filing said. Meanwhile, he reinvested some of his personal wealth in technology startups such as Facebook, where he became the first outside investor by purchasing a $500,000 stake in 2004.
Thiel’s personal tech bets have prospered, lifting his net worth to $1.5 billion as of March, as estimated by Forbes, which ranked him No. 833 among the world’s billionaires.”
Quick, later-stage tech start-ups, throw away yours college diplomas so Mr. Thiel doesn’t think you’re on of those no good, institutional learning kinda entrepreneurs. You’re gonna need bridge funding if the IPO market keeps looking this bleak.